MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
FOLDS OF HONOR QUIKTRIP 500
ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
MARCH 5, 2017
KYLE LARSON GIVES CHEVROLET SS RUNNER-UP SPOT AT ATLANTA
Team Chevy Takes Three of Top-5 Finishing Positions
HAMPTON, Ga (March 5, 2017) – Piloting the No. 42 Target Chevy SS, Kyle Larson finished second in today’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) race at Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS). Larson credited his team for making the right adjustments during the 500-mile race; and for giving him a powerful Chevrolet SS to battle for position throughout the 325-lap event.
“I’m happy about our second place run at a 1.5-mile (track) where I struggle,” said Larson. “I can’t thank everybody at the (Chip Ganassi Racing) shop enough for building great race cars, and Hendrick Engines for supplying us with some great engines. I had a blast today. The Target Chevy was good. I ran the bottom a lot, which is not typically something I do. So, it was a lot of fun to learn how to kind of use both feet to get around the bottom and to do a good job with that.”
The Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) duo of Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevy SS and Chase Elliott, No. 24 NAPA Chevy SS finished fourth and fifth, respectively, to give Team Chevy three of the top five finishing positions.
Larson’s teammate, Jamie McMurray, finished 10th in his No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS.
Tire wear and various speeding penalties on pit road hindered the efforts of many contenders.
Jimmie Johnson finished 19th in his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy SS and his HMS teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., was 30th in the final order.
Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 DOW/Quikrete Chevy SS and his Richard Childress Racing teammate, Ryan Newman, in his No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finished 32nd and 35th, respectfully, after strong efforts ended their day early with power issues.
Brad Keselowski (Ford) was the race winner, and Matt Kenseth (Toyota) finished third to round out the top five.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for Round 3 on March 12.
POST RACE PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPTS:
KYLE LARSON, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 2ND
THE MODERATOR: We’ll start with today’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series post‑race media availability for the 58th annual Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. We are now joined by today’s runner‑up, Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. Kyle, if there’s anybody in this garage area who can make the high line work around a race track, it’s you. Walk through that final restart and how it played out.
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, I can make the high line work at most tracks. Here at Atlanta, I don’t do a good enough job up top. That’s why I try to commit myself to the bottom throughout the race. There when I restarted the leader after our Christmas present we got there, and Brad lined up behind me, I knew he was going to be the one to beat.
I’d spent a lot of time around him throughout the race, especially on the short runs he was better than I was, and he would always pass me in 1 and 2. I knew I was going to have to try and take his line away. I tried a few times, and he finally kind of guessed where I was going right one lap and got to my inside.
Disappointed we didn’t get the win, but we typically struggle really bad in the early races of the season, so to finish second this early in the year is awesome. We had a shot to win the 500-last week and a shot again today, so that’s all you can ask for. Can’t be more proud of everybody at our Chip Ganassi Racing team shop, Target, CreditOne Bank, all the other partners. So, having fun.
Q. Kyle, kind of in two parts here, you mentioned you’ve struggled running the top at Atlanta, but you were stuck up there a couple of laps there before Brad got by you on the bottom. What pulled you up to the top? Was it the handling going away on the last run?
KYLE LARSON: No, like I said, I had spent a lot of time around him and he would always pass me up top in 1 and 2, so I knew that’s where he was going to go. I believe he maybe attempted it a couple laps before he passed me, so I knew I was going to try and get the momentum rolling up there.
I was just trying to take his line, take his air away. Less downforce now I guess maybe the aerodynamics don’t bother it as much. But he had a fast car throughout 1 and 2. He showed it yesterday in the XFINITY race and then today in the Cup race. Like I said, just had to kind of guess and try and hold him off as best I could, but he did a better job than me.
Q. You mentioned, too, the less downforce. What was your opinion of the new package here at Atlanta? Seemed like maybe we expected things to be a little crazier, but for a lot of the day it was rather calm until you started hanging it out there the last 50 or so laps.
KYLE LARSON: Well, you can give us a ton of downforce and Atlanta is going to be tricky. Lower downforce doesn’t really make it drive a whole lot different here, but I think as we get on to Vegas, Phoenix and Fontana, we’re going to get a good idea of how it races and how it handles in traffic and all that.
Q. We had a number of drivers today who got nailed for speeding on pit road. Was that an issue for you guys with the timing and scoring lines, the scoring lines on pit road? Was that something that was addressed in the driver meeting? You weren’t one of the people victimized, but how did that ‑‑
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I stayed pretty cautious on my pit road lights because everybody was getting popped for speeding. I was very, very shocked that Kevin had gotten caught that last pit stop. I felt like me and Chase were closing on him down pit road, so I’d be interested to see kind of which segment he sped in, whether it was that first or last segment, but it had to be the first one.
But yeah, it was interesting. You know, my crew did a great job of reminding me every time I came down pit road to watch my speed because they had been catching everybody, so I would give a couple lights back.
Q. Did you notice any major differences between the 2016 downforce package and this year’s downforce package?
KYLE LARSON: No, not yet. Like I said, Atlanta is a hard racetrack whether you have a lot of downforce or not a lot. We’ll get a better idea the next couple races.
Q. Following up on the speeding penalties, do you think that’s a case where so many guys got hit today? Is it a case of guys being rusty or teams not having things calibrated correctly yet? Do you have any thoughts on that?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, it could be both of those. I don’t know. I always try to be as ‑‑ Chip always tells me to do the obvious things right, and number one on that list is don’t speed on pit road. I try and run to the cautious side of things where you’ve got a lot of guys that push the limits and get caught every now and then.
I don’t know, yeah, it could be rust, it could be this is the first time we’d been here with the new ‑‑ all the extra timing lines, so maybe everybody’s calibrations were off just a little bit. You never know, though. I guess I’ll find out soon when they see the speeds.
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 24 NAPA CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 5TH
THE MODERATOR: Now we are joined by today’s fifth‑place finisher, Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. You were able to overcome a speeding penalty on pit road to really battle up front for the remainder of the day. Walk through what it took for you and your team to really overcome that obstacle.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, just had a good car and was able to stay on the lead lap, and we caught a caution at the right time to kind of bunch everybody back up, had a good pit stop, jumped three or four guys on pit road, had a good restart, and I think the outside lane got stacked up so we were back up in fifth, and luckily just kind of right back in the game.
A little bit of luck, a little bit of good pit stops, and kind of worked out, just didn’t work out when it counted.
Q. Chase, what’s your thinking on why there were so many speeding penalties today?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I think I know why, but I really don’t want to share why. There’s something that I think a lot of guys are kind of aware of that goes on pit road, and that’s something we need to address kind of internally. But I have a pretty good reasoning, and I think why it was, but I really don’t want everybody else to know.
Q. Something specific to here?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Could be everywhere.
Q. Chase, I guess you get tired of answering the question about coming close and not winning, but I was wondering what went on, on the final stop. Sort of walk through the last few laps and summarize how you felt when it was done.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, obviously frustrated. You know, I thought our car was as good as Kevin’s car was. I just think he did a little better job driving than what I was doing. I thought we could run second to him. The majority of the day I thought Brad at times was a little better than us, at times I thought we were a little better than him, and on that last stop we had just a little bit of a hiccup that lost us second spot unfortunately, and after Kevin’s misfortune that would have put us in a really good spot.
It’s one of those things where it’s hard to be frustrated at the pit crew because those guys did a really good job all day long. We made spots up all day and gained time on Kevin. Those guys having that first pit box obviously didn’t have to go far, but every time I thought we were just inching closer to his back bumper as we came off pit road. I think we have a great foundation on pit road to build off of. I think much improved, and just had a hiccup there at the end of the day, but I don’t think it’s something those guys should be discouraged over.
Q. I know you said you wouldn’t talk specifically, but is the speeding thing you think everybody will correct and it’ll be fine next week, or is it something people are working on and you’ll keep creeping toward whatever the edge is to where you finally find what to do?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I think it’ll be corrected next week. It’s not that big of a deal. But it can be a big deal, you know, and in our case and in Kevin’s case and all the guys that got caught. But no, I think it’ll be fixed directly.
Q. In two parts, first, in regards to your runs here, you came really close, had strong runs in the XFINITY car, had a strong run last year, had a strong run again today at Atlanta. It kind of gives me the feel a little bit of when Kyle Busch at Las Vegas would come so close so many times at Vegas before he finally won there a few years back. What is it about this place, besides, of course, the home track thing, what is it that suits you here, and then talk a little bit about what it means just to be able to perform this consistently each time in front of your home fans.
CHASE ELLIOTT: I think a couple things. I think, one, having good race cars ‑‑ if you don’t have a good race car, I don’t care how good you are, you’re going to struggle. I’ve been fortunate to have some good cars here over the past three years. I think the other part is I was teammates with Kevin Harvick here with JRM (JR Motorsports) in 2014 during my first trip here. I learned a lot from him, and I think that’s the other reason.
Q. Kind of the question that sort of has bubbled on the surface all weekend long and really bubbled up this morning is to pave or not to pave?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, I think the way it is currently is better than the alternative myself. I think everybody kind of has their own opinion. But you know, A, I guess it depends on how they repave it, if they’re going to do it, and what kind of ‑‑ how the process would work would kind of determine how good or bad it would be, but I like it the way it is. I think it has a lot of character, and to me it puts on good racing and allows you to kind of move around and do some different things, especially as the sun went down. I thought that offered up some more opportunity for moving around the racetrack and making it work.
Q. With this being the first race, have you noticed any differences between the 2016 downforce package and this year’s downforce package here at Atlanta?
CHASE ELLIOTT: No, I really haven’t to be honest with you. I think it’s real similar. You know, the spoiler is all but gone now. But it’s real similar to what it was last year in my opinion.