CHEVROLET NCS AT SONOMA: Kyle Larson Media Availability Quotes

NKP #5: Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Valvoline Camaro ZL1, met with the media in advance of his NASCAR Cup Series qualifying session at Sonoma Raceway. 

Media Availability Quotes: 

Kyle, you had a great announcement this week with the Kyle Larson Foundation. You guys are auctioning off some race-worn visors from this weekend. Talk a little bit about that.

“Yeah, it’s a cool program. There are 26 Team Chevy drivers involved in it. They’re going to hand over their race-worn visors after the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Cup Series races this weekend. In partnership with Chevrolet and Pristine Auction, we’re going to auction those off to benefit the Urban Youth Racing School through my foundation. Pretty neat deal. The bidding starts today and goes through June 12th. Hopefully we can raise a lot of money and get to support Anthony and Michelle (Martin) even more.”

How does it feel to have the whole waiver thing behind you? What was it like leading up to that announcement? 

“Yeah, I mean obviously there’s definitely relief on my end, even though I really wasn’t paying a ton of attention to it.. to the waiver. At least now knowing that I do, personally, get to race for a championship feels good. Yeah, I mean I know there was a lot that went into it on NASCAR’s end; a lot of discussion and just wanting it to be right. I think we all, probably even them, figured we would get the waiver. I think they were just trying to make sure they had all their ducks in a row first. Yeah, I’m appreciative of it, for sure. Look forward to getting through this weekend and hopefully, after this press conference, not have to talk about waivers again. It feels good and just thankful that nobody has to deal with the drama going forward.” 

Did you have any conversations with people at NASCAR about the waiver over the last two weeks, or was that all done by Hendrick Motorsports executives? 

“I, personally, didn’t have any communication with NASCAR, but I know Jeff Gordon, Jeff Andrews and Rick Hendrick were in constant communication with them. I was appreciative of the support through my race team and just kind of let them handle it. I didn’t really know if there was anything I could say. I’m pretty bad with words sometimes, so maybe I could have just dug myself a hole a little bit if I was to communicate. 

But no, again, I’m just thankful that we don’t have to deal with it again. I’m happy to get to race for a championship. Thanks to everybody there.”

Speaking of digging yourself into a hole with words.. you did say at one point, that you didn’t care if you got the waiver last week. So, I’m curious, I assume you cared, but maybe you were just kind of over it, or you race and whatever you’re racing for, you’re going to race for? 

“Yeah, I cared. But the thing that I cared most about was the owner’s championship, at least in that moment, because that’s what pays the bills. So that’s kind of where I was coming from there. I was a little less stressed out about it than I think what everybody would imagine you to be. But yeah, I’m just happy that if I do win the championship now, I can have my name on the record books.” 

How does it feel to be back racing at your home track? It’s resurfaced and faster.. How is that going to work for you this weekend? 

“Yeah, I always love coming here to Sonoma Raceway. Home track or not, it’s just a great area. Really just kind of spend this week as a vacation and then there happens to be a race on the weekend. Yeah, we came out here Wednesday morning. It’s really been the first – like Wednesday and Thursday were the first two days off I’ve had off in I don’t even know how long. So, I was happy to lay by the pool all day on Wednesday and do some day drinking.. haven’t gotten to do that in awhile (laughs). Brought William Byron out here too and got to go do some wine tasting; took him on his first wine tour on Thursday. Got to have dinner with David and Matteo Abreu. So, it was just a fun couple of days. And then got to get on track yesterday; see what the new surface felt like. It’s weird.. you’re going out there seconds faster, but to me, it doesn’t feel any different. Like the way you drive it, even the lap times being faster, it doesn’t feel way faster to me. It still feels kind of like a slower road course. Yeah, that was interesting, but it should hopefully race good.”

Now that the whole Indy experience is done – I guess on a scale of the plan goes perfect is a 10, it turned out to be a 1.5 or a 2. But how do you feel about the whole thing now that the waiver is in place and you still get to run for the championship? 

“Yeah, well I’ve said it all along, I really enjoyed the experience. I wish it would have panned out differently with the weather and really could have showcased Kyle Larson and doing the double, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. But also, I think reflecting on it, I’m very fortunate to get to be one of just a handful of drivers to have done it and attempted it. Getting to race on two big platforms like that is awesome. Getting to race the Indianapolis 500 and then getting to race a Cup car for a living, I’m pretty fortunate to be one of those guys. Yeah, America is in a great spot for motorsports. Fortunate, but wish it would have just gone according to plan. Hopefully there will be another year.. I would love to do it because I really don’t feel like I got to do it. But yeah, we’ll see… hopefully I can.”

By not being able to race at Charlott Motor Speedway, you gave up the regular season point lead. You haven’t fallen that far behind, but how do you feel now about, instead of having the lead, now you’re going to have to scramble your way back to get those 15 bonus points?

“Yeah, I mean I think really, just keeping doing what we’ve been doing. I think not overreacting on that is important because if we just keep doing what we’ve been doing, in my mind, we can get the point lead back. We’re not that far out of it. We might even still be leading it in the owner’s points. Yeah, I would ultimately love to win that regular season championship, just because of the 15 bonus points. 

But yeah, like I said, just don’t overreact. Keep executing, which I feel like we’ve done a really, really good job of executing every race this season, besides maybe one race. That’s not an area where I feel like I’m very good at throughout a season, so I’ve been proud of that. Just have to keep it up and then I think we can get the lead back.”

Since last year with Shane van Gisbergen coming over and now there’s more Supercars talent, as well as all of the things that the Next Gen car does on road courses – how much more difficult is it for you to go out and win, or a Chase Elliott to go out and win, like they used to in the previous car and now with the new talent that is showing up? 

“Yeah, I don’t know. I think as competitors, we all want to compete with the best. I really look forward to the opportunity when those guys have been able to come over. Especially with Shane (van Gisbergen) and how he smoked us at Chicago last year – I get excited now when you have other guys come in and get to race with us. We can kind of not only see how we compare against them, but it’s an opportunity for us to all get better and look at different areas on how we can improve our skill sets. I was just talking to Will Brown before I came in here. Just listening to him and how he talks about what a race weekend looks like over there and kind of how they strategize a weekend is pretty interesting compared to what we do here. Just communicating with him, I learned a lot. Those guys have more experience doing this. Even though this is their first race in a Cup car, they’re still more experienced than us. You can learn from that experience and become better, so I think it’s good.”

Curious about the new surface and whether you think tire management is going to play as big of a role now? 

“Well, I think, yes – I think there’s still always tire management. Maybe before it was more managing the heat and wear. Now, we’re probably just more – we’re doing it the same way. You’re not wearing the tire; you’re just managing the heat. To me, I don’t foresee a stint to look much different in how you approach your driving technique. I think you’re still going to try and slip the tire as little as possible. Yeah, it was tough to pass before.. the last couple of years of the Next Gen car. I think it will be just as tough now. I really don’t feel like the racing is going to look any different than it did before. Yeah, I don’t know.. I think repaves – like we’re less sad, or at least I’m less sad, about a repave at a road course than I would be at an oval, just because road courses are already pretty tough to pass.”

With the new wall in turn 11, did approaching that corner feel any different? 

“It’s just a little harder to kind of see around the corner, but I thought it might be worse than what it was once I got out there. I’ve been pretty cautious with it because it’s kind of like in a blind spot a little bit – with the way the body, the roof and all that is, and where you look out the windshield when you’re turning sharp like that. But yeah, it’s fine. It’s no different. Before, you were trying not to hit tires, and now, you’re trying to not hit a wall. The tires will probably swallow you up maybe more than grazing the wall would.”

Unlike last year, we’ll have the stage cautions back. How is that going to change the strategy? 

“Yeah, I’m not sure on the strategy piece yet. I haven’t talked to Cliff (Daniels) or the engineers about that. But I’m imagining, if it’s like a typical road course, you flip the stages. If you qualify well and are running upfront, you can flip the stages and still get pretty good stage points. Maybe not the stage win, but you can still get good points throughout the day. It puts a lot of emphasis on qualifying, as always, so hopefully we’ll have a good day today.”

As much dirt racing that you race and the variety of the way those races are, as far as qualifying and inverting, do you think that will ever make it to NASCAR?

“I don’t know.. I mean we try stuff. The All-Star Race, I think that’s a good race to try some things. But I don’t know.. I think simple is still the best. Qualify on the pole, start on the pole.”

Inside Track Communications PR

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