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May 5, 2024

Jeff Andrews

Cliff Daniels

Kyle Larson

Kansas City, Kansas

Press Conference

An Interview with:

THE MODERATOR: We're going to go ahead and get started with our post-race press conference here at Kansas Speedway for today's Advent Health 400. We've been joined by Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. We've also been joined by Jeff Andrews, who's the president and GM of Hendrick Motorsports, and Cliff Daniels who's the crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet. Congratulations, gentlemen. Congratulations, Kyle. This is officially the closest finish in NASCAR Cup Series history and your month of May is already kicking off to be quite the success. Talk to us about the final laps and what it was from your vantage point.

KYLE LARSON: First of all, we got lucky that a caution came out. I could tell my right front was beat up, and I was just trying to survive to get to the checkered flag. Then I seen Kyle I think blew a right rear and was hoping they were going to throw a caution so we could pit for some tires.

We left pit road in third, and I was happy with that because I wanted to choose second row inside and was able to do that. Kind of had a plan from before I chose the bottom that I was going to try if I was close enough to split the leader to the middle and then maybe race it out from there.

It kind of mostly worked out the way I envisioned. I was hoping I could get next to Buescher down the backstretch, but he had a good run off of 2. I tucked in the hole that was there hoping that Chase could get a run to push me, to get a run to get next to him before we got to 3, but that didn't happen.

Made kind of a bad misjudgment. We were going hard and peeled off to the bottom of three, and yeah, that was wrong, and then had to chase and find some clean air. I thought I was done. We came to the white and I figured I'll try and run up the racetrack in 1 and 2 and build a run, and my run was better than I was expecting.

He got kind of looking in the mirror and he entered a little bit lower into 3, and I was able to have that momentum with some clean air to get to his right side. I got pretty loose there in the center of 3 and 4 next to him, just kind of in an awkward aero spot there and figured I would smash the wall off of 4.

But somehow it gripped up really good. We touched a little bit off of 4. I noticed that he was going to have the run back, so I hung a left and just tried to kill his momentum. I've seen so many times in NASCAR where if the guy has got a run you can just door him and it kind of stops it.

That's what happened, and I got to the start-finish line, had no clue if I won or not. I guess I cared but really didn't honestly care because I was just like, man, that was freaking awesome.

I think I asked if I had won or not or if I got him and you said timing and scoring showed the 17, so I was like, cool. Then my spotter was going crazy shortly after that.

Yeah, just incredible. But really just a great race from the green flag to the checkered flag. It was awesome.

THE MODERATOR: Cliff, obviously from your vantage point, talk a little bit about what that was like to watch from your position on the pit box.

CLIFF DANIELS: Yeah, it was certainly wild to watch. I was really hoping we had put the right adjustments in the car for what we needed for the short run knowing that the caution had really kind of saved us from dying there at the end.

Our day was a bit up and down at times, but what I was really proud of is even when we had a pit stop that didn't quite go our way, we had to do a few things to adjust on the car. Really the team, Kyle, everyone just stayed plugged in, and when it was time to put right sides on it, threw an adjustment with those tires to get it right for what we thought we needed. That all worked out well, and of course Kyle just talking through what he described on the restart.

I really enjoy a lot of the race craft behind what it is that we do, and Kyle and I talk about a lot of things during the week and even on a weekend. When he has thoughts that he's described to me before and then he gets to go kind of play it out, that's a lot of fun for me to watch because I know what he's thinking. I know a lot of the things that are running through his mind and just how forward thinking he is on a lot of those things. He's always thinking a corner or two ahead than where he actually is.

I figured he had a pretty good plan. He executed it great. What an exciting finish. When we crossed the stripe, it flipped the 5 and the 17, they put the 17 on top with a gap of 0.000, and Kyle is saying, did we get it. I'm like, no, good effort, good fight today, and then Tyler, our spotter, he started screaming. Yeah, that was cool.

THE MODERATOR: Jeff, obviously a big month of May for Kyle and really just the whole team. Tell us a little bit about what this win means for Hendrick Motorsports today.

JEFF ANDREWS: Well, it's obviously the sixth win for Hendrick Motorsports in 2024 as we celebrate our 40th year. I know as a company, just really proud of what we're doing as a company and what we're doing together and the consistency I think that we have across our four cars. For Mr. and Mrs. Hendrick to be able to come out in this 40th season for them and have the kind of success we are, we know we have to work hard and we've got to keep this going. We're still kind of in the early part of the season, so too speak. But certainly proud of where we're at and what we can do for them.

I know I speak for these guys, we're looking forward to having the boss back here at the racetrack soon. Talked to him this morning, and I think that's pretty close. I'm not sure it's next week, but he's just as anxious to get back here and celebrate with us in this 40th season.

Q. Is there any way to explain to people why exactly this is such a badass track? Why is it putting on such good racing here?

KYLE LARSON: I don't know. I think from my perspective, it's got grip, but it's got progressive banking, so you kind of move your angles around and stuff. The way this car is, you can get good drafts and all that.

The leader is typically at a disadvantage I feel like on these mile-and-a-halfs because it seems as though you abuse your right rear tire more, so it's hard to get away. You've got the draft plus you're abusing your tires more.

So it just keeps the field bunched up. I think with the old car, we'd probably get out to like an eight-second lead here. The couple-second lead that I got in the second stage was as big as you'd probably see in the Next Gen era on a mile-and-a-half.

It's always been good, though. Even with the other car it was always a good track. I think a lot of it has to do with the progressive banking and how that kind of affects the handling of the car.

CLIFF DANIELS: From my perspective, I think there's a lot more tools in the toolbox for the driver and the crew chief here. Air pressure changes are sensitive; wedge and height changes are sensitive to the car; track position is very sensitive to the balance of the car; lanes can be very sensitive.

Having the tools in the toolbox of the driver where he can change the inputs of the car and there's a lot more that he can work with and really similar for the teams, I just think it opens up the options so much more to advance yourself or to kind of punish your tires and maybe punish yourself.

I really think that presents just a great -- he and I talk a lot about the pure forms of racing and a pure feel of how a race goes. Kansas presents a very pure feel of a race. When you see guys that can fire off well and then they die at the end of a run because they get their tires too hot, the right rear is too built up, other guys that -- Truex at the end of every run was flying because he's so good at taking care of his stuff. He doesn't fire off great but really good at the end of a run.

I think right now in the Next Gen era, the intermediate tracks in general are presenting such a good racing product because there's so many more tools that we have to work with from the pit box and he has to work with from inside the cockpit. Then you come to a place like here with all the lane options. There is a lot of tire degradation here. It presents a great storm for a good race.

Q. Kyle, obviously the finish was thrilling, but have you ever been part of racing that you experienced in Stage 1 there where about five players were involved and seemed like everybody was side by side, at least somebody was every single lap and swiping the lead back and forth every lap, things like that?

KYLE LARSON: No, that was a blast, racing Ross. I was battling him obviously really hard, but I was also at the same time trying to take care of my stuff the best that I could.

I would pass him, he'd get a good run to get by back, and we were just kind of stuck racing each other. Then I finally got clear, and I was like, okay, I'm going to be able to drive away, but I quickly built super loose and had a couple big moments and it just brought the pack right back to me.

It was kind of dying pretty hard. I seen Denny was coming and tried to fight them off as long as I could. I think, gosh, there was probably five or six of us all kind of right there with 15 to go or so, and yeah, that was just incredible racing.

Way stressful racing for me not really in the race, but that's what you get with stages and stage points and a playoff on the line. You wouldn't have seen us racing that hard previous era points. So that was a lot of fun.

I was obviously frustrated at myself and I'm sure cliff was, too, with how hard we were all racing, but I got done with that stage, I gave Ross a big thumbs up, and we gave each other a big thumbs up under that caution because it was just fun, clean racing, and it was just a blast.

It was that way it felt like the whole race. Even the second stage I ran hard to kind of get away and we had the hiccup on pit road and I was able to inch my way back forward. Then just ran out of time.

Then the third stage was crazy from my vantage point with all the crashes and then the strategy. Buescher and Denny racing really hard. It looked like Ross and I racing, them kind of swapping around. Kyle Busch and I, we couldn't get any closer to them with them racing. It was just intense, intense and fun. This track is awesome. Mile-and-a-halfs are awesome. Give us more mile-and-a-halfs.

Q. Kyle, that last lap, I know we talked about it a little bit earlier, but getting the draft off Buescher down the back straight away and really being able to do something with your run, I think that goes back to what we were talking about earlier and what this track allows. He was able to side draft you pretty hard there through 3 and 4 and give himself as much of a shot to hold you off. What kind of advantage did you feel like you had coming off Turn 2, and how were you able to make that work for you?

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, even with the run that I had off of 2, I didn't think that I could get next to him. But trying to put myself in his position, you're on two tires. We just ran a long time on our left. Didn't know what to expect out of his car. If he drove into 3 hard -- I'm guessing he was guarding his entry to not pile it into the corner low and then get tight late off of 2 and me have this big run to get by him. But he didn't enter quite fast enough. I had that clean air, and I ran in really, really far and got to his right side.

Then yeah, honestly I thought I was going to be at the disadvantage off of 4. I thought with just the way these cars work with aero, I thought with him getting packed to my left side I was just going to get plowing tight and just smoke the wall, but for whatever reason it gripped up really good.

I knew the side draft game was going to be huge and just was trying to stall any bit of run I could.

Q. I'm curious how you view this win in what the whole of the season is. We've seen the 11, the 24, the 19 and yourselves really separate, I think, from most of the weekly contenders. With the points lead now, it's tight up at the front of the standings, but how important is it for you guys to capitalize on nights like tonight and stack up these victories?

KYLE LARSON: No, it's important for sure to put together good runs every weekend, and I think our team has done a phenomenal job of that. We've racked up a ton of stage points compared to the field, which has been huge. Stage wins, as well, which obviously helps.

Then we've been finishing good, too. We've either been top 5 every race or something has happened where we finished just around 20th.

But those days last year I would have crashed or something, doing something stupid. I feel like we've just been performing at a high level. We've been executing really well. Yeah, you have to do that if you want to be at the top of the standings.

Truex, Denny, William, they're all -- Chase, they're all phenomenal points racers and I'm not typically a points racer, so I put a big emphasis on myself this year to be better at that, and so far it's paying off. Yeah, just keep putting ourselves in position like we did today and you'll get wins like that.

With eight to go, we did not deserve to win this race, but the caution fell, our team executed a great pit stop, I exited a good green-white-checkered, and we took advantage of it, and we're sitting here right now.

It's just hard to win these Cup races. I feel like a lot of times the winner is like that. Just got to keep putting yourself in position.

Q. Did the finish remind you a little bit of last year when you were on the receiving end of the bump? You were bumping Buescher, and last year Denny was doing that to you.

KYLE LARSON: No, it was different circumstances. That was at the end of a long run, I was struggling. Today was green-white-checkered and we had grip and just being aggressive and all of that. No, it was just totally different.

Q. You said you thought you were going to go in the wall. I'm curious, do you feel like you were lucky today or just really, really, really good?

KYLE LARSON: Good to get to that point, to get to his outside --

JEFF ANDREWS: He's really good. (Laughter.)

KYLE LARSON: Then good to stay there in the center of the corner, and then the rest of it, yeah, a little bit of luck for sure. Like I said, I thought I was going to -- just with the way these cars are aero-wise and all that, I thought I was just going to murder the fence off of 4. I guess all of that.

What do you think, was I lucky or good?

Q. I don't know, last year you were side by side and didn't respond, so --

KYLE LARSON: So I was bad then.

Q. Are you a better driver now than you were a year ago here?

KYLE LARSON: I mean, I don't know. I think, again, it was different circumstances, but you always learn from every finish that doesn't go the way you want it to. But last year had no factor in the result today.

Q. Kyle, what's the range of emotions when you don't know if you had won to then a few seconds later you get told you are the winner?

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, so I got across the line. Initially when we hit the stripe I was like, I think I got him. So I'm like, did we get him, did we get him, and he's like, no, it doesn't look like we got him. He was pretty calm so I was like, we definitely didn't win. I was like, whatever, good job today, team, great day. Was kind of silent down the backstretch for a second, and I'm still kinda like, man, I hope I won. Then Tyler is like we won, we won, we won, going crazy. So then I'm going crazy, screaming, banging my head off the head rest, all of that, just going nuts.

I wanted to do some crazy burnouts and stuff, but we had a fresh build engine so couldn't do that. So I'm like pumping the crowd up. I look ahead, like oh, shit, Buescher is on the frontstretch. I hope they didn't reverse the call and I'm over here looking like an idiot.

CLIFF DANIELS: I don't know if you knew this, but TV went with timing, so right when it happened, and I was told this after the fact - I haven't seen it - but the TV said Chris Buescher, winner. They showed his car, they started showing his team, they show everything, and TV was tripped off timing, I was tripped off timing, so I was like, okay, no, we didn't win. So it was the full play of the 17 until NASCAR --

KYLE LARSON: Then I saw him driving away, so I'm like, well, he must have just got the call that he didn't win. Then I'm like excited again. It was just wild. I've never been a part of a finish like that in a stock car. Just really cool.

You see those finishes happen a lot at like Daytona, Talladega, and I'm never in the running for those. Go figure it happens on a mile-and-a-half.

Q. Cliff, this is the second straight race at Kansas where there was an overtime finish, a late two-lap rally. What is the thought process between going with two and four tires like with Truex?

CLIFF DANIELS: Honestly at that point I knew that -- well, A, it's a complete Hail Mary. B, I knew that it was going to be pretty dicey on the restart, and just further up in traffic you could be, you were going to have a better shot at it, and we announced our call pretty early, and anyone probably paying attention heard that it was a different call than what it was before. So I'm almost wondering if we didn't tip the hand of a lot with our caulk different than codes than I had used throughout the day.

Once I knew that nine cars total had taken rights and we executed well, came out third, knew that we would have a shot. Your initial question, the first call was just a Hail Mary.

Q. Kyle, is Kansas Speedway one of the best playoff tracks in the Cup Series playoffs, or is Homestead always going to be the No. 1 track in the playoffs?

KYLE LARSON: I mean, for me I'll say Homestead just based off history. But I don't know, it doesn't matter, I guess. You're not going to race at Kansas in November for a championship race, unfortunately.

No, I like having good tracks for us in the playoffs for sure. Kansas is one of those.

But all the mile-and-a-halfs are great, so yeah.

Q. It'll be more intense do you think in the fall than it was today?

KYLE LARSON: I don't know, that was pretty damn intense today. Honestly, I think when it gets to the playoffs, everybody is a little bit more cautious probably in Stage 1 than we would have been today. If anything it's probably a little less wild.

Q. I'm kind of curious when you came over the radio and told cliff you didn't want to do the high line, I thought there was more speed but you didn't have the confidence to go up there, as long as I've known you, you've been a guy that rides -- that's your lane, and I was kind of curious why tonight was different.

KYLE LARSON: I mean, I could just tell that it had less grip. It didn't have its normal feel of grip. I felt like the top four feet or so was really slick for whatever reason. In 1 and 2 especially.

Yeah, I was kind of hopeful that it would get gripped up, but it never did, which I think honestly made the racing better because you didn't have to rely on the wall. That's why I think you saw a lot of people running different lines, entering different ways, and it really opened up some opportunity to pass or build runs in 1 and 2.

Yeah, sure, I would have loved to run the wall, but if it's easy for me to run the wall, it's probably easy for others to run the wall, as well, so I was happy the track was slick against the wall.

Q. Kyle, I know you've obviously won your fair share of races, you've got a crazy month ahead, but when you have time to reflect on this race, how high up is this one going to rank for you?

KYLE LARSON: I mean, I'll always remember it for sure. I think there's definitely wins that you can kind of get lost in the distance a little bit, but when you finish and have the closest, to this point, finish in Cup Series history, I don't think you're ever going to forget about it, even if it gets broken some day. Yeah, just great to be on this side of it. I probably would still remember it, though, if I ran second.

Q. Obviously we talked about the finish last year with Denny. You finished second in this race two years in a row now, Kurt in '22 and obviously Denny last year. How gratifying is it for you to come back and win this race not only in the way that you did it but just --

KYLE LARSON: No, I think that definitely adds something to it. We've been close to winning here --

CLIFF DANIELS: It's kind of been a nemesis for us. 2021 we led a bunch of laps and it got away from us right at the end on a restart.

KYLE LARSON: Typical Kyle Larson fashion probably, too. But no, we've been so good here. We could have a lot more wins. So to get one in a fashion where we maybe shouldn't have, it feels great.

Q. Jeff, each one of you is a part of history tonight being the closest finish. To each one of you, what does it feel like knowing that until it gets broken, you guys are in the history book for the closest finish?

JEFF ANDREWS: Well, I think for us, the sport, and what that does for our fans, obviously first and foremost grateful for the ones that stuck it out today for the rain and got to see a finish like that. But we need moments like that. Those are great stories for our sport, and obviously a great moment in history for our company.

Every time you see that highlight reel it's going to be Kyle and Hendrick Motorsports and Mr. Hendrick. Certainly something we're proud of. I'm sure they'll have to add another decimal point if they're going to try to split that one in half, but we're really proud of it and of course celebrate the victory. Just a great day for the sport. Great race, as Kyle said, these mile-and-a-half tracks this year are producing some really good races and great finishes.

Q. For so long the Kurt Busch-Ricky Craven finish was viewed as like the greatest finish. In the 20 years since then, those two guys have had this bond between them. What do you think about you and Buescher having like 20 years from now, you guys will have this race between you, that someone will say the Buescher-Larson finish and you'll have that bond with him?

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I don't know. I don't know. I think I respect the heck out of his talent, and too, I think if I would have finished -- say he won and I finished second, I was still happy. But say me and Denny had come down to the finish like that and he edges me out by a thousandth, I'd have been pissed off just because I've finished second to him so many times, and I would hate to probably -- oh, the Larson-Hamlin finish or Hamlin beat him again. That would suck.

To share it with Buescher if roles were reversed I think would be cool.

I don't know, that finish with Craven and Kurt was, in my opinion, way cooler than that. That was like a battle the last however many laps and came down to a photo finish.

But no, this was still cool, and hopefully it can hang on for a long time. I don't know, what was the finish before this one that was --

Q. It was that one, Craven-Busch.

KYLE LARSON: Oh, shoot, that's what we broke? Damn. That's cool. I didn't think that was as close as that.

Q. We talked about Homestead a little bit earlier. What's the difference between running the wall at a place like here versus Homestead? What's the difference between the two tracks?

KYLE LARSON: Typically here when you're running the wall, the pace is just so fast -- so much faster. Like at Homestead you run and you lift all the way up the throttle and kind of ease back into it. I feel like at Kansas you're like just rolling out and then rolling right back to it and you're just on the edge of slapping the wall really hard, where Homestead it's just the pace is so much slower. To me it's just easier. I'm just much more relaxed running the wall. I'm curious what Reddick would think or somebody else who does it really good.

But here you're just -- the minimum corner speed is so fast that it's harder, I think, to do it here and be fast doing it, too.

Q. How much has this car allowed you to be aggressive like today, which isn't always your normal driving style?

KYLE LARSON: I'm not aggressive? Is that what he's saying? I feel like I'm pretty aggressive.

I don't know, I don't really know -- maybe with this car I'm more aggressive because I know the body is tougher on it. I think if we were with the older car, I would have been nervous probably to even go three wide to the inside because on the restart because maybe if Denny -- I would have had this in my mind, if Denny pinches me and we make contact, my fender is going to be into my tire, I'm going to get a flat, and then if I get through all that, whatever -- I would have been nervous to run in next to Buescher for the same reason. I get into the wall and you just -- with the old car, you would kill your momentum so much just sniffing the wall.

I think just the toughness of the car maybe is why we're all more aggressive on restarts and stuff. But I think we would have all been fairly aggressive, even with the old car.

Q. You're now coming off this high to tracks that the last time you were there you won: Darlington and North Wilkesboro. You've got the Indy 500 coming up. Is this the most exciting time in your life?

KYLE LARSON: I don't know. It stays pretty exciting I feel like. But the way the schedule lines out, for sure it's just good tracks for us as well as others. But yeah, we had a good run last week, finished second and then got a win this week, felt like we'd have a good shot. Obviously going to Darlington I know we'll have a good shot.

Then yeah, then Indy starts, which is really cool. Then it gets kind of hectic for a couple weekends with North Wilkesboro and qualifying and obviously the race, the two races, the double, at Indy, doing the 500, then hopefully getting everything all smooth and getting to the 600 and having a good shot there, with some sprint car races intermixed in all that. It's really fun, honestly. To this point, it just feels normal to me. It doesn't feel like it's crazy different than real life typically is for me.

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