KYLE LARSON, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET SS, WAS THE GUEST ON THIS WEEK’S NASCAR WEEKLY TELECONFERENCE.
BELOW IS THE TRANSCRIPT:
JENNIE LONG: Good afternoon, everyone. Today we’re joined by Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Kyle, you’re halfway through a strong rookie season and you’re on pace to become the first rookie to make the Chase since 2006. To solidify that goal you need a first win. What do you think your chances are this weekend at Daytona and in the remaining nine races before the Chase?
KYLE LARSON: Yes, well, I think going into Daytona everybody has a good chance of winning. We’re really confident, but at the same time it’s a track where things can go really badly. Just kind of setting goals as every other week, try to finish the race and get a top 10 and see if we can put ourselves in position to get a win at the end, that would be great.
The biggest goal is to try and stay out of the big one because it’s going to happen. I’m sure there will be one or two of them throughout the race. Try to stay out of trouble. But yeah, it’s been nice being ‑‑ running as well as we have, and if we could get a win sometime before the Chase, that would be great.
Q. Kind of a two‑part question. First of all, what does it mean or how does it feel to be part of such a big rookie class with so much talent, and then to follow up on that, how does it feel to actually be leading that class at least based on the first half of the season?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I’m really happy and stuff that there is such a great rookie class. In past years maybe there’s been one or two rookies, and the award doesn’t really mean a whole lot, and I think this year with having a bunch of kids having great résumés, to win that would be awesome. Austin Dillon has won a championship and Rookie of the Year in the trucks and the Nationwide Series, so if I could beat him to win the Rookie of the Year award at the end of the year, that would be great, just because I’ve only got a couple years of stock car experience right now.
It’s definitely one of our main goals, and so far we’ve been doing well, staying ahead of him. Had a couple bad races the last couple weekends, but we’ll rebound from that and hopefully get back going.
Q. To win Rookie of the Year and join the list of guys who have won that award, what would that mean just to have your name on that list?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, it would mean a lot. Like I said, I think this year is really special just because there’s so many rookies and really good rookies. And to win Rookie of the Year in the Sprint Cup Series is every rookie’s goal. To keep some other good guys from winning, it would be great. That’s why we’re trying to stay consistent and be ahead of those guys each week.
Q. I have two questions, as well. The first one is you really haven’t had too many times this year where you had back‑to‑back not as great as you’d like to finish, and just kind of talk about getting through that. And then secondly, what do you like coming up where you think you might get that win prior to the Chase? You’ve got kind of a mixture of races, and the summer is a little bit less predictable, a little more varied in the tracks.
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, you know, we’ve had two bad races here the last couple weeks. I think my crew chief said it best. He’d be worried in the last couple years, but now our car has been fast, so he’s not worried at all. That’s good, and gave me some more confidence because I think any other two weekends or having two bad races would be less nerve‑racking, but then you go to Daytona where the chances of another bad weekend are high, so it’s easy to get nervous about that.
Yeah, you know, we haven’t had many struggles all year, and now we’ve had a couple bad ones. Just got to get back on track.
What was the other question?
Q. The other question was simply where do you like your chances best here if you want to try and get a win before the Chase, which of these upcoming tracks?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know. Eldora in the truck. I thought we were good at Pocono. I think we were really good at Michigan even with the rear bumper off, or with it being on I think we would have been good. Maybe Michigan, I think, because our engines are really strong there and the cars are good. It would be a really nice win at the Brickyard. Any of those three races.
Q. You kind of jokingly said Eldora in the truck. Are you going to run the truck at Eldora coming up?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I believe that’s the plan. I don’t know if I was supposed to say anything or not about the truck race. But yeah, we’re running that race. I’m really excited about that. We’re going to go test here pretty soon and get ready for that one because that’s definitely a race I want to win. We were close last year, so it’s nice to get to go back and give it another shot.
Q. I just want to ask you about Daytona and plate racing. You’ve run the Nationwide and the Cup. Is there much difference in just what it’s like in those two different races? Is there a different feeling in the Nationwide race and how people race from the Cup? Are there many differences or is it pretty much the same thing?
KYLE LARSON: No, I think they’re way different. The Cup car there is the aerodynamics and stuff make them hard to handle in the pack, and seems like you can change lanes a lot more and actually move forward, wherein the Nationwide race is super frustrating and not very hard at all to hold your car in a straight line. But more than anything, it’s just really frustrating because the bottom lane is so much faster, and when you’re in the lead ‑‑ you can work the top and middle lanes and kind of move forward but you can’t get to the lead, where in the Cup Series I feel like you can work any lane and get to the lead, where the Nationwide Series, if you don’t start up there you’re not going to finish up there unless you really luck out to get up there.
Q. Who are you running the truck for, and was it much of a challenge just to allow Chip to allow you to run that race?
KYLE LARSON: I’ll be running for Turner Scott Motorsports again, and no, no, it wasn’t a struggle at all, I think just because it’s in a stock car.
Q. I’ve got a couple quick ones here for you. I ran into you back in 2011 when you ran here at Lucas Oil Raceway in the USAC midget in 2012 and 2013 where you had some success. Just quickly here, just talk about you mentioned the Brickyard and what it would be like a little bit, would be nice to win here. You kind of know the history at IMS as well as Lucas Oil Raceway. Does this place hold any special spot for you as far as racing?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I think especially just because I spent a couple ‑‑ well, a year there in Indiana and have a lot of friends there, and sprint car racing is huge in Indiana. That to me is like the most special. And then if you were to win a race at the speedway, that would be a dream come true, it doesn’t really matter what type of car it’s in.
And I think it would mean a ton to Chip Ganassi just to see the Target stock car in victory lane there, too. Yeah, I’m definitely looking forward to that one.
Q. David Ragan has already committed to run the ARCA that weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway. Have you given any thought to jumping in a midget car like some of the other guys do there that weekend?
KYLE LARSON: I gave a lot of thought into it, and I’ll probably just be there to watch.
Q. How are you dealing with all this attention? Is it something that you thought was going to be like this, or is the attention that you’re receiving from the media and from all the fans a little bit more than what you figured, and you look for some solace by jumping in the race car?
KYLE LARSON: I mean, I don’t know. I think it’s really cool. I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to it. I mean, I guess if you have a lot of attention on you, that means you’re doing something good. I guess even more attention would be even better.
Q. So you don’t mind all the press inquiries and people asking you all kinds of questions and all the attention? That’s okay?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be.
Q. What have you learned from Chip Ganassi or what do you take from him or why do you like running for him? What is it about Chip Ganassi that you’ve learned?
KYLE LARSON: I guess one thing, everybody that drives for him has learned is that to do the obvious things right. That’s his quote before every race. It’s probably true, makes us think about that when we’re in the car. But yeah, racing for Chip is awesome just because he’s a racer himself. He loves it, and he does a lot for auto racing in general with all the different series that he’s a part of. He’s a character for sure, and that makes it fun for all of us drivers to drive for Chip. You never know what you’re going to get from him. I get to see him almost every weekend at the racetrack and sit down and talk to him. I’m getting more and more comfortable around him to where I can crack jokes at him and stuff and not be worried about what his reaction is going to be. I’ve definitely enjoyed racing for Chip.
Q. He was struggling so hard like say a year ago where he would not give up on it, but the performance, now he’s seeing some success, and you probably see that in his eyes, and he’s given so much to the sport that you look at what you’re able to contribute and he’s so focused on that program having turned around and being a winner. Is it good to deliver that to him?
KYLE LARSON: Oh, yeah, yeah. I mean, the whole team, from Chip to everybody in the shop and just everybody in the whole organization has done a great job to get into both mine and Jamie’s teams, being able to compete for wins every week, which is awesome. It’s definitely lit a fire in Chip and everybody at the shop again. We’re all super pumped up to get to the track.
It would be nice to start delivering him some wins frequently, but we’re close. We’ll get there. I know Chip is always excited and looking forward to the races.
Q. I know last year as we headed into this season, a lot of the talk from your team was that you had to cut back quite a bit on running hundreds of sprint car races throughout the course of the year, but now as we head into the heat of the summertime, is there anything that just feels weird to you about not spending so many days in sprint cars and such? How is that going for you so far?
KYLE LARSON: It’s not been bad at all, really. I was surprised, being such a die‑hard sprint car racer and fan and everything. I thought not racing a lot of dirt track stuff this year would be bad, that I’d be bored. But I’m not. I’m so busy with everything that I’ve got going on in the NASCAR stuff that even if I was to go race sprint cars, I really wouldn’t have time to do it. And I really enjoy racing in the cup series and doing double duty with the Nationwide Series, too.
I’ve been to a handful of sprint car races and maybe only one of the times or two of the times I’ve been, I actually was like, oh, I wish I was out there. I enjoy watching and cheering for my friends and offering advice and watching the racetrack to let them know how it’s changing and stuff. Yeah, like I said, I enjoy doing the out‑of‑the‑car stuff there.
Q. With nine races to go, just want to ask you how confident are you that you and your team will qualify for the post‑season in September?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, we’re pretty confident. We’ve just got to stay consistent and put ourselves in position like we have all year if we don’t win a race to get into the Chase. If we do win a race, that would be awesome. Just got to make sure we finish every race and can’t have weekends like we’ve had the last couple races. I think if we do get in the Chase, too, we’re well capable enough to make it on each round to the final round at Homestead. If we do get there, I’d be super confident that we’d pull it off, so I am hoping we can get into the Chase for sure. I think we have got a good shot.
Q. If you can pull it off this weekend, what would winning your first Cup race at Daytona International Speedway mean to you?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, it would mean a lot. I could win anywhere in the Cup Series and it would mean a lot. I think I have a good chance of winning as well as everybody else because the field seems to be really close when we go to superspeedways. Everybody’s confidence will be up, the racing will be intense, and just got to stay out of trouble.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about how much fun you had last year at Eldora and why it’s important for you to do that? Is that just kind of like a relief and a fun situation for you to be up against these guys on dirt? Just talk about that.
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, it was a blast last year at Eldora. You know, a race that I looked forward to when it was announced last year, and then to get to race it and see how well the show was run and how great the racing was made me even more excited for this year. Getting beat last year made me really pumped up for this year’s race. Anyway, I don’t get to do a whole lot of dirt racing anymore, so to get back to kind of my roots makes it fun, too.
I’m really looking forward to when we go test here. I think it’s next week. So it would be nice to get back in the dirt and get dirty and sweat a little bit and get mud all over my face and stuff.
Q. Kyle, as a rookie moving up into Cup, usually the expectations aren’t too high and the learning curves are way high, and you seem to have hurdled a lot of learning curves. Do you feel like you’ve hurdled a lot of learning curves in the Cup Series?
KYLE LARSON: Well, I think growing up racing like a lot of different types of cars and being young at that helped me learn things quick. You know, when I was 15, 16 years old, I would be racing winged sprint cars one night, non‑winged the next, a pavement track the next night. I got good at adapting to things and learning really fast. I think that helped train me a lot for now being young and in the Cup Series with still not a lot of stock car experience. I think that all my dirt track and World Outlaw, USAC, all that kind of background of racing helped me learn fast and helped me for each weekend learn the tracks, learn the cars, learn the style of racing and all that. Definitely happy with where I came from in racing.
Q. Your team members, do you think that they feel like you’ve grasped things real quickly and you’ve been able to conquer these learning curves?
KYLE LARSON: I don’t know, I guess that would be a question for the team guys, I guess. I don’t know, I feel like I’ve done a good job at it so far.
Q. I know obviously the last couple of weeks have not been what you guys have wanted, and I’m wondering how concerned you are about the small drop in points and how critical it is the next month, especially with tracks like Daytona where it’s going to be a crap shoot, New Hampshire where you’ve never raced before?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, you know, really I don’t worry about New Hampshire at all because I’ve raced there in a K & N car or ‑‑ I don’t know if we ran two Nationwide races there last year or one. But I’ve got two Nationwide races there. I think the one you worry about is Daytona. It would have been nice to have a solid weekend last week at Kentucky and kind of go to Daytona and be like, oh, we could have a good race here or a bad race and it wouldn’t affect us a whole lot. But now that we’ve had two bad races in a row where I’m close to being back to the 16th spot in points, it definitely makes you think about it and approach the race weekend a little bit differently. Just got to stay out of trouble and gain as many points as we can.
Q. Do you think you’ll be more conservative this weekend or just go out and just do what you need to do and just try to put points out of your mind?
KYLE LARSON: I feel like I’m pretty conservative most weekends and just try to be up front but not get into trouble. I’m sure I’ll do the same thing this weekend.
JENNIE LONG: Kyle, thank you so much for joining us today, and good luck this weekend at Daytona.