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March 26, 2017
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our race‑winning owner. Chip, you said coming in here you felt like winners. Kyle finally made it to Victory Lane in a pretty dominant performance. Talk about it from your vantage point.
CHIP GANASSI: First of all, I thought that race was never going to be over there at the end. I thought we were having a pretty clean day there till the end.
You know, it's just a culmination of a lot of hard work. I've spoken to a lot of you. Everybody said, What is it this year? Why are your cars good? Why this, why that?
I keep saying in this business, it doesn't take much. It doesn't take much to be good. It doesn't take much to be bad. Just made some small changes over the winter in our organization. We tried to look at places that need improvements and we make improvements.
I think obviously a lot of it's down to Kyle. I think he's starting to mature in the series and learning what the cars will accept and what the cars won't accept in terms of putting a weekend together, putting together practice, putting together qualifying, put together race practice, a race, pit stop after pit stop after pit stop, keeping your head in the game. I think he's matured a lot in that manner.
I couldn't be happier for him.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions for Chip.
Q. Chip, could you also speak about it's not Kyle winning is huge, but Kyle and Jamie, both of your teams, have done so well this year. Today was another example of that. The whole organization.
CHIP GANASSI: Thank you, yeah. Jamie was sixth today? Yeah. Again, can't say enough. It's hard sometimes when you have so many people. So many people are involved in these teams. So many people back in Charlotte, back at the home base putting the cars together, building our own chassis. It was a subject of a lot of talk the last few weeks. Finish fab, on the shake rig, in the wind tunnel. It takes so many, so many, so many people. So many long, long, hard hours.
Like I said earlier, it just takes little changes. Little changes, like I said, can take you to the Promised Land. They can take you to the Day of Reckoning, too.
It couldn't be prouder. Every team owner wants their cars, you know, to be like this on the track, not one in the front, one in the back. That's really rewarding from a team point of view. It validates the way Max, Chad and Matt run the teams, and Tony, the way they run the team. I think that sort of validates their MO, if you will.
Q. Did you anticipate that the car was that good that he could do a clean sweep like he did this weekend? How did you feel when the last caution came out and he came in for tires?
CHIP GANASSI: Was it the last caution he came for tires? I think it was two cautions to the end he came for tires.
I will tell you, I did not have the nerve to make that call. That's why there's guys that do that way better than me. I used to do that in my younger days, you know, run the cars, but I don't do that anymore for that reason.
That was the winning call. That was obviously the winning call. So my hat is off to Chad Johnston for making that call.
What was the rest of the question?
Q. Did you expect there to be such a clean sweep this weekend?
CHIP GANASSI: No. Nobody ever expects that. I do know that I think when Kyle comes back to California, he's got a little more spark in his step. I wouldn't call this his home track, but it's probably one of the tracks that's closest to his home. He's got a lot of fans here. Obviously from northern California.
But, yeah, I think he likes this place. I think this, Michigan. I mean, he likes a lot of places, as you've seen the last few weeks. I think he excels a little more here.
I couldn't be happier because I think early in his career, the bigger tracks, it was a little bit of a learning curve, some of the more high‑speed places. He went through a bit of a learning curve, that I think none of us‑‑ let's say he went through a learning curve a little more than he did on a short track.
Q. As he was going through the learning curve, was there ever a point where you thought, Would you learn faster? Is he ever going to learn?
CHIP GANASSI: No, I don't think so. I was talking to someone this morning about how everybody wants to compare these drivers coming up to Jeff or to Tony or this guy, that guy, whoever they want to compare to. They always say, Well, Jimmie Johnson only won one XFINITY race. Everybody has these sort of one‑liners that there's no answer to. They want to compare everybody.
I think today you have to look at these guys coming into the sport, you have to look in their totality. You have to look at their situation. You got to look at who the team is, who's working on the car, who's engineering the cars, who's doing the pit stops. It's not just the automatic come in and, you know, a hundred races later you're winning races on a regular basis. I just think it takes a little more education than that today.
You have to peel a little more of the onion back to get to that kind of analysis today. You have to look more in the totality of the whole situation, these young guys come in. Do you understand what I'm saying? Does that make sense?
CHIP GANASSI: It's a big onion these days, getting bigger.
Q. Chip, I was wondering, how much do your IndyCar drivers pay attention to the NASCAR side?
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, they do. It's all one team. They're all tweeting each other, texting each other congratulations. It goes all ways on the team, to the sports cars, to the IndyCars, NASCAR, all three of them.
It's nice. I think there's a lot of speed in that, if you will, having teammates. You have a question, are you going to get an honest answer from people? You know what I mean? Best practices come into play. I think there's a lot of speed in that.
I think the other teams learn from each other, the drivers learn from each other. Maybe they don't learn how to drive at California Speedway in a stockcar, but they learn lots of other things. I think they all play off one another. And they motivate each other, certainly.
Q. Chip, you've had a lot of great drivers who have driven for you over the years. How would you rate these two, who just have an amazing start to the season?
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, I mean, you'd have to say that‑‑ I don't know. With Jamie, I mean, look, he's proven himself at Daytona, the Brickyard, those kind of races. I think with Kyle, I don't think anybody knows. I think the runway, you know, he's got a lot of runway. We don't have the engine spooled up yet. We have a lot of runway to go. I think he's just scratching the surface in terms of what he's capable of. I have no idea what he's capable of. I mean, your guess is as good as mine.
Q. Chip, we were talking about speed, your teams and stuff. In a situation when overall your whole race team, Mike and Chris, do they all talk to these guys?
CHIP GANASSI: Lots of interaction between Mike and Max and the engineers in both places. Like I said, it's something that they sort of feed off each other and develop a best practices situation.
Q. If one of these guys came to you, like Kyle, and said, That car Scott Dixon has got looks kind of fun, can I do some laps in that at Indy?
KYLE LARSON: May is only a couple months away (laughter).
Q. What would you tell him, or Scott?
CHIP GANASSI: All the cars are available to any of the guys to drive anytime they want. They know that. In terms of, you know, taking a guy to the Indianapolis 500 or something like that, that's another story.
But, sure, if they want to get in, absolutely. No reason why any of them couldn't get in any of the cars, a test, someplace they like, for sure. Whenever he's ready, yeah. Whenever he says, just show up, you're in.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Chip.
We are now joined by our race‑winning driver and crew chief, Kyle Larson and Chad Johnston. This is Kyle's second career victory.
Kyle, we'll start with you. After a string of runner‑up finishes, you're in Victory Lane. Outstanding start to the season. Only second driver to win from the pole here in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Of course, retaining the points lead in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Talk about the dominant effort today.
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, it was definitely a great run for us. We were able to lead a lot of laps within that first stage. Then I made a mistake on pit road. Slid through‑‑ not through my box, but through my sign. I was too close to the wall on the left side. The jack couldn't get up as fast. Our stop was really slow on that one. I lost some spots.
Was able to get right to second, though, on the restart. Kind of abused my tires that run, fell back to third or fourth. Then got back to second for the end of that second stage.
Had a good restart there to start the final stage. Got out to the lead. Tried to run my own pace, take care of my tires. Actually pulled away from Truex quite a bit. Then he had gained a lot us on that green‑flag stop. Probably came to pit lane a little slow, because the stop before I came in really hot and almost sped. He closed in on us there.
He was really good when we left for that run. I had to battle him. He got by me. I was able to get back by him. Then kind of pulled away a little bit.
That's when all the cautions starting coming out. We had some decent restarts there at the end. But still had more cautions. Had to actually come back down pit road, put four new tires on, get some more good restarts.
The pit calls were great. The pit crew did an amazing job. A fairly clean race for us. Lots of fun to be Kyle Larson right now. Our racecars are really fast, XFINITY and Cup. It's a blast to show up to the racetrack every week.
THE MODERATOR: Chad, Chip mentioned about your race‑winning call of calling in Kyle for tires when second and third state out. Talk about that decision, the race‑winning move that was.
CHAD JOHNSTON: In general at a place like this where you have a lot of tire falloff, it makes that decision a little bit easier. You get two or three laps on your tires, you're kind of at a disadvantage. I try to always put him in the position to be the aggressor. I don't feel like there's going to be anybody better on a restart than what he will be, especially if I give him tires.
We had a fast enough car. I didn't figure that many cars would stay out. Only three stayed out, which gave us the top and fourth, which I figured would work out pretty well for us. As usual, we get a lot of late cautions here. It went green for the most part. I think at one point we had 18 cars on lead lap.
The segments definitely brought something different to it, brought some more interest and more cars back on the lead lap. But at the end of the day, you know, we just had a fast enough car to do what we needed to do.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. What did you think when that last caution came out? What were your exact thoughts and what were you planning in your head?
KYLE LARSON: I was thinking, I'm really good friends with Ricky, but I was thinking, Dang, Ricky, that's the second time you've spun late in a race that I've been leading. I just tried to stay calm, focus on what was ahead of me, what was upcoming on the restart.
Seems like every time I get to the lead in one of these NASCAR races, cautions always fall. I'm always having to fight people off on restarts. A lot of times I've gotten beat.
Today we did a good enough job to hold the lead. Stayed focused and stayed calm and had a good result.
Q. You said it's great to be Kyle Larson right now. Why now? How do you keep it up for another 31 races?
KYLE LARSON: Well, I'm really, you know, fortunate to be driving really fast racecars right now. Our cars are by far as good as they've ever been, really good at every racetrack right now.
In both series I feel like I have a shot to win every time I go to the racetrack. That's always a lot of fun. That's always something I've hoped for, to get to a point of that in my NASCAR career.
You know, in the past, I had racetracks where I knew I would be good at. But right now we're going to some tracks that aren't great for me, and running up front. It's a lot of fun to have that confidence in the race team, go to the racetrack, fight hard and run for wins.
Q. How do you keep it up?
KYLE LARSON: How do we keep it up? Chad. Chad will give us some fast racecars. Everybody at the race shop will keep finding speed and downforce and everything that goes along with going fast. Hopefully that's what it takes to be the points leader throughout the rest of the year.
Q. Now that you've ended that second‑place run with a win, willing to admit there might have been a little frustration there, or just culminating with a win, that seems like less of a lost opportunity, that three‑race stretch?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, there wasn't a whole lot of frustration. Really my frustration last week was that, you know, I felt like I was in the best spot to win, and just made I guess a little mistake there. So I wasn't frustrated with the consecutive seconds, I was just frustrated that I was confident going into that last restart and didn't get it done.
To come back strong this week and get the pole and get the race win, it's great to rebound from a mistake like that.
Q. I found the analogy of bridesmaids to be kind of ridiculous. Now that you won, can you comment on it? Is it the weather? Is it In‑N‑Out Burger? What happened this weekend that tied it in?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I came off four and told him to go ahead and put the bridesmaid's dress back in the closet because we weren't putting that one on again, so...
I don't know. I love racetracks like this. It's a big, fast track with multiple grooves that really suits my driving style. I keep saying it, but our racecars are just really, really fast right now. Obviously the food and the friends out here are nice. But having good racecars is good for anything.
Q. Did you go to In‑N‑Out Burger?
KYLE LARSON: McDonald's is a great sponsor of ours, so got some BigMacs.
Q. Expound a little more on the final restart. At any time were you worried that maybe Brad or Clint was going to catch you?
KYLE LARSON: So, yeah, I knew Brad was probably going to be. Well, him and Martin I thought would be the two I thought I would have to fight off. I was happy that Martin was pushing me down the frontstretch, but I was also a little nervous at the same time because if he pulled off really quick and side drafted me, slowed down my momentum on entry, maybe he could carry that momentum on into two, and then both of us would be fighting to get past Martin. Thankfully it didn't happen that way and we were able to get the win.
Q. You swept the weekend, qualifying, yesterday's race, today. How surprised are you? How pleased are you with the sweep?
KYLE LARSON: I'm more surprised that I won the race yesterday than I am I won the race today. I was very confident going into today's race. I knew our racecar was extremely good throughout the practices yesterday. In the XFINITY race, I struggled in practice, then struggled in the first half of the race. Didn't really expect to win that one. We were able to find the speed at the end to do it.
But, yeah, it was a solid, solid weekend. Definitely the best of my NASCAR career.
Q. You've got a sizable lead in the points. Doesn't mean a lot right now, but it's got to make you feel good. More importantly, you're probably locked in for the Playoffs. How does that make you feel?
KYLE LARSON: It makes me feel good. I felt like we would have the speed to make the Playoffs anyways going into the year. But getting all these stage wins and then Playoff bonus points is huge to come into the Playoffs.
Yeah, hopefully we can get more stage wins and get more race wins to kind of pad ourselves a little bit when it gets to Playoff time, can use those when we need to in the Playoffs.
Q. I saw you tweet about Dave Steele last night. How well did you know him? I don't know whether you Sprint car guys talked about it at all this morning. Did you have any contact with anybody from USAC today?
KYLE LARSON: A little bit. I grew up watching like Thursday Night Thunder, stuff like that. Dave Steele was always the man when it came to pavement racing. Yeah, I mean, you look at him and Bobby Santos, they're the two pavement specialists that were the best. So I got to watch him win a lot on TV.
I didn't know him personally very well, but I was lucky enough to be teammates with him one time at New Smyrna when I ran a USAC midget race there. He was a very quiet guy. I just remember it being like an honor to be a teammate with him that night because he was so good at pavement racing. New Smyrna was a pavement track.
I was confident in that because I knew he was going to have some input in on what our baseline setup was going to be for that weekend. Knew we were going to be good. Got the win. So that was cool to get to spend a little bit of time with him that weekend.
But definitely a tragedy. You know, he's probably not very well‑known, but to the open‑wheel community, he's one of the greatest ever USAC racers. So feel terrible for his family and all of the racing community. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them. Yeah, it just sucks.
Q. Kyle, is there a certain comfort factor that develops the more you're in the car, the more you're on these tracks? Has that kind of contributed to the streak that you're on right now?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, every time you go back to a track for what would now be probably my seventh or eighth time to these places, it helps. Experience is a great thing. When you have good racecars to go along with it, it makes it even better and you can learn more.
Yeah, you know, Fontana is a track that really suits me. Hopefully we can learn a lot throughout the rest of the season at all these other racetracks and get some more wins.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, guys. Great job.
KYLE LARSON: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports