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February 20, 2014
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
KERRY THARP:Â Let's roll into our post race for our second qualifying Duel.Â Our top‑finishing Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate, coming in seventh tonight, is Kyle Larson.
Kyle, congratulations on a strong showing.Â Your thoughts about lining up now for Sunday's Daytona 500.
KYLE LARSON:Â Yeah, it was definitely a really exciting race from my viewpoint.Â The beginning we were three‑wide there really early in the race.Â We all got in line.Â I was riding around there, just logging laps.Â It looked like I think it was David Ragan got tight off four.Â I rolled off the gas.Â I don't know if Jamie was to my rear bumper or not, but I got a little loose, had to correct it, lost the draft for a little bit, had to catch back up.
There late in the race, wasn't really trying to make anything happen on the bottom, but it was how it was kind of working out.Â Coming off four was pretty scary.
Glad to stay out of that wreck and come away with a seventh‑place finish, get a better starting spot for this Target car and try and get a good finish on Sunday.
KERRY THARP:Â Racing his way into the Daytona 500 is Landon Cassill.Â We also have Jeff Gordon who came in second tonight.
Landon, tell me about your excitement about racing your way into the Daytona 500.
LANDON CASSILL:Â I've been stressed out about this since July.Â I think I've played this race over in my head, what I think it could do, for months now.
The team, Hillman Racing, we came down for the test and felt like we had a decent car, but we didn't have the motor that we were going to race.Â They came back and made some serious investments in it.Â For a small team, this race kind of makes our whole season, just the prize money alone to start on Sunday gets us through the next six or seven weeks.
It's just huge for us.Â Carsforsale.com jumped onboard to help us out for this weekend.Â We have a big deal we're really working on, good people that we're talking to, just this positive accomplishment is going to help tremendously.
The team is just so pumped up.Â I'm really proud of them.Â Mike Hillman and Joe Falk have put a ton of faith in me, probably too much.Â I can't appreciate it more.
KERRY THARP:Â Jeff Gordon, talk about this Duel here tonight.Â A lot of drama on the last lap.Â Talk about your outlook now for Sunday's Daytona 500.
JEFF GORDON:Â It's always interesting when you watch the first Duel.Â Never fails, if that one is really exciting, then the second one can be a little more calm.Â If the first one is calm, the second one can be more exciting.
Looks like they were shaking it up a little bit more in the first one, guys trying to get the lead.Â In our race we seemed to be content to wait till the end.
I thought it was going to happen with three to go.Â Looks like it didn't materialize until one to go.
I'm really happy with our racecar.Â I think we snuck in there with a quiet, under the radar, very fast car that's capable of winning this race.Â I like it that way.Â Let some of those other guys get all the attention and get that target on their back.Â And hopefully we can just go along our week working hard to get in that perfect position on Sunday.
But, no, I was trying to make something happen there at the end.Â They just kept stacking up behind us, backing up the pace, trying to get some big runs.Â I tried to back up to Jimmie.Â I know he was backing up.Â Guy behind him was backing up.
Finally on the white flag lap, the 27 pulled out.Â That's what happens.Â You stack it up like that, further back, guys are going to say, Hey, somebody has to make a move here.Â He did.
We had big runs, but never big enough runs to get to Denny.Â I was happy to get that big run to get by Kurt to get to second.Â You want to try to move forward to keep the momentum going, so that was a really good run for us.
KERRY THARP:Â Questions.
Q.Â Landon, with this race being so important for you, what is your strategy?Â Is it to be safe and avoid what happened in the end?Â What happened to your face?
JEFF GORDON:Â Did you really just ask that (laughter)?
LANDON CASSILL:Â I'll answer your first question first.
I think we kind of will celebrate, take a deep breath, then treat Sunday like a typical superspeedway race for a team like ours.Â We have a speedway car that's a pretty good car for our team and we'd like to take it to Talladega in one piece.
It's also important for us to get good points from Daytona to carry us once the 2013 points are no longer in effect, which I think is really only three races.
We'd love to come out there and win the Daytona 500, but the priority is to bring it home in one piece.
As far as my eye, I was riding my bicycle in Daytona on Saturday and got hit by a car.Â It was pretty bad, but I'm all right now (smiling).
JEFF GORDON:Â Good question.
LANDON CASSILL:Â Thank you.Â Any other questions?Â NASCAR medical?Â Everybody good?
Q.Â Did you go to the hospital?
LANDON CASSILL:Â Yeah.Â Got checked out and released.Â Got approved by NASCAR medical on Sunday before I qualified to race.
It's actually healed pretty well.Â I'm really lucky.Â Got some road rash on my arms and legs.Â Inside of my knees were bruised up pretty badly.Â But my face took most of the fall.Â Just the chin.
It's okay, Jeff.Â Your face is cool, man.Â It's all good.Â Just sitting there with your face.
JEFF GORDON:Â I was riding my bike the week before I came down to Daytona and I was thinking about that, I could have gotten hit by a car.
LANDON CASSILL:Â I don't know.Â It's dangerous.
Q.Â Whose fault was it?
LANDON CASSILL:Â Unfortunately, it was the motorist's fault.Â I mean I blame myself a lot for the position I put myself in.Â I was in the bike lane and had the right‑of‑way.Â It's really not funny, I could have gotten really hurt.
But, yeah, I was in a bike lane.Â The woman was trying to cross the road from a side street and cleared herself to the right, kind of rolled the stop sign, I believe, T‑boned me really.Â Destroyed my bike.Â Face plant, blood.Â But I made the Daytona 500 and she doesn't know that.
Q.Â Jeff, based on what you've seen, the Gibbs cars are three for three.Â Have you got anything for them or are they clearly the prohibitive favorites for Sunday?
JEFF GORDON:Â If you're going to pick a favorite, I would consider them the favorites.Â They're very fast.Â They won both races today.Â They won the Unlimited.
I don't know if that means anything, but I would definitely say they're very quick and very capable of winning this race, along with 42 other guys (smiling).
KERRY THARP:Â Finishing third tonight is Kurt Busch.
Congratulations on the performance here tonight with a new race team.Â I heard you on the television talking about the excitement of starting now the Daytona 500 for this new race team.
KURT BUSCH:Â What a fantastic night for the Haas Automation Chevy.Â Thanks to Gene Haas for giving me this shot.Â Building a team over the off‑season with Daniel Knost, it's been a great progression.Â To deliver on our first night a top‑five finish, that's solid.
I got to race my way tonight, and that was due to Tony Stewart locking himself into the Daytona 500 the first race.Â That meant we had the champion's provisional on the 41 car if we needed it.Â I was able to hammer down and race to the front.
It was solid execution, though, on Daniel's part, the crew chief, with our pit strategy, the draft playing into our hands, except for just that last lap.Â I wish I would have had a shot to win.Â Had Jeff Gordon and a Chevrolet behind me, Jimmie Johnson there, McMurray.Â When those fifth and sixth place guys get dicey, you haven't made a move yet, it's going to be tough to generate enough speed to clear the leader.
Coming off turn four, I had to block Jeff Gordon high.Â If I had to block him low, I would have been involved in the wreck as well.Â I took the approach of let's protect our car at that last moment and it brought home as many Chevys as we could in that top five.
It's a great start for us.Â Thanks to Gene Haas and Tony Stewart.Â Away we go.
KERRY THARP:Â Questions.
Q.Â Now that you've been with the team for a little bit, has the experience been what you've hoped so far?Â Does anybody have anything for the Gibbs Toyotas that look so strong?
KURT BUSCH:Â You know, it's been everything I would have hoped it to be.Â It's a first class organization that's built on a championship foundation with Tony Stewart's name, with Gene Haas, the partnership there is as solid as it's ever been.
The four cars that we brought to Daytona didn't qualify where we wanted to, now it's time to race.Â This is where you roll your sleeves up.Â This is when the communication really starts clicking within the team.Â So you lean on the crew chief, Daniel Knost, the lead engineer Wes, then it goes right on down the train.
It was great to execute tonight flawlessly and bring home a top‑five finish, put that checkmark next to the 41's number to say, Hey, we're in the great American race in style, we're prepared and ready to do this.
Those Gibbs guys, they're strong.Â I've been coming down here 15 years.Â You see cars qualifying really well and some of them don't race well.Â Then you see guys that don't qualify well and they race really well.Â I'm starting to draw some conclusions.Â I'm not the smartest guy, maybe it's taken me way longer to figure this out than most, the Gibbs cars, those Toyotas, don't throw in all that snake oil and magic for qualifying.
If you're 18th on your own, like Matt Kenseth was on his own, Denny Hamlin was 23rd, that's pretty strong when you're going with basically your package you're going to race with.Â So now it's shown up three times.Â Denny Hamlin has two wins, Kenseth has a win, those Gibbs guys are on their game.
Q.Â You're not going to have help early in the race from your teammates because they start in the back.
KURT BUSCH:Â What did Harvick do?
Q.Â His car failed inspection.
KURT BUSCH:Â That's not good.Â Maybe there was a 12‑pack in the trunk.
Q.Â That was almost the way he said it, too.
KERRY THARP:Â Track bar over three inches.
Q.Â So you're going to have to make new friends.
KURT BUSCH:Â For us, Gene Haas came over and patted the hood of the car.Â It was his name on the hood of the car.Â It says Haas Automation, and the car doesn't have a scratch on it.Â I've never seen a guy that doesn't say much show so much with that one genuine pat of the hood on his car, in the top 10 in the Daytona 500.
It's our best bullet on the 41 car.Â It's his pride.Â It's his Haas Automation company with the Chevy emblem and with Monster Energy onboard.Â It's what we all want on the 41.
We'll race from there.Â I know the Stewart‑Haas teammates will show up.Â It's a long 500 miles.Â You have pit road, you have drafting mistakes.Â There are plenty of things that will mix up the field.Â We're proud to be up front in the great American race.
Q.Â What do you perceive is the major difference in the feel of this year's car with the tweaking versus a year ago?Â I know you were in a Chevy, but a different Chevy last year.
KURT BUSCH:Â It just seems like everybody has more things 'scienced' out.Â There's more speed in the cars.
What I've noticed is maybe we've gotten so aggressive with trying to find speed, that teams are starting to sacrifice stability.Â When you sacrifice stability, that means your cars are wandering around a little bit more.Â We've seen some wrecks on the tri‑oval.Â The tri‑oval is a corner, it's not a straightaway.Â The car is not as loaded in the tri‑oval as it is in the banking on turns one and two, three and four.Â The car skates on the looser side or the unstable side through the tri‑oval.
It's now starting to get to the point where you got to make sure you put some comfort back in the car and not necessarily go for that raw speed.
But it's not like years past where the asphalt was old, it was about handling.Â It's still about raw speed, but the cars are wandering around a little bit more.
Q.Â Is the skating around more the 18 degrees versus the 31 degrees where you have more to grip?
KURT BUSCH:Â Yeah, you're right.Â The corners are 31 degrees of banking and it holds the car better.Â The tri‑oval is 18, therefore it slides around a little bit more through that corner.
KERRY THARP:Â Kurt, congratulations and good luck on Sunday.
KURT BUSCH:Â Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports