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June 18, 2017

Chad Johnston

Kyle Larson

Brooklyn, Michigan

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Kyle Larson, driver of the No.42 Cars 3 Target Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. We also have crew chief Chad Johnston.
Kyle, first of all, kachow! Secondly, you had a great car, particularly on restarts. It paid off for you at the end.
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, we had a pretty good short‑run car, I thought. Then there late in the race, we just were able to line up in the right lanes. We restarted eighth, I think, with, I don't know, 40 some laps to go. Able to get to fourth with four tires, I think. Was better than Chase at that point. Got to third. Then chased down Ryan Blaney pretty quickly. Got by him just before that caution came out.
Then Ryan gave me a heck of a push on the bottom lane there to shove me out in front of Kyle, which was huge. Kyle is so good at restarts. I was looking in my mirror, I could see that Chase wasn't to his back bumper. I was hoping we could build some momentum, Ryan and I, to get the run we needed to basically play chicken getting into three.
We were able to hold it wide open longer than Kyle, squeeze in front of him. Then they started crashing. I knew the top lane would be the best place to restart. I liked who I saw in my mirror. I can't remember really who it was, I think the 22 the last time.
The Penske cars take off so good on restarts, like I said, I was happy that Joey was behind me. He gave me another good push to get down and side draft Denny and get by him.
Chad and everybody at our Chip Ganassi Racing shop does such an amazing job with our racecars. We've been close to winning so many other races, finished second six different times, would be nice to have 30 more bonus points. We'll keep chipping away at it.
THE MODERATOR: Chad, congratulations on the win. This is now your second consecutive win here at Michigan International Speedway, your third consecutive win on a two‑mile track. What makes this team and this young driver next to you so strong on a track like Michigan?
CHAD JOHNSTON: I feel like our mile‑and‑a‑half program has been pretty good since the early part of last year, around Charlotte or Dover time. I think we make our cars better every time we come.
I think it suits Kyle fairly well. He's real good about moving around and finding grip, doing the things he needs to do to get the car to do what he wants it to do.
I feel we have a pretty good handle on where our balance needs to be. We're building really fast cars at the shop. You unload with speed, it makes the weekend go a lot faster. Got to tune it to the comfort of him, whatever conditions we have on the track.
You know, most of that goes back to the shop. You don't make a car fast when it comes here; you build cars fast at the shop. That's what we've been doing.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open the floor up for questions.

Q. Kyle, your three wins have come on the two‑mile variety. Is there anything special that you enjoy about these two‑mile tracks?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, our racecars are fast at them. Michigan and Fontana are, you know, very, very similar in shape and size. But the racing surface is way different. Fontana's rough and bumpy. It's a worn‑out surface. You have to take care of your tires, move around, find different lanes that work. Here at Michigan, your tires don't wear out nearly as bad. Your line doesn't move around a ton. Really fast, lot of grip.
They're both fun, because we seem to have good racecars, especially when we come here. Seems like since my rookie season, we've always had fast cars here at Michigan.

Q. What do you do going forward with the points lead heading into Fontana?
I'm excited about Sonoma. I grew up about an hour and a half from there, in Elk Grove, California. It's my home race. I was supposed to race tonight in a sprint car. It got canceled in Ohio. I'm going to race tomorrow and Tuesday in a sprint car, then fly out to Sonoma on Wednesday, is the plan right now unless they rescheduled.
Going to go out there, spend a couple days on vacation, do a little wine tasting, probably go hang out at Rico's property one day. Just relax and have a good time.
Sonoma is always one of the most fun events to go to because it's so different, such a nice area. You get to do something different, turn right, downshift, all that, which is always fun.

Q. You know you have a great car, you're on the pole. On a day like today, do you feel if you don't win, would it have been any more disappointing?
KYLE LARSON: No, I mean, the 78 was by far the class of the field, I thought. I know I led a lot of laps. Seemed like whenever he wanted to get the lead, he hit a nitro button and would cruise up to the lead, then check out. He was the class of the field.
I thought the 18 was next best. The 20 was better than I was on the long run. I thought we were probably a third‑ or fourth‑place car. To come out a winner, it makes it that much more exciting, I guess.
I guess it would be disappointing if I finished outside the top 10 or something. For not having the dominant car, to do everything right to get a win today, was special.

Q. You talked yesterday about how you have such a fast racecar, this season seems like your so much better. What do you mean by that? Is there better collaboration between you and Jamie McMurray's team? Alba Colon mentioned how important you are in terms of the brand movement for Chevrolet. How much does it mean to you to hear that from someone like her?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, Chad I guess would be the guy to answer that question on why he thinks we're a lot faster. He's at the shop at 7 a.m. or earlier every day working. I think all the hundreds of people that work there kind of came together and put all their ideas into one, just built on everything.
We had a great off‑season. Since I've been in Cup, we haven't had a good off‑season. We always start the year off worse than where we ended it. This year was opposite. We ended last year pretty good, but we started this year even better. I think it's everybody working together really hard, getting along good. We have a fun team, a fun race shop.
As far as the brand movement for Chevy, I mean, yeah, I love racing Chevrolets. I hope to be in a Chevrolet for the rest of my life.

Q. Several late restarts and cautions. What was the mindset during that?
KYLE LARSON: You always kind of have in the back of your mind all the races you lost on restarts. I also got my first win here on a late restart. I was pretty confident going into it, especially lined up on the front row with Chase again. I know we were both going to have a better restart than we had last year, neither of us spin our tires.
Neither of us spun our tires, had good restarts. I was able to get good pushes, get the side draft going at the right time to pull my momentum into the corner.

Q. Kyle, what does it feel like to grab that lead on the restart? Does your heart rate peg? Is it calm?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I got clear to the lead. Every time I get to the lead, there's always cautions. I wasn't really that nervous. I figured there would be a caution as soon as I got the lead the first time.
Then the last restart there when I got clear to the lead, I had some butterflies. I was just trying to be smooth, hit my marks, not make mistakes, not let Chase get close to me.
This place is pretty hard to pass when you get out front on a restart, so I wasn't too concerned.

Q. Kyle, after the Dover race, you said you were going to work on your restarts. That was the strength today. What did you do, if anything, between then and now to work on the restarts?
KYLE LARSON: Well, restarting here at Michigan is so different than restarting at Dover. I definitely watched the replay. We looked at Jimmie's driver day versus mine from the final restart at Dover, learned a little bit from that stuff.
Honestly, I knew what I did wrong as soon as we took the green at Dover. But, yeah, here at Michigan, it's different. You have a long straightaway. The frontstretch at Dover is pretty bumpy, so it's hard to get grip. It's not hard to get grip here at Michigan. It's kind of just a drag race.

Q. A lot of people are going to point to the restart where you took the lead from Kyle as a decisive moment in the race. It also seemed as if the previous restart where you started on the fifth row was almost equally as important. Did you feel that also?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, for sure. I don't know if I started 8th or 10th. We were able to get to fifth off of two, clear Erik Jones pretty quickly. That lined us up fourth. We were a lot better than Chase at that point. When I got clear of him, way better than Ryan, because he was on two tires.
They were letting me know that Kyle‑‑ they didn't think Kyle would be good on fuel. I was actually hoping for it to stay green. Then, you know, we got the cautions, got the restarts that we needed.

Q. It seemed like all day the outside was the preferred line on the restart. Were you surprised you were able to get around Kyle on the inside? What made the outside so good?
KYLE LARSON: I think the outside is good 'cause the guy behind you pretty much stays in line, where on the bottom they have the option of kind of pulling out and trying to hang you three‑wide or whatever.
When I restarted on the bottom, my spotter told me that Blaney said he's going to push us as good as he could. He had a heck of a restart and shoved me softly all the way to turn one. I didn't spin my tires at all. I didn't get squirrelly at all. I was able to get the run I needed.

Q. Kyle, what does this win mean for you in terms of the emergence of the young racers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, for the youth movement for the sport?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I keep saying that NASCAR is in a great, great spot. Even with Dale Jr. retiring this year, I think it's a huge opportunity for our sport. Dale Jr. has probably three‑quarters of our fan base. You might lose a few thousand of his fans that might disappear. The rest of them are going to pick new drivers. I think new rivalries are going to be built. It's going to bring some excitement back to the racetrack.
I'm happy that I seem to be head of that youth movement right now. With Ryan Blaney getting the win last week, you look at Chase finishing second, Joey is a veteran, but he's only a couple years older than I am, then Stenhouse, Austin Dillon, Erik Jones, Suarez, so many drivers in great equipment right now that are running up front. It's just a great time for NASCAR.
I think everybody is kind of nervous about where it's going to be, but I think a lot of us, our fan bases are going to grow as well as NASCAR's fan base.

Q. Are you aware of where you are in points, the winner of the regular season gets five extra Playoff points compared to everybody else, in relation to Truex?
KYLE LARSON: I pay attention to how far back I am of Martin or how far ahead of him I am. We had a rough Coke 600 and lost a lot of points. We've been able to gain some back and take over the points lead. That's a big goal of mine, to be the points leader at the end of the regular season.
Martin has been so fast all year long. He's dominating it seems like every race. He's already racked up a lot of bonus points. I need to do all I can to get some back on him, help our Playoffs out.
You've seen me racing hard at the end of those stages, and that's because every point is going to matter for when it comes down to Richmond or whatever race it is.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations on yet another win. Good luck next week in Sonoma.
KYLE LARSON: Thank you.

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