CHEVROLET NCS AT PHOENIX 1: Kyle Larson Media Availability Quotes

KYLE LARSON, NO. 5 VALVOLINE CAMARO ZL1, met with the media in advance of the NASCAR Cup Series’ practice session at Phoenix Raceway.  

Media Availability Quotes:

With the INDYCAR season starting this weekend, will you be paying attention to St. Pete and what’s going on there?

“It’s hard to.. like it’s really hard to pay attention when a lot of our on-track stuff, typically on a normal weekend, is the same as them. So yeah, when I look at results and stuff, I don’t know how well it translates to if I could look and watch every lap of the race live.

But yeah, I’ll for sure try and pay more attention to what’s going on this year, obviously with the Indianapolis 500 coming up. Again, it’s difficult to follow along as closely as even a race fan probably can.”

You did an INDYCAR test here, so when you come back in here, are you thinking NASCAR? Does any of your mind go to that INDYCAR test? What was that test like for you?

“No.. honestly driving here today, I almost forget that test even happened, just because I’m not coming here to run an INDYCAR right now. My mind has just been about the fall weekend and what I felt then. And even the NASCAR test that we had here and what I felt then.

But yeah, obviously it was really cool to run an INDYCAR around this track. It was really fast. It didn’t feel way different than the Next Gen car here either, so that was good, but you’re just going faster. We’ll see.. I mean I haven’t been on-track since then, so maybe it’ll be weird at first, but I doubt it because I race so many different types of cars all the time.”

You touched on this a little bit last week about how although the Chevy’s have dominated in terms of winning the races, the gap between Chevy, Toyota and Ford isn’t as big as it might seem. What will it take for the Chevy’s to continue to hold that dominance over Ford and Toyota?

“Yeah, I’m not sure. I think just continuing to evolve, and get your setups and stuff better. I’m not a car guy, so I don’t really know how much room there is to make the cars and stuff itself better. But there’s always stuff to be learned from every event; every wind tunnel test and anything like that. Just trying to do a good job with the data that you receive, and try to tweak and make things better, just like every team does.”

How do you plan on keeping your momentum going following last week’s win in Las Vegas?

“Yeah, I don’t know. Phoenix (Raceway) has been a pretty decent track for our team the last few years since I’ve been with Hendrick Motorsports. We qualify well, so hopefully that all goes good tomorrow – get a good start upfront, get good stage points and just keep executing. Our team has done a really good job this year of executing with the race cars that we bring. Our pit crew has been doing a great job. It takes everything to be upfront, and I think that’s how we can continue our momentum. Just continue to do what we’ve been doing and just keep ourselves in the hunt.”

You referred to the Championship race here last year. It’s going to be pretty warm here this weekend. How similar are you expecting the track conditions to be, and what are you looking for in practice?

“I’m sure the track conditions will be similar to kind of how they always are here. I think you’ll see the groove kind of move around, like it typically does. But we have a different aero package, so not sure yet how that will effect things.. if that changes the racing much or not. We’ll see.

I’m excited to just get on track here in a little while and see what it’s like with more cars out there. I did the test in December and helped, I guess as a part of the group, to come to this decision for an aero package and all that. It’s tough to judge off the six cars or whatever it was then. Now we have the full field, and we’ll get a real understanding of how it is in traffic and such.”

Looking back to the championship race, it was like ‘oh whoever is going to come off pit road on that last pit stop, it’s going to be over’. You had that and (Ryan) Blaney tracked you down.. your car just didn’t have the handling in that situation. From that sense, looking back, how do you get better or what do you tell your team and your crew chief to make sure that can’t happen again?

“Yeah, I mean the competitor in me knew that it wasn’t going to be easy.. (Ryan) Blaney had passed me every run that race. But yeah, I don’t know – our balance wasn’t where it needed to be and all that. William (Byron) and I.. I felt like we were the third and fourth-best cars in the Final Four. (Christopher) Bell had his misfortunate and all that.

But yeah, not getting too into the weeds of the balance of what my car was and what I think the balance of Blaney’s was.. I don’t know, I just felt like we needed more grip, I guess. My entry.. I remember being a little bit unstable and that didn’t allow me to kind of shape the corner how I needed to. I was just a little bit behind where I needed to be with my angle, speed and all that in the middle of the corner. I need to be better from entry to center, with balance or whatever that may be, and then that will kind of fix the exit, as well.

It was nice to do that test here in December. Bell was a part of it. Blaney was a part of it. Everyone has different things going on at a test, but it was good to come here quickly after and get to work on things. We’ll see. I know we’ve changed a few things from what we had in the fall, and hopefully it will translate to grip and speed. We’ll see.. we’ll see here soon.”

So if your car is better, how do you determine if it’s because you guys just did a better job at setup as opposed to the package fitting you? You talk about wanting grip.. there’s several ways to find it, so are you going to tell how well this is? And in this practice session.. typically I know you guys don’t often run up in traffic, but do you want to run in traffic or spend the whole time by yourself so you can figure out the car?

“I don’t think you’re really necessarily going to see anyone searching for traffic in practice, so I don’t plan on searching for traffic. But you’ll always see it.. somebody will blend up in front of you, or you’ll catch somebody that’s struggling and they’ll pull off. So you get sniffs of dirtier air. I think the way to judge how you are compared to how you were is just off of feel. You can feel when something handles a lot better. You can shape your corner differently. And then the obvious of looking at timing and scoring – seeing if you’re up on the sheet or if you’re not where you need to be. Hopefully we’re fast and hopefully we’re up there. Again, it was kind of hard to tell at the test. We were pretty bad at the test, but I don’t think we’ll be bad in real life. We’ll see when we get out there.”

When you have a performance that you had last week, do you find it difficult to maybe temper expectations going into a track like Phoenix that’s so difficult, or the expectation to replicate what you did last week?

“Yeah, I mean I think for me and probably for most drivers and teams, you quickly move on from that, so I’ve really like forgotten about it. I would say come Monday afternoon, once my meetings were done, my mind is switched to Phoenix. Sure, I’d rather win than run 20th because I would probably feel better now than I would have if I ran 20th, but I’m not thinking about Vegas of like how to replicate anything.”

As stout as your pit crew was last weekend, do you see any weaknesses right now with your team?

“No, I mean I think based off how we’ve executed the first handful of weeks, I’m happy with where all of our team is at. The race cars have been really fast. Our pit crew has been performing. I feel like the solid race I was able to put together last week.. like all that was great.

Sure, you want to get all areas better, if you can. I feel like Cliff (Daniels) does a really good job of leading our team; coaching, prepping and all that. I’m not surprised that we’re executing well right now, but I just hope that we keep it going.”