CHEVROLET NCS AT MARTINSVILLE 1: Kyle Larson Media Availability Quotes

KYLE LARSON, NO. 5 HENDRICKCARS.COM RUBY CAMARO ZL1, met with the media in advance of the NASCAR Cup Series practice and qualifying session at Martinsville Speedway. 

Media Availability Quotes:

You took the alternate strategy at Richmond Raceway last weekend, which didn’t end up working out there. Do you expect to take kind of a converse strategy here, or go with the normal approach?

“I have no idea. I don’t think there’s much strategy, as far as like long run stuff, pitting and green-flag stops necessarily here because I don’t think you see the fall off quite like you do at Richmond (Raceway). And two, typically you don’t see the long runs like you do at Richmond. I would say the strategy would be different, but I think where strategy comes into play… like at Richmond, if you get 20 laps on your tires, you’re pitting. Here at Martinsville (Speedway), you could potentially have 60-plus laps on your tires; stay out and gain track position that way. So I think that’s where the strategy comes in, rather than green-flag cycles.”

Kyle, you’ve got the Indy test next week. How much do you know what happens after that, as far as

your travel goes, the back-and-forth, here to there, and so forth? Have you kind of mapped that out yet?

“Ask Jon.. (haha) because I don’t know. He knows more than I do.”

What’s your feeling now that you’re approaching that? Any changes in how you’re looking at it? Have you talked more with the guys on the team there and so forth?

“No, I mean nothing’s changed. I don’t know.. I’ve been excited about it since January of last year when we announced it. But yeah, I don’t get too overly excited about anything. Just take it every day, day-by-day. Hopefully the weather is good next week, and we can get in the car as scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday, and just get to learning I think from there. I think next week is when I’ll really get to learn more about things; racing and getting to be around like my team of people. The other times I’ve been in the car, I haven’t had – and I don’t even know, maybe I have been around a lot of the team members, but I’ll at least have my team there next week to kind of talk to and learn from. And then yeah, as far as being at the track with teammates and all of that sort of stuff, it will be good.”

Do you know what you can and cannot do on a restart, as far as where you can go and where you can’t? Do you have any additional questions after last week?

“No, I mean.. I don’t know. I don’t really know – I think we’ve always had questions, and probably still have the same questions. Not even that it was a question, I think we all just push the zone at certain points of the race, especially at the end. Typically, drivers go either early like Denny (Hamlin) did, or right at it. Denny’s not the first person that’s ever taken off before the zone. It’s always been a game.

I don’t know.. I don’t really know how I necessarily view it. I can see all sides of it. There’s lines on the race track, so those could be your lines that you have to go by. But then also, I think as the leader, you need to have full control of the lead. The zones are so small that the leader, most times or at least half of the time, I feel like is at a disadvantage because that zone is so small and it’s easy to predict and time when they can go. So like last year – I think it was last year or maybe the year before – they made the zones bigger. In my opinion, I think that helps the leader. And you see less gains outside the zone. I think you get more strategy going within the zone, which is fair. But you know, at Fontana – everybody behind I think it was (Joey) Logano, tried predicting when he was going to go and he just waited until the end of the zone, which was legal. And they all crashed and then NASCAR thought it was a zone-length issue, when it was really just competitor issues.

I would just like to see the zone a lot bigger – even bigger than it used to be or was early last year because then I think you get those gains… I hate calling it gains, but just strategical moves within the zones. Yeah, I think you would see less jumping of a start if you had the zone longer.”

We’re more than a quarter of the way through the regular season. Where do you think your team stacks up? You’ve had speed, your pit crew has been solid, but there has been a bit of inconsistency..

“I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s been really inconsistency. In my opinion, we’ve been way more consistent than we were last year. The results probably say the same, as well, a little bit. Last year, we were like winning or ‘DNF’. This year, we’ve been upfront. We’ve challenged for, I don’t know, I feel like a couple of wins. We’ve won one race. We’ve been upfront for a lot of races, but like Atlanta (Motor Speedway) – (Brad) Keselowski spun in front of me and there was nothing I could do there. COTA, (Christopher) Bell got into me and spun.. nothing really I could do there.”

So you’d say it’s more bad luck than anything?

“And not even necessarily bad luck.. but yeah, I think as a team, we’ve been performing way more consistently than we have, maybe ever. In 2021, we were so much faster than the field and it was easy to be consistent. But at least in the Next Gen era, we’ve been performing way better than we have the other years, so far, I believe.”

We know the importance of this week for Hendrick Motorsports. One, do you feel more pressure to win this weekend? And two, has there been any special talks, pep talks, rallies or anything, leading into today?

“I would say, to answer the first question – I wouldn’t say I feel any more pressure to win. I don’t think probably any of us four drivers feel any more pressure to win, but we know what the magnitude of a win this weekend would mean for the company. Yeah, I don’t think that’s any more pressure or any more emphasis on the weekend, but we all try to go out there and execute as good as we can every week and hopefully the results end up in a win.

As far as like ‘pep talks’ – no because I think that ties into the first answer. We all know what this weekend means to the company, so there’s no real ‘pep talk’ needed to remind us how important this weekend is.”

Is there a young driver out there that’s caught your eye, that’s coming through the ranks, and you think – wow, this driver has got the ability to win at the Cup level?

“I would say, for me, I’d look at like – I don’t watch a ton of Truck or Xfinity races, but I feel like Corey Heim is really good. I feel like he’s really, really strong in the Truck stuff. Even when he gets in the Xfinity cars, he runs super competitive, and I don’t believe he’s got the funding and the resources like the JGR cars have. So I feel like he does a really good job.

Then, I think there’s guys that haven’t quite made it to pavement racing or stock cars that will hopefully get an opportunity down the road that would be really good. Like from the sprint car side, I pay a lot of attention to Corey Day. He’s 18 years old and very mature. He races really hard and smart. I think he could potentially have the full package to get an opportunity and make it some day.”

Next week, we’re at Texas Motor Speedway. What’s your thoughts and feelings about racing there, and what’s the key to having success at Texas Motor Speedway because they’ve tweaked a few things there?  

“Yeah, I’m not sure what they’ve tweaked recently, but since they’ve repaved the track – however many years ago that was – Texas (Motor Speedway) has been a very fast place. It’s kind of an interesting track. I like it because our team is fast, but then there’s part that I dislike, as well. I guess that could be said about any track.

I’m excited to get there next weekend. We were the dominate car there last year, and I just made a mistake on the late restart. We’ve won an All-Star race there. We’ve won a points Cup race there. We’ve led a bunch of laps in other races. So yeah, I look forward to getting there and hopefully have another good weekend.”

I got a kick out of the Instagram post that you put up in the simulator, when you were kind of like sleeping and then the music woke you up. I assume you hadn’t really done anything like that before, but what was that like for you? What benefit do you think that it gave you, and maybe will give you, come May?

“I definitely don’t run the simulator in anything that often, but it’s very relaxing in there between little runs because it’s dark, and you’re in a molded insert to your body, so it’s easy to get relaxed and tired. Catch some naps in there, for sure. And then yeah, you hear the rig kind of fire up and then you get ready to go.

I was in the IndyCar simulator this week and it really wasn’t to learn anything about the car or anything like that. Everybody’s steering wheel is different. Everyone’s layout with the buttons and knobs is different, so just trying to kind of dial in what’s natural for me to reach to get to buttons; making adjustments throughout a lap and stuff like that.

That was really the main takeaway from it. I wasn’t in there for very long at all, but it was really just to kind of like – hey, before you go there next week, maybe let’s make this button mean something different.. stuff like that. It was good to do.”

Did you actually fall asleep?

“I don’t know… I was definitely close, if I didn’t fall asleep. But yeah, I don’t know.. it looked like I was (laughs).”

I’m curious from an athlete’s point of view, but also from someone that oversees a racing series from an official’s point of view, on all the talk about the overtime restart last week. NASCAR says they don’t want to make a ruling unless they’re certain. How important is that? How do you view the idea from an athlete’s perspective and from an official’s perspective, of being lenient on procedures and rules at the end of the race to allow the athletes to determine it?

“Yeah, I don’t know. I’m not really sure. I know they have a tough job in the booth, or wherever they manage the race from, in making all of the correct calls and this-and-that. 100 percent of the population is never satisfied with the call or not call.

So yeah, it’s tough. I think what most athletes from this series or other forms of sports just like consistency, from what I hear. I would say I would be in the same category of just being consistent. If the ‘end of the race’ call is consistent to what it was last week versus, you know like I heard them say if it was early in the race, we probably would have made a call.. like if that’s their view and they stay consistent within that, then I guess that’s OK. But yeah, it’s just finding some consistency, I think is what most of us would like to see.”

Obviously you have the win, so does that kind of change the way you can approach things, in terms of an aggressiveness standpoint the next several week?

“No.. I feel like anytime you win, you get that question a lot. I’d be curious to hear if any other drivers’ answers would be anything different than ‘no’. We all try to call the races to win each week, at least at Hendrick Motorsports anyways. So no, I think we just try to continue going forward and executing whatever we have to do to win.”