CHEVROLET NCS AT DARLINGTON 1: Kyle Larson Media Availability Quotes

YLE LARSON, NO. 5 HENDRICKCARS.COM THROWBACK CAMARO ZL1, met with the media in advance to the NASCAR Cup Series practice and qualifying session at Darlington Raceway.  

Media Availability Quotes:

Can you take us through your win last year at North Wilkesboro; what it meant to win at such a historical place?

“Yeah, it was awesome. I got to compete in the truck race, as well. I had a great race. It was great to win there in the truck. And then for the Cup race that weekend, I think it was extra special just to win there. But for how our weekend was before the race, we made it even more special because we were not competitive, I didn’t think, at all. We were really, really bad. We didn’t practice well. I think we were quickest on lap time, but over the course of a run, we were really bad. So, practice wasn’t good. We didn’t do great in the pit crew challenge. In the heat race, we backed it up; fell back and really was just kind of frustrated with how the weekend was going. But the team was working hard; recognized that we were really bad and threw a bunch of changes to it for Sunday’s race. I could feel pretty early on that we had a competitive car. And then yeah, cruised up through the field and dominated the race. To win was great; win a million bucks was awesome. But then to win at a historic racetrack that I never envisioned myself racing at was pretty neat. To sweep that weekend was cool.”

Despite your crazy schedule for that weekend, how will this race be different with the repave and the tire situation?

“Yeah, I mean I wasn’t a part of that test, but I think William (Bryon) was and they just said how fast it was. So, I imagine that it would be harder to pass, for sure, which it’s always difficult to pass on a repave. But I feel like repaves open up opportunities because the groove is so narrow, and typically when you get out of the groove, it’s very slick so there could be a lot of mistakes made, which opens up opportunity. But we’ll see.. I don’t know what to expect yet.”

I hate to bring up a worst-case scenario, but I need to ask you – if the Indy 500 starts on time and you’re well into it and it rains briefly, who makes the call on whether you stay in Indy or come to Charlotte?

“Yeah, hopefully that doesn’t arise. But I’m not sure who the one is to make that call. I’m sure there’s a window of time that when it gets to a certain point I have to leave because the Coca-Cola 600 is the priority that weekend and chasing another NASCAR Cup Series championship is the priority.

Yeah, I just hope that doesn’t come about (laughs). Tony Kanaan is there for reserve, if something like that does happen, to fill in for the (Indy) 500. But yeah, just pray that doesn’t happen.”

There’s a lot of focus these days on mental health and everything. With your schedule getting busier and busier with the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 prep and Kevin Harvick helping out the team next weekend a little bit – how are you staying mentally strong and sharp during the month of May?

“I don’t know.. I think I stay prepared for things like this because I race all the time. These next two weeks, honestly, I feel like are simpler than most of my weeks. I’m in Indiana for a full week, and I’m behind one certain type of car for the majority of that week. A lot of times, my schedule in the summer will get crazy, where I’m racing on a Sunday and then I’m flying to go race a sprint car one day. And then I’m driving three hours to go race a dirt late model and then something else that weekend. So, I think times like that probably prepare me for the month of May more than anything. I think having good people around you too; having good, organized logistics help, as well.”

You mentioned Tony Kanaan is the reserve driver for the Indy 500. We know that Kevin Harvick is going to be in the car for practice for the All-Star Race. Do you have a backup driver in case something happens and you can’t make it for the All-Star Race or you can’t make it for the Coca-Cola 600, who’s going to be in that car and racing?

“No, I haven’t heard that yet. No.. I don’t know, I’m not sure. I guess maybe those are all last-minute calls I think, or we’ll probably just like try to manifest a perfect weekend in our minds (laughs). Maybe behind the scenes, they’ve been working on that. I think it all depends on weather and stuff; kind of forecasting what that might look like and maybe plans will change. But no, I don’t know.”

Obviously we have the option tire next weekend at North Wilkesboro. Is that something you’d like to see on a regular basis in the Cup Series on ovals and road courses, where teams have an option to go hard or soft compounds?

“Well, I think it just depends on how it goes next week. Yeah, assuming it goes well, I don’t know because I don’t know what ‘well’ looks like. I’m not sure. I mean if it’s great, then yeah, maybe we can utilize it. But I really don’t know until I get some experience on it.

I remember we ran – I guess was it the All-Star Race, however many years ago, I think we had an option tire. I don’t know if we all had it on during the same run or even how it works next week, but I don’t remember it being any different. I think it has to be drastically different for you to notice a difference on the racetrack. We’ll see. Hopefully that’s what it is next week.”

Being able to do something that not many people get to do here the next few weeks, what are you looking most forward to, or even intrigued about what these next couple of weeks might be like?  

“I don’t know.. I think for me, I don’t think about that a whole lot. I think more about – I get excited about learning new things and being presented a new challenge, which an IndyCar is a new challenge. Learning that style of racing a little bit and seeing what translates some. Racing against other drivers that I’ve watched on TV for quite a while or whatever – like that’s kind of what I get most excited about. But mostly, just learning and seeing how quickly you can learn and if you can be competitive. I think if you can do a good job with all of that, then all the other stuff that would be seen as more important on the result end of things would be great.

But yeah, I think I’m just excited to learn something new.”

Going back to the finish last week, when Chris (Buescher) made his move into turn three that allowed you to have the outside, did you feel like at that point – OK this is perfect because now I’m going to win it because I’m on the outside like that? Or even if he had gone on the outside, I guess you could have gone down and done a slide job type of pass. Did that change how you looked at it when he essentially took middle?

“I was planning to go to the outside no matter what. I honestly thought that he would just run low and fast; kind of run the shorter distance. So, when he kind of ran the middle, I was like – oh yeah, like wow.. here we go! But it wasn’t until l got exited off of the corner, like to the straightaway, that I thought we still had a shot here. Like when I had initially got there, I thought he was going to throttle up and kind of like – not move me up, just like I wasn’t quite there enough I thought.

It’s weird.. like when you watch a replay, it looks different than what you see in the helmet. I remember when I kind of throttled up to try to get to his quarter, I thought he was going to be able to throttle up; get clear in front of me and then I would get aero-tight. But then when I stayed there, I still was like – alright, now I’m crashing because I’m just in an awkward spot here with aero and the way that turn four kind of sharpens up on exit. I just thought I was going to run out of space.. not even like him doing anything dirty or anything like that. He left me enough room and all that. Yeah, we got off the corner and then it was just about how the run was going to work out, and thankfully it barely worked out.”

A lot of times, you guys get more credit than maybe you deserve at times, and sometimes you get more of the blame than you deserve at times… I mean this is still a team sport. When you’re in a situation like that and obviously for Chris (Buescher), it’s easy to say he lost it. You guys always have to look at yourselves each week or the team is looking at things. How tough of a situation is it, even with all the self-critical thinking you have to have, if you feel like you’ve lost it, and how do you get through something like that? What would be the case where it’s lingered for you?

“Yeah, I mean I’ve definitely lost plenty of races late in the going, I feel like, than I’ve won. So yeah, it’s tough, especially in a finish like that. You think about it a lot. You overthink it. There are many different ways that you can think about running the last lap to have a different result where you win. And I think you just have to kind of process all of those different scenarios in your head; log it and then try to be better for the next time a situation, if it ever happens, occurs like that.

And then you just have to try and move on from it, which is difficult. But the best way to move on from things is just to get back behind the wheel. That’s what’s always been good for me. When I’ve had tough races, or good races, it seems like I’ve got a race a day or two later. I don’t kind of ride that wave too much, or the wave is quicker, I guess, which kind of steadies me out maybe a little bit.

Yeah, it’s tough. Losing like that is very difficult, but he seems like a very even keel guy that probably doesn’t let it linger too long.”

With Corey Day starting to dabble in the pavement world a little bit, what can you tell the NASCAR community about Corey as a racer? Are you involved, even in like in a just talking to him role, in getting him acclimated to maybe pursuing this?

“Yeah, I mean a little bit. But I feel like he’s kind of a lot like me in that sense, where like I’ve never really reached out to anybody like – hey man, I’m getting ready to run this. Even in IndyCar, like – hey, I’m getting ready to run an IndyCar.. what do I need to do? I’ve always just tried to figure things out on my own, and he seems to be the same way. So yeah, it was cool to see him have a good run at Hickory. Obviously the invert and all that kind of worked out for him, but it was cool to see him adapt to something new. I think that was his first time on pavement that weekend.

He’s just an extremely great race car driver. He’s only 18-years-old. He’s got a ton of experience. I’ve obviously paid a lot of attention to him now the last few years, and he’s just continued to get better and better each weekend. Watching his style, I feel like that’s what I look like a lot out there with how hard he runs. I was not that in control at 18, but he’s very in control with how hard he runs. He’s very calculated. I feel like he makes really smart, quick decisions out there on the track. Yeah, I hope he gets opportunities at this level to showcase his abilities, and I’m sure there’s a lot of teams, manufacturers and organizations that are after him. He’s in a great spot, so I’m excited to kind of see where his career ends up. Yeah, it would be fun getting to compete with him; not only on the sprint car side, but hopefully on the NASCAR side of things down the road.”