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October 17, 2021

Kyle Larson

Press Conference

An Interview with:

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race-winning driver, Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Congratulations, Kyle. We'll go ahead and open it up for questions.

Q. I can't jinx you now; you're locked into the final Championship 4. What does that mean to you? What you were going around the track, what were you thinking?

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, it's awesome. I mean, we had a good points lead or whatever from the cutoff going into it, but still, you know, Harvick had his issues last year and didn't make the Final Four. That will always be on my mind.

We had a fast, fast car today, and we had a good couple stages, so even if I didn't come out with the lead or the win or whatever, I wanted to play it smart and take what I could get. I got good shots from behind me every restart and allowed me to get clear into 1 every time and then do some blocking for a few laps. Fine on all those restarts and we had a great race car to allow me to be aggressive with the blocks, and fast, too, to stay out in front of William.

Q. Want to get your thoughts on breaking the tie with Chase Elliott and Tim Richmond on the all-time wins list.

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, that's cool. Hopefully Chase and I are both going to get a lot of wins throughout our career and catch Jimmie or Jeff some day. Yeah, it's been cool to be teammates with him this season. He's definitely pushed me to be better, and it's nice having him there to listen to how he communicates with everybody in the competition meetings and stuff and really getting a look at his data more. I feel like we've got a great bunch of drivers and teams and crew chiefs, and that allows all of us to go out there and make ourselves better.

Q. I know this is kind of a weird stat because it's like 36 races and everything and not like all of NASCAR history, but apparently you have a pretty good shot now to get the all-time laps led record since it went to a 36-race season. Do you care about that number? Do you care about that mark?

KYLE LARSON: I definitely care. I don't know what the mark is or what the number is, but yeah, I'm probably 2,300 or so now, close to it. So yeah, that would be really, really cool. I led a lot more laps today than I thought I would, so yeah, it's definitely a goal of mine. I think somewhere in the back of my mind like it's a goal. It's not like something I am upset about if I don't lead any laps in a race or anything, but once I am leading I want to stay in the lead to help catch that record or whatever.

But you have to have a fast race car to do that, and our race car has been really good all season long, especially today to have a dominating run like we did. Hopefully these next few weeks are a lot like today.

Q. I was just curious about Phoenix in a couple weeks; do you like the benefit of having practice and qualifying, or do you wish it was like it was last year?

KYLE LARSON: Well, I could kind of take it either way, really. We had practice at the 600 and Nashville, and we won those two. I can't remember what all races we've had practice at. But as far as the ovals go for practice, I think we've won those.

It kind of doesn't -- like I said, it could go either way for me. I think yes, I'm probably -- I like having practice to give yourself -- it kind of helps your confidence out, whether it's good or bad, leading into the race with practice. But it also gives -- if your car is great or whatever, it gives other people an opportunity to make their car better.

But our team has done a really good job this year when we have had practice of not like getting crazy with trying different things. You kind of just get a head start on the race and your adjustments, what they may be.

Yeah, I haven't really thought too much about the practice and qualifying or all that at Phoenix, but hopefully it'll go good for us.

Q. Were you worried about the guys that were behind you that were on fresh tires because Christopher Bell on that last restart started third.

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, so obviously Brad had taken the top on the other restarts behind William, and Brad is a really good pusher. I was nervous about that. Honestly like when they told you there was one to go, I was like, please, Brad, take the bottom, take the bottom, take the bottom. He took the bottom, because I was worried -- I'm sure you guys will write a story about this, but I was worried about Bell being behind me because just -- I felt like -- not that he would wreck me or anything, but maybe he wouldn't give me the push that I needed to get clear out to the lead, so I really wanted Brad behind me.

I felt like if Brad was behind me, I could -- I could anticipate it better because I knew I was going to get a good push, but I was ready for him to try and pull out and try and take me three wide or anything because he's trying to race his way into the playoffs and lock in. I was at least ready for that.

I wasn't sure what to be ready for if Bell was behind me, so yeah, I was glad when Brad chose the bottom and gave me a great push like I knew he would. I protected a little bit and was able to get clear of the lead.

Q. You had said from the start of the playoffs that Harvick last year was on your mind, and even this morning 47 points over the cushion is not enough. It seemed like you were sort of anticipating, like hey, I might have to race my way in on points. Is it sort of an odd feeling to be sitting here like oh, I'm in, I don't have to worry about that for the next two weeks, that part of it's gone?

KYLE LARSON: A little bit. Not really. I had such a good day today in stage points and stuff and I was positioned well to where if I finished in the top four or five, I was still going to probably gain a lot I would think on the cut line. I wasn't too worried about it. Still, yes, it probably still would have been on my mind going to Kansas, but as long as I went to Kansas and ran up front in the stages and stuff, too, I would have felt really good about it.

I just was more worried about like if you get in the wall or something like Denny or Truex or get caught up in a wreck, stuff like that, which now we don't have to worry about. So that's good.

But yeah, I mean, I'm not going to plan on racing any differently these next two weeks. I still want to win stages, win some races and keep this momentum going into Phoenix.

Q. You've kind of alluded to this, but for a large part of this race it seemed to be an kind of an auto control and then the last 60 laps happened. During that course of time you saw various playoff guys disappear, you had to hold off restarts I think six times in the last 60-some laps. What were you thinking? Were you just focusing on what you were doing, or were you paying attention to the scenarios that were kind of developing behind you?

KYLE LARSON: Well, I was more just thinking about William and how I'm going to beat him because I felt like he was the only guy that really had a car capable of passing us in the lead. I mean, even all race long on all the other restarts and throughout those 50-, 60-lap runs, I was just trying to make notes in my mind of what he was doing behind me, how he was trying to figure out how to make runs and stuff. I felt like I was doing a good job of maintaining the runs that he was getting behind me.

I was making notes of all that, and then obviously things are going to get more aggressive there at the end, so trying to make plans for if he's behind me, if he's side by side with me. Finally stayed side-by-side with me on the restarts, what to do, how aggressive I needed to be, stuff like that. You're always trying to plan ahead and think ahead, so you're not really in auto pilot ever throughout a race, even if it's 500 miles. You're just trying to plan and be prepared for any moment that might come up.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Kyle. Congratulations.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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