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August 13, 2017

Chip Ganassi

Chad Johnston

Kyle Larson

Brooklyn, Michigan

THE MODERATOR: We will continue on with today's post‑race media availability, and we're joined but winning car owner Chip Ganassi of the No.42 Target Chevrolet. Chip, this is getting old hat, winning here at Michigan International Speedway, but that finish was far from routine. Could you please walk us through your feelings from your perspective?
CHIP GANASSI: Well, for so long, you know, we struggled here, for so many years, and we felt that‑‑ it's hard when you struggle for so many years here. I think the last time we won here was with Sterling, with Dodge. I think we brought Dodge their first win here back in, whatever, 2002 or something or 3, somewhere around there. So obviously that was eons ago, but‑‑ and then coming into this weekend, we obviously had a lot of momentum, a lot of excitement knowing the past history of the team here, but quite frankly, we didn't have the best car today by any stretch. I think anybody could see that. Kyle just hung in there all day, and Chad just hung in there all day, the whole team.
I just want to thank everybody on the team. It gets so redundant to hear that in these media conferences, but it takes so many people to do this, you know, and it takes so much hard work on so many people's parts, you know, and we all know this business isn't getting any easier lately.
You know, my hats off to everybody on the team because the countless hours and the hard work and having to listen to the media and having to listen to everybody the last few weeks, that it's all falling apart and we're no good anymore, we were below 23rd or whatever for three races in a row. You know, so my hats off to the team for just hanging in there and not listening to the critics and hanging in there. Like I said, my man Chad here, he can tell you we didn't have the best car today by a long shot, and we were just lucky to put four on there with not too far to go. At the finish, I think, what, about 10 or 7 to go or something? Yeah.
You know, and I'll tell you, when you're in my position of this past week's activities with all the talk about Knoxville and going to Knoxville last night and not getting back here until 2:00 in the morning, I'm out on the end of the diving board there a lot of times. So I appreciate when Kyle steps up and does what he did today; it makes it all worthwhile, obviously.
THE MODERATOR: One of the people that made that possible today was crew chief Chad Johnston. We're joined by Chad now. You didn't have the dominant car, but the team kept on working and working to get Kyle in position. Just please walk us through your strategy throughout the race to get Kyle in that position to win this race.
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, I'd like to hear your strategy, too.
CHAD JOHNSTON: Like chip said, we didn't have the best car, and obviously most of the time the best car doesn't win. We just tried to stick with it. We said coming in here, we kind of drew a line in the sand and we hadn't got the performance or the finishes the last three weeks that we felt like the car had speed‑wise. We made some changes coming into this race aerodynamically to try to help the car, which I believe hurt it pretty bad in traffic, but it's hard to tell unless you bring it to the track.
We know where we missed it on that, and we just tried to keep ourselves in position and keep focused and try to keep him in the best situation that we could on tires compared to the guys around him. We put four on, and the cautions fell like we needed them to, and we were able to get two restarts on the outside.
He drove his butt off there at the end. We had a pretty bad start to‑‑ the first start of the race was probably the worst restart he's had all year, but I definitely would say that the one at the end was probably the best one he's had. When it all counted and the cards were on the table, we were able to execute and come out of here with a finish better than what the car was capable of running, and you're going to win championships that way.
You know, it was a line in the sand, and we'll start over again and go into Bristol, which is going to be a really good track for us, and just start executing races before the last 10 start.

Q. Chip, how do you tell Kyle no the next time he asks if he can run a race the night before an event?
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, that's a good question. I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. I don't know. I mean, it's just a matter of looking at all the circumstances. I'll tell you, one of the reasons I did let him do it was the fact that this race didn't start until 3:00, and I think had it been like a noon start or something, I mean‑‑ he didn't get back here until 2:30 or so in the morning. You know, so I don't know.
And I think Kyle‑‑ I think he understands more and more the gravity of the situation as you drill into the fall or the late summer. This was his last sprint car race of the season. You know, that's something we'll talk about over the winter, I'm sure. But there's no connection to this year, next year, how do you do it the next time. I don't know.

Q. So you weren't like looking for him to see if he was yawning or anything, if there was any impact from‑‑
CHIP GANASSI: I mean, I've got to say, I was questioning myself in the middle of the race there when I see us back in‑‑ we had obviously had‑‑ like Chad said, we didn't have too good of a start, and we were sort of mired in the middle of the top 10 there most of the day or something but not by any stretch near the front. So yeah, I mean, I had concerns, and I was getting ready to take a lot of heat in the media for that if we didn't have a good day.
Yeah, I mean, it's easy to‑‑ the thing when you're a team owner in any sport, it's easy to‑‑ it's easy to break your star athlete, it's easy to break them and slow them down, you know. It's a lot harder to speed them up. I just don't want to do something that's going to slow him down, you know.
I think you run the risk of that when you have a talent like that that wants to go drive other kinds of cars and things. I mean, I've never been a team owner to keep my drivers from driving other kinds of cars, and obviously‑‑ you know, you want to do the best you can for the guy all the time and do what you can do, and hopefully we can continue to do it. I don't want to make any promises.

Q. Can you describe any conversations you guys might have had under that red flag start or the red flag before the restart? And then what were you thinking when you saw him‑‑ it was basically four wide for a second. What did you guys talk about, and then what were your thoughts when he executed that move?
CHAD JOHNSTON: It was just business as normal. We leave it up to him. He's obviously the guy behind the wheel. He's more than capable of making those decisions of what the best move is going to be, way more capable than I am. We just told him that he was on the best tires of everybody in front of him. We tried to give him information that's going to at least make him feel like he's at an advantage, but at the end of the day, that's all him. I mean, we didn't play a part in that. We just put him in position, and he was able to make the restart and put the 78 in a bad spot, and we had fresher tires. I mean, it was pretty straightforward.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race winner, Kyle Larson, who drives the No.42 Target Chevrolet, and as we announced here earlier, Kyle, you became the third driver here at Michigan International Speedway to win three straight races. The other two are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, David Pearson and Bill Elliott, so pretty good company there.
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, that's some awesome company for sure. No, it was an awesome finish for us. Kind of a struggle all day, honestly. I felt like we were‑‑ I was good and I could find clean air on my car, but any time I'd get any bit of dirty air or any bit of the wake from the car in front of me, I'd get extremely loose, even when I wasn't close to anybody. We definitely didn't have the car that we had here the last two times we won, but we kept fighting, probably even harder than we did in those other two wins.
Caught a caution at the right time there to line up eighth on fresh tires, got to fifth, and then edged in front of Chase for fourth as the caution was coming out, and that allowed me to line up behind Martin and get a good restart.
I was running a few different options through my head under that red flag of what to do, and that one was one of them, and it played out exactly how I had hoped.
Yeah, so this win feels amazing to steal one in a way, and my other three wins I felt like we had the first or second best car, but today at times I didn't think we were a top 10 car. But to get the win that way is awesome.

Q. Chip, he doesn't need much sleep. He's young. He's good at this open wheel thing. Does this earn him a spot of maybe going in the Indy 500 or something now?
CHIP GANASSI: See what you do to me? (Laughter.)
KYLE LARSON: I didn't put him up to it, so don't get mad.
CHIP GANASSI: That's a great question. That's a great question. Anybody else have any questions?
KYLE LARSON: I don't know. We'll see. We'll see. Indy 500 is definitely on my bucket list. I don't know if it is right now at this moment, but for sure some day I'd like to, and Chip knows that.

Q. Chad, you guys are obviously solidly into the Playoffs, so how do you approach the next couple races before they start, and how do you keep the team focused on the next few races without looking ahead to the Playoffs, and my question for Kyle is did you learn that move on that last restart from your win at Wayne County Speedway in June?
CHAD JOHNSTON: Can you ask that question again?

Q. You guys are solidly in the Playoffs. Obviously you're going to be in there. How do you keep the team focused on the next couple races before the Playoffs start?
CHAD JOHNSTON: We've got a great group of guys, and we go into each week trying to win the race, so that's what we're going to do. We're going to celebrate this tonight, and then Monday we're going to re‑rack and work on our Bristol stuff, and we're going to go there guns ablazing, and we're usually pretty fast there and can lead some laps, and I think we learned a lot on how to adjust the car as the race goes, and we're going to try to put three more wins together and see if we can't gain some bonus points and close that gap to the 78 car.
KYLE LARSON: And then my question, no, I mean, these are double‑file restarts, All‑Star Series is single‑file restarts, so you can't really learn anything off of that stuff.

Q. Kyle, before that final restart there, how much were you thinking about your final corner last night in Knoxville and when you kind of dove into the corner and almost got the victory there?
KYLE LARSON: I wasn't thinking about last night at all. Pretty much, yeah, I mean, maybe when I first woke up this morning you think about it. But once I got changed and into the garage, I didn't think about last night at all. It was all about today and what I needed to do to win.
You know, I wanted to make sure that my team and everybody knew that I was focused on the Cup weekend because I think a lot of times it's easy to see my passion for sprint car racing as me not being focused on Cup, but that's definitely not the case. Any time I strap into my car, I'm focused on that day and that race.
Today was all about the Cup Series, and I was focused on it and got the win.

Q. Did running last night impact your performance at all today, not necessarily from a performance standpoint but just from a mental or attitude standpoint?
KYLE LARSON: I think so. I woke up this morning extremely confident about today, just being able to race last night and have a lot of fun and get close to winning. I woke up with really good‑‑ in a really, really good mood and a lot of confidence, too.
I felt like I was going to win when I woke up this morning, and then we got to the new point in the race, and I'm like, man, I don't feel like I'm going to win now, but we just kept fighting and got it done. So your mind and your positive thoughts and everything is so important in life in general, and today we had some not so positive thoughts, I guess, when I kept lining up on the bottom, but we got to think positive and line up at the top at the end.

Q. Would you have been in a sour mood if you had not been allowed to race last night?
KYLE LARSON: I would not have been in a sour mood. I would have been in a sad mood. I probably would have had a box of tissues next to my bed last night after I knew I didn't get to run the Knoxville Nationals, but that wasn't the case.

Q. Kyle, to build on Bob's question a little bit, how important is it to you to be able to run another series, to be able to go run sprint cars, and do you think that contributes toward your success on the Cup side?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, no doubt. I think any time I get to race any type of car, whether it be a go‑kart or a sprint car, any time I'm getting laps, I feel like it's helping me be a better race car driver, and especially when I can get in that stuff and win, it helps my confidence when I get into the Cup car.
I get to race quite a bit throughout the year, and this year I've had a really good year in everything, really, but especially in the dirt stuff, and I think that for sure carries over to Sundays. Hopefully‑‑ I'm not racing anymore the rest of the year in the dirt stuff, but hopefully this momentum and stuff that we can get in the Cup Series can carry out through the Playoffs and then to Homestead.

Q. I was wondering, how many push‑ups can you do?
KYLE LARSON: 40 or 50. I'm not going to do it right now. (Laughter.) But yeah, I think I could do about 40 or 50 in a row. I don't know if that's good or bad or what. Danica could probably do more, so that's probably not very good.

Q. Kyle, I have a follow‑up question to what was asked earlier. How difficult was it to convince Chip that you could race in Knoxville last night? And for Chad, you said earlier that you struggled with the car if I understood correctly, speedway or aero package. You raced here earlier in the year. In principle when your car is not so good, can you not go back to the setup you had year this year?
KYLE LARSON: So my question, yeah, I mean, I was‑‑ I'm sure Chip knew I was going to be nervous to ask him, but I had known that other people had already been talking to him about me racing, and so I mean, I was really nervous to ask, but I had already had a good feeling that he was going to let me race, even though he was being really tough about it there when I was talking to him. Yeah, I think our race team, Steve Aletta (ph) and the guys there on the marketing side I think saw the opportunity in front of them with how much exposure I was going to get this week if I could run the Knoxville Nationals, and I think that‑‑ I think Chip also understood that, and there's been so much exposure this week behind me, and to run good in both races will hopefully help us in search for a replacement sponsor at the end of the year.
But yeah, I mean, I've said it a bunch, and not only this week, but Chip is the best boss I could ever ask for.
CHAD JOHNSTON: Yeah, to answer your question, it's one of those things, the sport and the cars evolved so quickly that if you brought back what you won with the previous time here, you'd be lucky to run fifth or sixth with it. You're always constantly trying to make your cars better. Yeah, definitely the good thing about it is there's only a few things that we change, so it's pretty easy to backtrack on where we missed it. But you can rely on your notes from the last time, but you've got to bring something better each and every time that you come or you're not going to be able to compete with the guys that you want to compete with.

Q. My question is for Mr.Ganassi. You have three wins now in Michigan and you get to go home and celebrate six Super Bowls with the Steelers. Is there anything I can bring home to pass along to that disgrace of a football team we have on finding talent and also winning?
CHIP GANASSI: I don't know where to start with that one. I don't know. Draft the best athletes, I guess. I don't know. That's what I try to do. You've got to take the best guy that's available. When you have an opening, you've got to do whatever it takes, like I did with Kyle. You've got to do whatever it takes to get the best guy that's available whenever you have an opening in your organization I think at any level. You've got to look at that position and you've got to say, who's the best guy out there available. Maybe if he's not available, you try to make him available.

Q. Kyle, you're one part of the younger generation of drivers moving in. Can you talk to me about that, what it's like to inherit this torch? Jeff Gordon is gone, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is leaving. What is it like to inherit the new generation of NASCAR?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I think it's exciting times. I think a lot of fans right now are kind of sad that we're losing junior and some other veterans and stuff that are out of rides right now. But I think it's a great opportunity for our sport to take advantage of that and build on it, market us young guys and try and bring in younger fans, more fans, and yeah, I feel like I'm in a great position to kind of lead the way right now maybe just because I have a couple more wins than some of them.
But it's some exciting times for sure because there's a lot of young guys that are in the XFINITY or Truck Series that are well capable of being Cup drivers in the future if everything goes right. It'll be interesting to see, though, how the next handful of years play out, but I think it's going to be great. Not saying this in a bad way, but I think it's going to be good when Dale junior retires. I think fans are going to venture out and pick new guys, and they're not all going to pick the same guy, and I think that's going to add some excitement and some rivalries, and it's going to be good.
CHIP GANASSI: If I could add to that, I don't know if inherit is what Kyle has in mind there. I'm sure he realizes as everybody else in the sport does that it's not about‑‑ you've got to earn your way every week in this business, and I think if you're waiting to inherit something, you're going to be disappointed as time moves forward. This is a performance business, I think, and you've got to‑‑ at the end of the day, you've got to have performance, too, if you're going to think about dethroning any of those guys.

Q. Chad and chip, when you don't have the best car today but you see Kyle go up and make a move like he did, does that surprise you at all? The radio afterwards was obviously very excited, and it might have been Derek, the spotter, who somebody came over the radio and said, you driving SOB. Does something like that surprise you anymore what Kyle can do?
CHAD JOHNSTON: It doesn't surprise me. To me he's the best talent out there, and if we can put him in position, I think you're going to get that outcome 99 percent of the time. The thing for us is just to give him a car that's fast enough that he can go out there and do what we all know that he can do. I'm sure everybody realized the talent that he has way before that, but that definitely proves that you can never count him out, and he stuck with it and he kept his head, and we were able to steal a victory, but nonetheless, it's still a victory.
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, I would just echo those comments.

Q. Kyle, when you took the lead and you look in your rear view mirror and you see them dicing four wide behind you, were you wishing that the overtime line was still in the middle of the backstretch?
KYLE LARSON: I think any time you get clear on an overtime restart, you'd like to see the line there. But no, I think the fans will get more excitement out of the rule kind of going back to how it was. But more stressful for me having to run another half of lap to get to the start‑finish line and take the right. And yeah, I was still pretty loose out front. I had to make sure the 78 wasn't getting any closer to me.

Q. If I could just follow that up, I know the fans applauded the fact that that change was made. What was the general consensus among the drivers in the garage?
KYLE LARSON: I think the drivers all agree that it honestly doesn't make a big difference, but that it was probably better how it was before. It was a concept that a couple of them in the Drivers' Council came up with, and in writing I think it looked good at first, but I think once it played out a couple times, the fans didn't like it because they kind of felt like they got robbed of a finish.

Q. Kyle, what exactly was your plan on that final restart? I've watched it five times and I can't figure out what you did on purpose and what you did on accident. And then the second part, what possibilities did you consider and then discard?
KYLE LARSON: Well, yeah. I mean, kind of how it played out was my number one option, yeah, I wanted to time it and be able to get to his bumper and act like I was pushing him out to the lead and then duck underneath him and get to his left rear quarter and pull him back. It's crazy how when you get to somebody's left rear quarter how much it slows them down, and it did just that, and I wanted to do it at the right time where the 77‑‑ I would be kind of clear of him, and I got clear of him, and I looked at my mirror, and Matt kind of scared me because I didn't expect him to be under the 77. But yeah, we were able to get clear off 2. It honestly worked out exactly how I had hoped it would, so I can't really believe it.

Q. Truex said he let you hit him on purpose, so it sounds like he did what you wanted him to do, and then did you have any other options? Did you consider doing anything else?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I think he probably wanted me to get locked to his bumper. I don't know, but I think he probably wanted me to locked to his bumper and just push him to clear him in front of the 77 and then be smooth sailing. But yeah, I mean, it worked out where I could just‑‑ I was kind of locked to his bumper and pulled underneath him and got to his quarter at the right time.

Q. Chip, I was just wondering if you could give us an up late on how the sponsorship situation looks for Kyle this year.
CHIP GANASSI: I don't know what the possibilities are there. Right now I don't see a path for that at Target. You might want to say something to them yourself, but I don't see anything happening there.
You know, in terms of the outlook, we're talking to some people, but if anybody has any ideas, I'm all ears.

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