June 20, 2021
An Interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by our winner today, Kyle Larson.
Introductory sentence: how bad of a machine was that that you had today?
KYLE LARSON: It was another good one. We've had probably the best race car on the racetrack for at least a month and a half. Good to take advantage of it, get another win. Able to jump out to a lead right from the get-go, basically lead the rest of the race. If it wasn't for the cautions at the ends of the stages, we had a near perfect day.
Just happy with it, happy to get another win. The crowd was awesome, too. Kind of I think the atmosphere felt really high before the race. It was just cool to be here, cool to be in Nashville all week. Always great to get a win.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. This is your 10th career win, third straight points paying victory. What do both of these stats mean to you?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, it's awesome to get multiple wins in a row now in the Cup Series. I mean, really it's four wins in a row. Just cool to do that. Didn't think that was possible ever for me in the Cup Series anyways. I've gone on streaks in dirt racing and stuff before, but never been close to doing anything like that in Cup.
It's been awesome. To get to now double-digit point paying wins is great. I'd like to keep winning and keep inching my name up the winner's list not only at NASCAR but at Hendrick Motorsports, too. I think that's important to me.
Q. The guitar trophy has taken extra meaning as a memorial to Sam Bass. Did you have a relationship with him?
KYLE LARSON: Not really. I talked to him a handful of times. He was always an extremely happy person whenever I was around him. He did a lot for the sport of NASCAR, especially this race I think when it was going on here in the past.
Cool to win a trophy, a cool trophy. Cool to win that guitar. I think that's what we all were striving for this weekend, was to get a guitar.
Q. You win a lot whether it's at this level or sprints. It feels like sometimes when one guy starts to win all the races, fans get restless, this guy wins too much. The reception for you has been glowing. What do you attribute the receptiveness among fans to? Fans celebrate. Why do you think that is?
KYLE LARSON: Well, it's still just early on, so it could change.
I think fans can appreciate me because I do it in all different types of forms of racing, not just NASCAR. You don't know what car I'm going to be in on what day of the week. I could be in a sprint car like I will be tomorrow, in a late model middle of the week some other day, then a Cup car on Sunday.
I think fans, because I'm a little bit different than your normal race car driver, I think that's why fans so far seem to still cheer me on and like to see me winning.
Too, I think they can appreciate my story and how hard I've had to work to come and get to where I'm at today, too. I think there's a lot that goes into it. I appreciate the fan support and I like being a fan favorite. It definitely means a lot to me.
Q. Do you look at this season as four wins or it could have been eight wins? It's pretty conceivable you could have won four other races this year.
KYLE LARSON: I don't know. Right now I'm guess I'm not thinking about that. At times, yeah, I can catch myself thinking about it.
There's definitely been a few that have slipped away. At the same point we do have the most wins now in the series, which is great.
I really am just looking forward now. You can't change the past. I'd like to just continue to win, continue to win stages, keep racking up the Playoff points to try to distance myself from the competition and make our final 10 weeks a little easier or give us a little bit of wiggle room in case we slip up, make a mistake or have some bad luck.
That's my goal, just to keep winning, win races, but to rack up those Playoff points.
Q. Some of those cases have been circumstantial. You've been able to do it the last couple races here. Is there something you were able to do a little bit more these last couple races as opposed to what didn't work out before?
KYLE LARSON: I don't know. I mean, I think you learn from all of those times that you didn't win. Yeah, I mean, there was a lot that I learned from at Atlanta that I'm sure without even really knowing that I'm doing it that I put into my driving that has made me better to win races here lately.
Kansas was another one I could have won. I feel like there's been a couple times now where I've been in the second row of being the guy pushing, restarting. I've done a better job of not screwing that up. You learn from every time that you don't win.
Yeah, I mean, I think it kind of adds up and stacks up to now you can race and make less mistakes, get wins.
Q. With all the talk of corded tires we saw during the tire test a few months back, what kind of wear did you see with your car today?
KYLE LARSON: Well, I didn't get to see any of the wear from my seat. From what my crew chief was telling me after the cautions, every time they said my tires looked great. Obviously I burned them down there after the checkered, so we don't really get to see that last run, it was really long. I felt like I was getting tighter towards the end of that long run there.
But, yeah, they put that resin down. I wasn't here at the test. I know at the test, I heard at the test, they were only able to go 25, 20 laps before they'd cord a tire. They put this resin down and it obviously got us a long ways through a run.
I felt like that was a really good thing for this concrete-style surface. I've never raced here before. Like when we race at Dover, Martinsville, there's concrete in the corners - trying to think if there are any other tracks - when we get a caution, we pick that rubber up. Seemed like today that resin was just sticky enough or something that it didn't allow us to pick up the rubber up under yellow. I think that helped our tires live throughout a run.
Yeah, I don't know if that will work on a pavement track like it does on a concrete track. I feel like it's a good move that NASCAR did.
Q. Talking to Cliff earlier, he says he's a pavement, late model stock guy, you're dirt car. He said in y'all's relationship, he tried to learn your lingo to better forge that relationship. Do you remember a moment in the season where maybe you saw him bridge that gap, or were you immediately clicking?
KYLE LARSON: Well, I think I'm really easy to work with I feel like. My lingo is pretty easy because I don't really talk a whole lot. I just say I'm loose or I'm tight.
I think he did come to a handful of my dirt races throughout the end of last. He came to the world finals at Charlotte for the late model. I think he was there when I ran the sprint car. He came to a midget race at Millbridge.
I think kind of him putting himself around me, I guess listening to me from a distance, maybe that helped. I haven't really felt like there's been a bridge to overcome or anything like that. I feel like we've worked really well together this whole year. We continue to probably get even more comfortable and work even better together.
He's also a really easy guy to I feel like communicate with because he is so good at communicating. So, yeah, I feel like I'm easy to work with, and so far he and my whole team have been really easy to work with.
Q. Rick has pretty much taken the restrictions off; you can go race anywhere as long as he feels like this is your priority. Was that a conversation you needed to have when you were doing the contract? Are you glad you've been allowed to do whatever you want to do?
KYLE LARSON: Well, I'm definitely glad, for sure. It's not something they typically let their drivers do in the past. I'm friends with Kasey, when he was racing at Hendrick. Yeah, I had known about them and kind of how they didn't like Kasey when he'd go race other stuff. He didn't get to do it a whole lot.
Yeah, when I was getting ready to start talking with Mr. H and Jeff about racing their Cup cars, I was a little bit nervous and bummed that I probably wouldn't be able to race as much dirt. I didn't think that they would cut me fully. I also didn't expect them to kind of let me do whatever I wanted either.
It's worked out really great for me. Cliff I think understands that when I race, I get better. I just kind of go through with him on what races I want to run. He's been cool to let me race as long as, yeah, it's not interfering with anything I've got going on with the NASCAR team because that's always been my number one priority, even in the past.
I know a lot of people don't think that. NASCAR has always been my number one priority. I don't miss anything. I don't go race a dirt race when I could be doing something else with the NASCAR team, whether it be sponsor appearance or sim day or whatever. I'm there for the NASCAR team. I've kept it that way, I've been able to race a lot throughout the week. Summer is really busy, but I love it.
Q. Is winning here any more special considering the rich history that racing has in Nashville, the first NASCAR Cup Series race in 30 years, Hendrick Motorsports has a rich history here and at the fairgrounds?
KYLE LARSON: I think it definitely adds some enjoyment because, yeah, I mean, this is the first time the Cup Series has been to this racetrack. I stayed in the city this week. I got to see how pumped up all the race fans were for the race this weekend. There's a lot of fans that recognized me throughout the last couple days walking around, wishing me good luck, saying how excited they were to go to the race.
That's what kind of made me feel extra special about this race, is just seeing how excited the fans were to go to a new venue, sort of get to watch some Cup racing in Nashville.
Q. That quarter-mile burnout you did in front of the grandstands, just a salute to the fans? Your thoughts on seeing all the people that came out here today.
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, it pretty much was a salute to the crowd. I didn't get to make it the whole length of the grandstands before my tires started shredding. I was going to try.
I was getting ready to do a burnout at the flag stand. I noticed the fans stretched out a long ways down, and people were still standing up cheering. I was going to go down there, do a burnout as long as I could. It was cool.
Q. Rick said he might have to evaluate during the Playoffs about extracurricular racing. Does that bother you at all?
KYLE LARSON: No. I have my schedule pretty much set up where it slows down a lot once the Playoffs come around. That's kind of what I always used to do, too. Like I said, I'm not doing anything different than I did before. There's just a few kind of midweek races local that I'd like to do.
Yeah, like I said, NASCAR is my priority.
Q. Rick said he worries about you getting tired. He said but your stamina is like nothing he's ever seen before. How do you do it? You've won four races in seven days and run five.
KYLE LARSON: I don't know. I mean, this is what I'm used to doing. My body's built to be busy, I guess, be racing all the time.
I don't know. I get sleep. I mean, the dirt races start at like 6:00. I get more sleep on those nights than I do for a normal day when I'm getting up early to take Owen to school, go work out, stuff like that. Summer months I probably get more sleep now than I do throughout the normal parts of the year.
Like I said, it's what I've always done. Last year I raced 96 times or something. I'm used to it.
Q. Valvoline was a sponsor this week. How important do you think it is to win when you have a company that has chosen to come aboard with you?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, definitely. It's definitely important to me to do a good job on the track, but also try to give them as much exposure as we can throughout the night. We were able to do that today.
Just really cool that they're willing to back me and get on our race car. I'm glad we could bring them to Victory Lane today. There was a lot of people from Valvoline here. Cliff and I got to hang out, talk to them for a while before the race.
Yeah, nice to have them here. I look forward to the other couple races we have Valvoline. Hopefully we can get some more partners throughout the rest of the season.
Q. The last Cup race was won 37 years ago in a No. 5 Hendrick car. Comment on the coincidence or oddity, linking the past and the future?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I didn't realize that until he mentioned that in Victory Lane. Definitely a really cool stat. I think more than anything, it just shows how well Rick Hendrick has been able to maintain this success throughout so long. It's unbelievable how he's done so much for this sport. We're all very fortunate to be racing for him. Mechanics, everybody at the shop, I don't know if there's a single same person part of the race team that was there 30 something years ago when they won here last time. But we're celebrating with another win.
Like I said, it just shows how he is so good at bringing people that he believes in to keep his organization as strong as it is.
Q. Are there any weaknesses on the 5 team right now? How do you look forward to Pocono next weekend?
KYLE LARSON: I don't know. I mean, there's definitely probably areas we can always get better. I think you can always get every area of your game better. Even when we've been winning, we still look at things that we could have done better, whether it be on the racetrack, on pit road, just little things to maximize our day.
I guess I can't pinpoint like one thing that's a weakness, but if we can continue to get every area better, I mean, we'll be really hard to beat. We're winning and we're happy, but we're never content. We'll have a meeting again tomorrow and talk about how to be better.
Q. How do you feel about Pocono next weekend?
KYLE LARSON: I'm obviously excited to go to any racetrack right now. I do enjoy Pocono a lot. I think that will be a style of track we're really fast at hopefully. It's three different corners. I mean, there's that that will make you a little bit nervous.
Yeah, I've always felt like I've gotten around there pretty well, even at Ganassi. I'm excited to get there.
THE MODERATOR: The win was 1984, Geoff Bodine.
Q. Rick said you came in at midnight. Was that Friday morning?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah. I got here at 4:30 in the morning. I raced Wednesday at Waynesfield and won, yeah, drove all night, pulled in here at 4:30.
Q. You weren't tired?
KYLE LARSON: I got an energy drink from Sunshine, it helped me get there. I actually wasn't that tired. I got caught up on my sleep, for sure. I was tired, yeah. You'd be tired.
Q. Your three points wins have been on three different types of tracks, three different aero packages really with Charlotte, Sonoma, here. Does that add anything to the significance of it?
KYLE LARSON: I don't know. I guess I don't really think that way. But I think it just shows the strength in our race team right now, in our organization, for Hendrick Motorsports. I've won, but really all four of us have been really good at all those styles, too.
I think it says a lot for the Playoffs and stuff like that. But, like I've said every week now in here, it's still a lot of racing left to go, a lot of opportunity for other teams to get better, and even for us to get better. Just got to keep working hard.
Q. Today's win tied you on NASCAR's all time wins list with Sterling Marlin. There's such a great history of great racers in middle Tennessee, the Nashville area. Anybody in particular that you admired up through the ranks?
KYLE LARSON: I don't know. When I got to race at Ganassi, I heard a lot of Sterling Marlin stories, funny ones, from McMurray, probably that I can't really talk about (smiling).
I guess I did get to think of Sterling. I heard he always would stay at the hotels. He'd bring a motorhome, but stay in a hotel in town. I stayed in a hotel this week. Maybe we channeled some inner Sterling Marlin and got a win this week.
I think with him being at Ganassi, me being there, he would be the one I admired a little bit.
Q. The moment where the final restart happens, Cliff is saying you have to save three laps of fuel, you get the debris on the front grille, how did you manage that part of the race there?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I knew we needed to save fuel even before he ever kind of told me to. I was kind of starting to back my entry up, be easy on the throttle on exit. He was able to realize what I was doing, kind of coached me on doing a little bit more of it.
Yeah, there was paper and plastic flying all over the track all day long. There was a few times throughout the race where I got trash in the grille, would have to tuck up, get it off. Thankfully it never landed in a spot where my temps rose quickly. They just slowly rose.
That last time it got to where it was starting to get too hot, was able to get it off quick. Was a little bit stressed out then. But I was saving, could pay attention through my mirror, still realize I was still pulling away.
Q. Seems like you and Cliff never lost your composure. Does that speak to your working relationship?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, definitely. Cliff's a great leader. He's really good at I feel like communicating and keeping everybody informed, keeping you calm that way.
So, yeah, when you are saving fuel, it feels like you're going way slow. It's easy to calm yourself down that way, at least for me. I was calm and just trying to count the laps down, hoping that a caution wouldn't come out because I knew strategy would get crazy like it did at the ends of the stages. I didn't know what the call was going to be if a caution came out, but also trying to plan ahead, stuff like that.
Yeah, thankfully it played out like we needed and we got the win.
Q. Does all the racing help you at a place like here?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I think all the racing helps for everything. I win a Cup race, it helps me for dirt racing.
I think, too, even though it's different race cars, looking at the driver telemetry data and stuff helps when I go race a sprint car, as well, even though they're different cars. I can kind of imagine a line in my head of what I'm doing in the sprint car. I think that helps me.
Then, too, I think just racing a lot. I'm in racing situations more than anybody else in the world really, but especially in Cup. I think that helps me stay sharp, it helps me be aggressive, it helps me understand what things are doing, tracks changing, stuff like that.
Too, I think you're just getting into a rhythm and staying in a rhythm, where none of these guys are going to get back in a car until Saturday. I think it's a big advantage for me to be in a car multiple times throughout the week.
THE MODERATOR: Kyle, congratulations. Thank you for the time with the media. Good luck for the rest of the season.
KYLE LARSON: Thanks a lot.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports