KYLE LARSON, NO. 5 FREIGHTLINER CAMARO ZL1 1LE, Press Conference Transcript:  EVERYBODY HAS TALKED ABOUT YOU BEING A FAVORITE FOR THIS RACE. DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU’RE A FAVORITE? WHY OR WHY NOT?“I don’t know; I think I’m considered a favorite probably at most race tracks right now. But I think with it being a dirt track, yes, I think people look at me with all the experience that I have on dirt as being even more of a favorite. But these cars are way different than what I typically race on dirt. They don’t drive anything like what I’m used to with a sprint car, midget or now a dirt late model. These cars are way heavier and have a lot less horsepower than I’m used to on a dirt track. I still think I’ve got a good shot, but I don’t really know if I have an advantage over anybody, other than just being able to kind of read the track surface; know kind of how that’s changing, where to find grip and things like that. Really, I think that’s probably the only advantage any of us dirt guys have over somebody who hasn’t had much dirt experience.”
OF ALL THE DIRT TRACK RACES YOU’VE EVER RAN; HAVE YOU EVER RAN ANYTHING REMOTELY CLOSE TO 250 LAPS IN A SINGLE RACE AND WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT?“I guess Eldora in the truck would be the only other thing and I don’t really remember how many laps it was; I think 150. But yeah, it’ll be long. The track will change a lot, so just have to stay on top of that and hopefully our Freightliner Chevy is good and we can stay out front for most of it.”
YOU HAVE YOUR FOUNDATION ON THE IRACING CAR TONIGHT. WAS IT DIFFICULT, AT ALL, TO DECIDE TO DO THAT BECAUSE YOU KNOW THAT WOULD POTENTIALLY BRING LIGHT TO THE VENUE WHERE THE INCIDENT HAPPENED.“No, I mean I’ve been on iRacing for awhile now. It was easy to get back on as soon as they unsuspended me on there towards the tail-end of last year. I’ve used iRacing quite a bit over the off season and even really to get ready for the road course race at Daytona; I used it a bunch. So, yeah, now to be able to have the opportunity to showcase my foundation, I think that’s exciting and hopefully it gets a lot of coverage.” 
WITH YOU HAVING ALREADY BEEN TO PHOENIX THIS YEAR, WHICH YOU GUYS CALL A SHORT TRACK, BRISTOL IS GOING TO BE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, IN TERMS OF SHORT TRACK, WITH THE DIRT. WILL IT BE MARTINSVILLE BEFORE YOU HAVE A REALLY GOOD HANDLE ON WHERE THINGS ARE WITH YOUR SHORT TRACK PROGRAM? AND HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT RACE? “Yeah, I don’t know. I mean I felt really, really good at Phoenix. We had kind of an awkward set of tires there that last run that we think got us off. But if not for that, I felt like we had the first or second, maybe third, best car there that day. So, I would say judging off that, our short track program is good. But also, judging off of how they were last year as an organization, they were great.”“Martinsville is a place that I struggle at, I think, more than my equipment that I’ve had in the past. So, I’m definitely curious to see how I’ll be there, being with a team who just won the last event there at Martinsville. Hopefully I’m better than normal. I’m pretty confident kind of going to any race track right now. I think our team has been doing a great job.”
YOU MENTIONED IN THE PAST THAT ELDORA WOULD GET SO SLICK, IT WOULD KIND OF BE LIKE A WORNOUT PAVEMENT TRACK. I’M CURIOUS, AFTER RUNNING AT BRISTOL LAST WEEK, DO YOU ANTICIPATE THAT BEING THE CASE AT BRISTOL, WHERE IT BECOMES MORE LIKE THAT WORNOUT TRACK? IF SO, DOES THAT TAKE AWAY THE ADVANTAGE THE ADVANTAGE A DIRT GUY HAS OVER SOMEBODY WITH LESS EXPERIENCE?“Yeah, I mean I don’t know how it’s going to be. But yes, I would assume that it’s going to be really slick; it’ll probably slow down a lot. I don’t think it’s going to drive like an aggressive-style dirt car that I’m used to. So yeah, I think that if anything, evens the playing field a lot for guys that don’t have dirt experience. We’ll see how it goes. I don’t know what to expect; I think I have a little bit more of an idea now after racing there last week. But still, there’s a lot of unknown because the cars are different; the tires are different than what I ran last week. So, we’ll see.”
CHRIS WINDOM SAID HE’S TALKED TO YOU LEADING INTO THIS EVENT TO KIND OF GET A LITTLE BIT OF EXPERIENCE AND AN IDEA ABOUT IT. HOW DO YOU THINK SOMEBODY LIKE HIM CAN DO AND WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU TO SEE SOME OF THE DIRT GUYS BE ABLE TO TAKE PART IN THIS EVENT WITH YOU?“Yeah, I think it’s awesome. Chris (Windom) and (Shane) Golobic are two guys that I’ve raced with for a long time now. So, for them to have the opportunity to go out there and hopefully do a great job is something that I’m going to be paying attention to. I would love to see them run up front and battling for a win, but I think that will be really hard, just because even though it’s a dirt track and we’ve never done it, a team like Hendrick Motorsports has way more knowledge and experience of setting up a car to go to Bristol than the teams they’re racing for. I still think that they’ll be kind of fighting an uphill battle, but I think with their driving talents, hopefully they can crack inside the top-20 or if it is really even, maybe into the top-15 or 10 and have an awesome day.”
I’M SURE YOU GUYS HAVE HAD A CHANCE TO DEBRIEF OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF DAYS ABOUT ATLANTA. ANY TAKAWAYS FOR YOU, CLIFF (DANIELS) AND THE TEAM ABOUT HOW THE RACE WENT AND MAYBE HOW YOU WOULD HAVE HANDLED IT DIFFERENTLY IN THE FINAL RUN?“First off, a lot of positives from the day. We had a dominating car and did a great job as a team really all race long. I think it just kind of falls in my lap of just playing out that last stage wrong. I think (Ryan) Blaney got a lot better; the track picked up a lot of pace with it cooling down and we had longer runs. That was probably as hard as I ran all race, just because I was trying to get out to that big-ish lead that I had before. I wasn’t getting that big lead, so I was still trying really hard to get out there and get away. I wish I would have just realized that I wasn’t getting away as quickly as I thought I could and kind of aborted that plan and went into tire save mode. That way, I still think maybe he would have caught me by the end of the race, but I would have had more tire to maybe hold him off and more tire to get by Joey (Logano). And just run my own pace there at the end, rather than try to fight off Ryan (Blaney) and work really hard to get by lap cars.”
THERE WAS SOME DISCUSSION, KYLE, ABOUT WOULD IT HAVE HELPED YOU IF YOU WOULD HAVE HAD MORE INFORMATION ON WHERE (RYAN) BLANEY WAS RUNNING. OBVIOUSLY, HE WAS RUNNING A HIGHER LINE THAN YOU, ESPECIALLY IN A COUPLE OF THOSE TURNS. WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON THAT – WOULD IT HAVE HELPED YOU IF YOU WOULD HAVE HAD MORE INFORMATION? WERE YOU SURPRISED HE WAS ABLE TO GET THAT KIND OF MOMENTUM AND RUN YOU DOWN FROM THE HIGH-SIDE?“Well, it wasn’t like he was running the high-side every lap. So, I could look in my mirror and I knew where he was running. I asked I think a couple of times where he was running, just to really know if he was running like a few feet different than me that I could maybe try and find some extra grip. He just did a really good job managing his stuff that last run and I didn’t, and he capitalized on my error in strategy for that final run to the end.”
YOU’VE ALREADY GOT A WIN HEADING INTO THIS WEEKEND. HOW MUCH RELIEF IS IT THAT YOU’VE ALREADY GOT THAT WIN AND YOU DON’T HAVE TO WIN THIS RACE TO GET INTO THE PLAYOFFS?“I mean I don’t think I would have viewed it any differently; I don’t think I view any weekend differently. I want to win every weekend. So, it doesn’t relax me any more; it wouldn’t have made me any more stressed going in there. It’s still early in the year and we’ve been running well. I’ve been confident that we were going to make the Playoffs no matter what, based off of just sheer speed and being with a great team. Had we started the year off badly or average and been around that bubble spot right now with no win going into Bristol – yeah, I would probably have a lot more pressure on me to go win. But we’ve been running well, so that doesn’t change my mindset now going into Bristol.”
YOU’RE A DIRT GUY, SO I CAN IMAGINE THERE’S GOING TO BE SOME DIFFERENT CHANGES AROUND THIS WEEKEND, EVEN THOUGH YOU’RE IN A STOCK CAR, THAT NASCAR FANS LIKE ME AREN’T USED TO. WHAT SHOULD WE REALLY LOOK OUT FOR? OBVIOUSLY, THERE ARE QUALIFYING RACES AND THERE’S A BUNCH OF DIFFERENT FORMAT CHANGES.“Yeah, I think NASCAR has tried to adapt a short track, dirt track format into their event, which I think is pretty cool. With the random draw for where you start and then passing points, I think is cool. It’s still a different passing points format than say we would have at the Chili Bowl. Chili Bowl, you get penalized for going backwards. Where here at this event, to keep it simple so NASCAR fans who aren’t used to passing points can follow along, it’s just really you only get points for going forward; you don’t lose any for going backwards. Which is simpler for the fans to understand, but as a competitor from dirt tracks, I wish there would be a penalty for going backwards in the heats.”
“Other than the format, I don’t really know off the top of my head what’s different from a normal race. You still have stages; we don’t have live pit stops. It’ll be similar to kind of how Eldora was, aside from just the way they lined up the heats.”
IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING THAT YOU’RE ONE OF THE CLEAR FAVORITES FOR THE BRISTOL DIRT RACE THIS WEEKEND. BUT WHO DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE YOUR BIGGEST OPPONENT THIS WEEKEND? “I would not be shocked if a pavement guy went there and was fast right off the bat because I don’t think it’s going to be dirt like we’re used to. But it’s hard to also not look at the guys that have a lot of dirt experience as being a favorite. I think Christopher Bell; I think he’s obviously one of the most talented race car drivers I’ve ever watched, especially on dirt. So, I think for sure he’ll be one of the guys to beat. Austin Dillon is another one I look at. If anybody has more experience racing on this type of stuff, it’s him. I’ve got probably still under 10 dirt late model events under my belt, where he grew up racing modifieds and late models. So, he’s used to the heavier types of cars. He just raced a crate late model there, so he’s used to less horsepower and stuff in a full-body car. I think Austin, if anybody, probably has the most advantage. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if a guy like Kyle Busch, who’s so talented and can adapt to anything, can go there and win.”
“I wouldn’t be shocked either if the finishing results weren’t much different than a normal Bristol race.”
YOU MENTIONED NO LIVE PIT STOPS DURING THIS EVENT. JAMIE LITTLE WITH FOX SPORTS TWEETED OUT: TALKED TO A HENDRICK CREW CHIEF; SOME/MOST TEAMS AREN’T BRINGING THEIR PIT CREWS TO BRISTOL. ROSTER LIMITATIONS MEAN MECHANICS AND FABRICATORS ARE ESSENTIAL. WITHOUT GIVING TOO MUCH AWAY, WHAT KIND OF ADJUSTMENTS HAVE YOU AND YOUR TEAM HAD TO MAKE IN PREPARATION FOR THIS EVENT?“I don’t know – I really couldn’t give you an honest answer because I haven’t talked to anybody about that. Obviously, I knew there was no live pit stops, so I assumed we wouldn’t have our pit crew there. But that’s really not a big deal. I don’t know what the amount of time is that they allow us on pit road for pit stops, but we won’t be in a rush if we don’t have damage and stuff like that. So, that’ll be good.”
“And two – as far as car stuff that they’ve had to change, I don’t know. I don’t ever get into that stuff. I just kind of show up, put the steering wheel on and hit the gas pedal.”
WITH THE VICTORY AT LAS VEGAS AND THE DOMINATE EFFORT AT ATLANTA LAST WEEKEND, DID YOU EXPECT TO BE THIS COMPETITIVE COMING BACK RIGHT NOW AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON WITH A NEW TEAM?“I had hoped that we could start the year off this strong, or close to being this strong. I didn’t know and honestly expected that we wouldn’t start off this good with just me being out of the car for a long time, going to a new team and organization, and being with a whole new crew. I just didn’t know if things would be way different and I would have to have a lot of things to adapt to. But our cars have been really good, and fast, and it’s made things easier than I thought to come back in. I’ve also worked really hard to get up to speed as quickly as I’ve been; studying more than I’ve ever studied and just trying to prepare more than I’ve ever prepared. With no practice, you kind of have to put in that work during the week, which is fun as a driver.”
WE SAW YOU RACE ELDORA IN A TRUCK, SO WE CAN EXPECT WHAT WE SAW AT ELDORA ON HOW THE TRUCKS RACED TO BE KIND OF SIMILAR TO THE WAY THE CUP CARS WILL RACE AT BRISTOL? OR DO YOU THINK THE DIFFERENCE IN THE TRACK, THE BANKING, IT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE THERE’S A CUSHION – WILL IT BE TOTALLY DIFFERENT?“I think it will be similar, but different. Eldora didn’t really have a cushion either. I guess when I won it, it kind of had a cushion. Bristol, I don’t think will have a cushion; it’s just that type of surface doesn’t really pack up and build a cushion. I think it will be a similar style of race, but I think with Bristol having more banking, you’ll kind of have more grip than we had at Eldora. So, we’ll have the confidence probably in our cars to be able to move around. I actually think it’ll be a better race because of it. I watched the street stocks and stuff this past weekend and they were able to run like three or four- wide at times and it was fun racing. So, I think it will be similar to that, if you want to pull up some street stock highlights, Bob (Pockrass), and take a look. I think it’ll be similar to that style of racing.”
SO, IF I PULL UP THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YOU TEARING THE RIGHT SIDE OFF OF THE TRUCK, I SHOULDN’T EXPECT THAT ON SUNDAY?“Well, the wall is a lot lower at Bristol. So, if I’m up that high, I’m cheese-grading the right side of my car probably with the catch fence. I hope to not have to lean on the wall like that to be fast.”
YOU’VE BEEN LOOKING AT DATA MORE NOW THAN YOU HAVE EVER OVER THE COURSE OF YOUR CAREER. WHEN YOU LOOK BACK AT DATA FROM ATLANTA, IS THERE A PIECE OF DATA OR STAT THAT YOU’RE LOOKING AT AS EXTRA VALUABLE FOR MANAGING YOUR STUFF BETTER FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON? HOW VALUABLE IS THAT DATA TO LEARN MORE THINGS ABOUT BEING IN THOSE SITUATIONS?“Honestly, I haven’t looked at any data after Atlanta, just because I’m pretty confident in knowing what I did wrong. I think Ryan (Blaney) was just more disciplined than I was and did a better job of not running one hundred percent and saving his stuff. As far as driving style, it’s hard to really look at that stuff. I ran all race a certain driving style way; throttle, brake, whatever steering inputs and stuff. If I look at Ryan’s stuff and he has less wheel input or something like that – I don’t know if it’s going to teach me a ton in that moment. But I think what teaches me is watching the race and kind of just how good he was on long runs; how he paced his lap times, didn’t slip a tire and took care of his stuff.”