THE MODERATOR: We’ll go straight to questions for Kyle Larson.
Q. Big fight there with you and Blaney. What is going through your mind in those moments, understanding what is at stake?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, when I saw him get to third as quickly as he did, I knew I was going to be in trouble.
I felt like I could maybe hold off William for the length of that run. Holding off Ryan was going to be tough.
Yeah, he could just move around a lot better than me, kind of be more comfortable on the edge. He definitely looked loose, but he could still push the car. I couldn’t push the car really further than what I was.
I felt really committed to the bottom. Even when I would move around and make my car feel better, it was slower on lap time. I knew I was in a little bit of trouble and was going to try to put up a fight. Yeah, I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to hold him off.
Yeah, he did a really good job. His team continued to improve on the race car throughout the last few months. Yeah, they deserved to win.
Q. You seemed to be struggling for grip. A lot of adjustments during pit stops. You were gaining spots on pit road. What can you say about the resiliency of that No. 5 team?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, no, that was the only reason we were in the hunt, was pit road, pit crew obviously. The way we executed our pit road lights, the engineers and everybody who maps that out and everything, I felt like, yeah, I just wanted to keep coming down pit road.
I felt like, too, William was coming. If I could just stay in front of him, if we could get a caution, an opportunity to come down pit road, our rolling times were going to be good, our pit crew was going to do a good job, I could come out the leader of the four of us. Was hoping to come out the leader of race.
Yeah, those guys had just taken two tires. Yeah, I just had to work a little bit hard to try to get to the lead. Just didn’t get it done. I needed to get to the lead and maybe that would have been our shot.
THE MODERATOR: We’re also joined by William Byron. We’ll continue with questions.
Q. Kyle, seemed like that outside lane would come in more towards the second half of the run. Blaney kind of really used that from the start to hunt you down. Were you surprised by that or expecting it maybe?
KYLE LARSON: No, I wasn’t surprised by anything he was doing behind me. I felt like the run was shorter, so he was going to start moving around sooner because you don’t have to worry about kind of taking care of your tires as much for a 70-, 80-lap run, whatever we were making for runs.
I wasn’t surprised he was making speed up there either because I got to watch him a lot during the race. His car was just really good. He could run multiple lanes. Like I said, I just had to run the bottom the whole race, so… I was just so committed to that.
Basically it was the same way earlier this spring. We’ll learn from this race as well as the spring and try to study and be a little bit better. I’m sure the cars will be way different next year, it sounds. We’ll try to learn and see if we can be better.
Q. Seemed like after Denny got eliminated, he talked about how he is at peace because there is nothing he felt like he could have done different. Watching you today, nothing jumped out as if they’d done this, they would have won. Seemed like you got beat by a faster car. Is that fair to say, a sense of peace?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, I’m at peace knowing that that was, yeah, all I had today. I know it didn’t look maybe like it that last run. That was all I had. Our team did a really good job of putting us in that spot.
I am still obviously extremely bummed, as I’m sure Denny was last week. Even though I didn’t feel like I had the fast car, I had an opportunity. It’s a bummer when you don’t win.
At the same point, I’m probably coming up this close, probably more eager for the following season already. I know where I need to improve and I’m just ready to get back on the track and work on all that.
Yeah, bummed but also eager to get into the off-season, get working and ready for next year.
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I mean, before the track rubbered in, I thought we were probably the best, but we had clean air, too. I thought when we had clean air, like, we were trying to perfect our balance out front. Once we got back second to fifth really, we just didn’t have the turn. We couldn’t keep up with him. Especially running up the racetrack. We could run lower and kind of get out of the leftover resin up there, but we couldn’t rotate up there.
Kind of all we had. Before the caution, I thought we had something. There was a lot of lanes. The pace was pretty slow. As soon as we got back going on the restart, that was all we had.
Q. Kyle, being a champion yourself, what kind of champion do you think Ryan Blaney will be for the sport?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, I think he’ll be a great champion, as every champion is. I can’t think of a bad champion (smiling).
I know he’ll be good. He’s going to be around for a long time also. He’s young, in his 20s still. Opportunity to win multiple championships.
His family has a lot of heritage in motorsports, too. I think that’s really special to see. He’s taken that Blaney name to the next level. I’m a huge Blaney fan, like Dave and Dale, Ryan. I’ve gotten to race with a lot of Blaneys. They’re all really good.
So yeah, it is really cool. Even though he came from a totally different background than his uncle and his dad, it’s cool that he’s able to make that Blaney name even more legendary than it already is. And Lou. I forgot to mention Lou Blaney, too.
Q. How much would you like to go out in your careers the way Harvick did today?
WILLIAM BYRON: Kevin has been super good to talk to. I talked to him in my rookie season. At this track especially, he’s amazing. That first run was fun to watch him, just the way he works the racetrack, just how he manipulates his car.
It will be nice to pick his brain on Phoenix (smiling). Yeah, it’s going to be cool to see him go into the broadcast booth. He’s been a great race car driver to race against. Respectful but really tough to race with.
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, for me, I hope whenever I’m done, someday I can come away and finish my final race in similar fashion.
I really thought he was going to be the one to beat today. He was super fast in practice. Phoenix is his best track probably. Yeah, it was fun getting to battle with him in his final race there.
Yeah, he’s just been a fierce competitor, a great ambassador for the sport, and is going to continue to be, as well. Keelan is not too far off from racing with all of us, too. I’m excited to share the track with him someday.
Q. There’s some difficulties passing today. How much fun did you have fighting all day?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, I wasn’t able to move up the racetrack, but it was dive cool. I felt like before Bell had his issues, all of us four were sort of close to each other and together, better at different points of the run. William was doing a really good job at that point to kind of maintain the lead of the four guys. You could tell he was struggling a little bit, but he did a really good job.
Bell had his issues.
Blaney had to work for it. He had the best car of us four, but he really had to work for it. Guys around him that were not in the Final 4 were racing him hard.
He definitely deserved it. He earned it. Kudos to him and his team.
Q. It seemed like to us that Ryan was racing a little bit harder, more aggressively than we see him go. Would you say that was true or not?
WILLIAM BYRON: No, he’s always aggressive (smiling).
He’s always quick and aggressive. I don’t think it was anything new. I mean, I think maybe just the situations that we were all in and the way the track is here. I thought it was pretty similar.
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, no, I mean, he’s a quiet guy, but I feel like he races really hard and he gets extremely fired up, too, on the radio (smiling). I’m curious what his radio sounded like. I seen him, he was mad at the 19 at the end of the second stage, he ran into the back of him in a caution. I think he ran into the back of Ross.
Q. (No microphone.)
KYLE LARSON: No, one of the next cautions. I’m sure he was mad. They showed his in-car, he was waving his arms.
Like I said, he earned it. He worked really hard throughout that whole race. He did a great job.
Q. There was a bunch made this week about how you are the youngest Championship 4 ever. Is there an excitement where the four of you will continue competing for championships year after year, especially with the lack of animosity between you?
WILLIAM BYRON: I don’t know. I mean, yeah, there’s a lot of young guys out there that could get into the Final 4. I feel like it’s just really changing of who’s in the good cars and who’s kind of coming in the sport.
I feel like some of those opportunities are opening up. I’m getting more experience and a lot of these guys are getting more experience, so…
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, I kind of echo that. I feel like us, too, at Hendrick Motorsports, we’re with arguably the top team in the sport. I’m confident that William and I and our teammates will contend for championships as long as we’re in one of those four cars.
That’s exciting, yeah, it’s fun.
Q. William, you said there was no pressure to cap off what has been an incredible year. This was the next step for you. Do you take this as you can only continue to go up from here?
WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I mean, it’s a bit of a letdown based on how we started the race. As soon as we got into stage two, trying to figure out how do we manage what we have, maybe make it a little bit better if we can. But we just need more on the short tracks. We just struggled as a team on the short tracks.
We had a great season, a lot to be proud of, a lot of really solid races, communicating well as a team. I feel like all that stuff can just go up a notch hopefully, just have a bit more speed at certain tracks that we know are important.
Definitely down the stretch here it was tough. We didn’t have really what we needed, but that’s okay.
THE MODERATOR: Kyle, William, appreciate the time. Class acts as always. Enjoy the off-season.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports