November 6, 2021
Avondale, Arizona, USA
An Interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We've now been joined by Kyle Larson, who is also the Busch Pole Award winner for tomorrow's race here at Phoenix Raceway.
We'll open it up for questions for Kyle.
Q. (No microphone.)
KYLE LARSON: I wasn't unhappy. I mean, yes, I was unhappy where I ranked and stuff in speed on longer runs. I also them I don't really think we should change anything because the track's going to be way different come Sunday.
Yeah, I think it's nice. I was thinking about it. It's nice having the experience of not practicing. Now that we have practice, you realize how it's so easy to get yourself -- make more mistakes in practice adjusting on your car than anything.
Yeah, that was more it. So I don't know what changes they made, if they made any at all. Yeah, I was just more frustrated that I didn't feel good. In practice you're running so hard, you're so focused on a lap time rather than feel I guess for me.
Q. Obviously you're here to win a championship. Nine wins, being one of the most if not the most consistent teams in the garage this year, first year with Hendrick Motorsports, where does that accomplishment rank going into tomorrow?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, I think it's definitely something we're all proud of, having the speed we've had consistently, like you mentioned, all year. Winning nine regular-season races plus an All-Star win, being in the Final 4, I think that's something to be proud of.
Happy with how the season has gone. We still have the major thing we really want to accomplish tomorrow.
Q. Does the clean air make that much of a difference starting out front tomorrow as opposed to starting where Denny and Martin will?
KYLE LARSON: I mean, it definitely helps. This package, the dirty air is not quite as bad as what we've ran on intermediates and here in the past with the big spoilers, low horsepower.
If their car is driving good, they'll be able to find their way to the front. Vice versa, if my car isn't driving great, I'm not doing a good job. I'll fade. That's the good part about this package, these shorter tracks, the dirty air is a little bit less of a factor.
Q. Regardless of how tomorrow plays out, how will you remember your first year at Hendrick Motorsports?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, like I said a little bit ago, I'm really proud of the season, the consistent speed that we've had, and the race wins.
But, yeah, I really don't want to think about losing and trying to be happy still. Hopefully it goes good tomorrow.
Q. Qualifying doesn't mean too much for you. Does this give you any more confidence for tomorrow?
KYLE LARSON: I'm not sure. I mean, it definitely doesn't hurt the confidence. Yeah, I mean, qualifying how hard you run in one lap is different than how you're going to try to manage 312 laps.
Yes, I think it helps a little bit. I think confidence in your pit stall selection probably more than anything helps. Yeah, it doesn't do too much I don't think.
Q. Of the four championship teams, you're the only one who has a driver and crew chief doing this for the first time. For you and Cliff, what has it been like? Anything surprised you? Bigger deal than you thought it would be?
KYLE LARSON: I've honestly been surprised. I thought it would be bigger. I think we're still kind of dealing with the pandemic, a little bit of trying to space us away from fans, media members, stuff like that.
Like when I was racing, I was never in the Final 4, but at Homestead we all keep an eye on what the four guys are going through. I feel like it's just busier for them. Denny would probably be able to answer it a lot better than me.
I feel like it's been calm. Media day wasn't too crazy, that long of a day. I guess it hasn't met the expectations of, like, busyness that I thought it might be.
Q. (No microphone.)
KYLE LARSON: Like I said, I thought it was going to be crazier and harder to manage, cameras, interviews and stuff. Like yesterday I didn't do one interview after practice. That was kind of surprising being a Final 4 guy, we didn't have to talk about our day at all.
Yeah, I thought it was going to be a little crazier.
THE MODERATOR: We've now been joined by Denny and Martin.
We'll continue with questions for all three.
Q. Kyle, are you going to watch this Xfinity race, just try to get away from things? Normally you'd be out to a Sprint car race on a Saturday night. Are you going to do stuff to try to get away, or do you have things you need to think about before tomorrow?
KYLE LARSON: No, I mean, my plan is to, yeah, I mean, watch the Xfinity race, see how the track evolves, the resin evolves, get a good dinner, go to bed early.
There's other racing to watch on the Internet tonight, too, so I'm sure I'll tune into that, too. Nothing too different. Yes, I think you pay closer attention for obvious reasons tonight than you might other weeks. There's a lot to be learned.
I don't think any of us have learned enough about the resin yet. You can learn more watching Xfinity cars I feel like than Trucks.
Q. Martin, starting as far back as you are to the other guys, what is the mindset heading into tomorrow?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: We'll just go race, see what we have. 12th is obviously not where we wanted to be. Not the end of the world.
Yeah, just go race, see what we have. Still got a good pit stall. I don't know that qualifying means a whole lot, so see how tomorrows goes. Looking forward to it.
Q. Denny, do you have the confidence in the car you need to go out and win tomorrow as race?
DENNY HAMLIN: We'll see. Obviously the race is always a lot different than practice or qualifying. Yeah, I mean, got a decent spot. We still have to go race.
Q. Denny, you had to win to move on to the Final 4 in 2019. Is the mindset this weekend similar to that weekend?
DENNY HAMLIN: It's different. I mean, yeah, it was a little different during that time than it is now. Every year, it's just a little bit different for different reasons. Pandemic stuff last year, so none of this stuff really happened. 2019 was a different track. Yeah, every finals is a little bit different. This year is also different.
Q. Do you guys feel like you're behind the Hendrick guys right now or just one lap and it doesn't tell us that much?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Today we're behind. Yeah, I don't know that that guarantees tomorrow we'll be behind, to answer your question. Is that what you meant? Today or just in general?
Q. Do you feel like you're battling an uphill battle tomorrow?
DENNY HAMLIN: Not because of the way we qualified, no.
Q. The way you practiced?
DENNY HAMLIN: We're going to go race, see what happens.
Q. You're both down a crew member going into tomorrow's race. Does that matter at all?
DENNY HAMLIN: The only thing that I think remotely kind of how it would affect is you get damage during the race, the guy that kind of heads up the damage control over the wall, you know, that's the guy that got out on our team. That's kind of the only detriment I would think.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Same. We lost a car chief. He's the guy with the big saw. Hopefully we don't need that (smiling). Yeah, it sucks. Hopefully if we do win it, he can get back in.
Q. What are you doing tonight to take your mind off of things? Watching Xfinity?
DENNY HAMLIN: I'm raging, so...
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I'm definitely not raging (laughter).
Q. You're currently raging?
DENNY HAMLIN: No, no (smiling).
I do the same things I always do. Nothing changes. Been here before, right? I've locked myself in a hotel room before, nights before the finals. That doesn't work.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I'm just going to hang out here, watch the race, make some dinner, chill out.
Q. (No microphone.)
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I don't want to speak for Denny. For me, yeah, I mean, been here, done that. We're doing everything we can right now. I feel like we've prepared well. We came here with a plan. We probably haven't been quite as fast as we wanted to be yet. I don't think anybody's made any mistakes or done anything wrong.
I feel like we're confident still that we can go out, race hard, have a shot at this thing tomorrow. Yeah, just relaxed. Really just looking forward to getting going. It's always the anticipation of you want to get in, go. A lot of waiting around, especially with practice and qualifying here. Getting here Wednesday night for a Sunday race, it's a lot of sitting around bored. I'm ready to get in the car and get going.
DENNY HAMLIN: I'm the exact same. Everything you said (smiling).
Q. Question about the atmosphere. Both your crew chiefs were in here yesterday and were saying it felt so much different than last year. Gabehart in particular just kind of felt like, as he put it, a funeral type feeling. Did you notice it was more --
DENNY HAMLIN: He loves the Next Gen car.
Q. Did you notice there was a different championship atmosphere than other championships?
DENNY HAMLIN: Certainly more than last year for obvious reasons. Yes is the short answer. Is it as big as it was 10 years ago? No. But is anything really as big as it was 10 years ago...
I just don't know. It is kind of, I don't know, between the two of us, we've done it so many times, I get you don't get in awe as much.
Certainly I understand the significance of it, the buildup to it.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I wasn't in the Final 4 last year. I can imagine it was pretty weird. I mean, even just being here as a competitor in general, it was strange. It didn't feel like a championship race. It didn't feel like it was a big deal like it normally does.
I think like this year seems normal kind of to what I remember, come in early, do media. A lot of fans here, which is great. Sold out. Going to be a big show tomorrow. I think we're all excited to be here and be a part of it.
DENNY HAMLIN: Nothing on your mind, Jenna?
Q. (No microphone.).
DENNY HAMLIN: He likes being bored (smiling).
THE MODERATOR: Martin, Denny, thank you guys for coming. We wish you the best of luck tomorrow.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports