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May 9, 2021

Kyle Larson

Darlington, South Carolina, USA

Press Conference

An Interview with:

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Kyle Larson, our second-place finisher in today's Goodyear 400.

Q. I know a lot of people have talked about the 750 package coming back to Darlington. What was your assessment? Obviously you were running Truex down there for a bit towards the end. How much fun was it just wheeling these things and really racing the track as much as you were racing anybody else?

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, it was fun. It definitely took a handful of laps to get used to. I was going down the straightaway and then everybody was lifting a lot sooner than I thought I needed to, and so I adjusted to them and backed my entry up and I felt like I got a little bit better loading into the corners then. And then the exit was sliding around a lot.

A lot of fun. I don't remember honestly how the high downforce was because I didn't get to run here last year, but it was fun to be here during the day, my first daytime Cup race here, so it was cool to do that, and yeah, had a lot of fun slipping and sliding.

Q. How tough was the heat compared to what you remember from the nighttime races here?

KYLE LARSON: It wasn't as bad as I thought. Maybe we just do a really good job with the cooling in our car, but I hardly broke a sweat, surprisingly.

It wasn't too bad for me. I don't know how the other guys were.

Q. Kyle, how does it feel to -- you had a good little run going along and then Richmond, Talladega, Kansas kind of weren't what you wanted. You guys seem to be back on the -- how does it feel to get things back on the right track?

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, it's good. We definitely needed to get a good finish. I thought we were going to get one last week and I messed that up. Three bad weeks in a row, and to come back and contend for a win and finish second and get good stage points after speeding at the end of the first stage, too, yeah, it was a good day.

Now we go to Dover, which is one of if not my best tracks. Excited about that, and Hendrick Motorsports has been pretty good at Dover from what I remember, too, so looking forward to getting there.

Q. We're about halfway through the regular season. How would you assess what you've been able to accomplish in the first half of the regular season?

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, I think we're top three. We're one of the top three teams out there, so I'm happy with that. We've been really good to start the year and meshing very well as a team. Really enjoy working with cliff and everybody on the 5 car, and I think we're just going to continue to grow. Our pit crew has been doing an awesome job. Everybody at the shop has been doing great. You look at all four of our teammates, with myself included, and we've been really good.

Happy about it, and looking forward to building from where we're at.

Q. Before the final round of pit stops cliff was kind of preaching take care of your stuff, we'll close the gap on the final round of pit stops. Was that hard to do when you can see Martin in front of you and want to get as close as you can, or were you able to kind of be patient there?

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, it's hard. I had already planned on -- when we closed a bunch throughout the green flag cycle, that final one, and I could see that I was really close and noticed that I was gaining on him, I definitely had to tell myself to just calm myself. I wish I was. Even the whole last stage I felt like I did a good job for where I was at and who I was battling with to take care of my stuff.

But yeah, when the leader is in front of you it is tougher to remind yourself. But in a way I maybe was too patient at one point. I got to his back bumper in 1 and 2 and I could see he was struggling in front of me, and I thought, well, if I am just patient here and stay behind him and put some pressure on him, maybe he'll use his stuff up or get into the wall in 3 and 4 because he was running so close to it. So I was just hoping that he would make a mistake.

Looking back if there was something I could do different I would have taken advantage of that opportunity and tried to get to his inside and maybe tried to clear him off of two and maybe block him in my dirty air the rest of the race.

Q. The strength of today's performance and going back to Dover next week, one of your good tracks and a Hendrick car, what's your outlook on going back to Dover?

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I'm pumped to get there. I think it's this aero package maybe, too. Yeah, Dover is just an awesome place, suits my style. Can move around quite a bit. It's fast, aggressive, and I love it. Ready to get there, and hopefully be one spot better.

Q. You talked about the runs that you've had and obviously the win, the top 5s, but how has it been able to come together so fast for you, your relationship with Cliff, coming to a new team? You're 12 races in and you guys seem to be clicking on all cylinders. How has it come together so fast?

KYLE LARSON: I just think I've got a great group of people around me throughout all of Hendrick Motorsports but especially on our 5 car. Their preparation is something that is pretty awesome to see, and I feel like I'm putting in a lot of work off the track, too, to get myself up to speed with no practice and things like that.

Honestly probably no practice benefits me a little bit, just from being able to adapt quickly and not giving myself an opportunity to tune ourselves out with any bad feedback.

It's been really fun to be this good this early on in the year, and like I said earlier, I hope we can just continue to build on it and get better and be the best when it comes to the final 10 races.

Q. What exactly were you thinking there? I think it was like eight or seven laps to go when you decided to thread the needle between Ryan Newman and Tyler Reddick?

KYLE LARSON: Well, they're both really aggressive drivers, so I didn't want to get stuck behind them because I knew if I didn't clear them then, I would definitely not have an opportunity to get by or get close to Martin.

I saw a door open up a little bit, and I stuck my nose in there and came out the other side. It was pretty intense, but that's what I felt like I needed to do at that point to give myself a shot to win, but even once I cleared them, I was struggling at that point and Martin was getting away from me.

Q. We're going to come back here in September and it's going to be the first race of the playoffs, something you're locked into at this point. What are you looking to do differently when we get to the longer race, the night race, in September?

KYLE LARSON: I don't know, I mean, hopefully we can just look at our data points from this race and try and get our car better. I felt like we were a little bit slow on the short run, on restarts maybe -- after green flag stops I felt like we were one of the faster cars taking off, but on a clear track after restarts I felt like we were a little slow, and then the long runs I was just way too loose to carry throttle, be aggressive, not get stuck in traffic, things like that. Just take what we learned today and try and be better and try and be better than the 19 because he was obviously really good all race long.

Q. Just kind of curious, you talked about doing different stuff during the week. Has your routine changed at all since coming to Hendrick as far as how you prepare for the races during the week?

KYLE LARSON: I mean, yeah, there's more meetings and things of that sort, as far as like looking at SMT and stuff like that. That's stuff I always did before, and I would say even the meetings are the same as what I had before. They're just a little bit more structured probably and a little more information in them.

But yeah, and then I guess, too, the SMT things with no practice, I'm probably spending more time looking at that now because when we did have practice, you'd look for a little while and you're like, all right, I'll just figure the rest out once we get on track for practice. But now with not having practice you just want to be as prepared as you can be, so trying to study up on other drivers and stuff like that and what trends look fast.

Q. Any physical training? I know you continue to race on a regular basis, but have you done anything from a physical standpoint as far as training goes to prepare for the weekends?

KYLE LARSON: I mean, the same as I've kind of always did when I was at Ganassi. I actually still work out at Ganassi with Josh Wise. That's been great. He's also expanded his program a lot more from even when I was doing it a couple years ago, so you know, now he's got even more information than I can look at and then go to my guys on the 5 and talk to them about as well as doing stuff in the gym. As you can tell I'm not a big guy so we don't do a lot of lifting and stuff like that, but I feel like it's all stuff centered around being a great race car driver.

I enjoy doing that. I do it a few times a week when I can, and I race a lot, too, so I think that's probably the most important fitness you can get as a race car driver.

Q. When you saw Truex in front of you, did you think that was your shot to get him or was there another time where you thought, this is my one shot and just didn't come through?

KYLE LARSON: Well, yeah, I saw him -- I closed a lot. We had to have gained seconds on him on the pit cycle, and then I was closing on him a little bit and then he was getting in heavy traffic, and it looked like he was struggling in front of me for grip. I was trying to just be patient and try and let him burn his stuff up.

I do think I remember seeing him get sideways off of 2 once or something like that, and then I got to him later on and got to his back bumper, was going to try and get him loose just to get him to check up off of 2 and maybe get to his inside or just stalk him some more and get him to make a mistake or burn his tires up. But he did a really good job.

So yeah, the only thing I think I could have done differently was get that big run on him in 1 and 2, and when I got to his bumper I could have just probably throttled up through the center and maybe cleared him or at least got my right rear to his left front and made him lift off of 2.

Like I said, I could see he was struggling and I wanted to be patient and figured I'd have another opportunity, but I never really did.

Q. The maneuver between the 8 and the 6, what was going through your head when you made that move?

KYLE LARSON: Well, I just was trying to -- I knew if I didn't get by them then, when I was surprised that I got by them both in the same corner, but Newman obviously is really hard to pass. He races really hard, and so does Tyler, and he was kind of running where I wanted to be, so I knew I had to make quick work of them if I wanted to have an opportunity to get to Martin.

So the 6 kind of pulled lower than I thought he would, and I saw a door open and poked my nose through it and came out the other side.

Still after I cleared, I wasn't good enough to get to Martin, but had I not got by them, I definitely would not have had a shot to get to Martin, so just glad I didn't wreck there.

THE MODERATOR: Kyle, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. We will see you in Dover.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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