Transcript Kyle Larson Playoffs

SEPTEMBER 13, 2017

KYLE LARSON, #42 TARGET CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Playoff Media Day. Full Transcript:

"It's kind of hard to have a favorite really. It's only one race. Martin will be really good there. If both Kyle Busch and I make it there, I think we're both really good at that style of racetrack. Harvick obviously is really good. Jimmie.
I mean, there's so many people that are good at Homestead, it's hard to pick a favorite. But I think if you had to pick a favorite to make it all the way there, it would be Martin."

How much are you chomping at the bit to get to Homestead, that falling into your wheelhouse?
"Yeah, Homestead to me is by far my best racetrack. I have a lot of fun there, go really fast.

"I just got to do everything, and our team has to do everything right in those first nine races to give ourselves a shot at Homestead. I think if we can get there, we would definitely have a very good shot as long as I stay cool and calm and don't get in the wall."

Anything the 42 team can do that you haven't been doing to get better for the Playoffs? Are you pretty content you are sitting pretty good to make it through?
"Well, I don't think you're ever content. We could always use faster racecars. Our racecars, I feel like we're probably second or third best. Martin's by far the best car. We obviously have work to do to get to where he's at.

"But yeah, I mean, I think we're right there. We just got to do everything right, not make any mistakes, hopefully don't run into any bad luck."

You were the beneficiary of a questionable caution that gave you a victory at Richmond. Is there any concern among you, your fellow drivers, something like that could happen in the Playoffs and work against you?
"Well, I mean, yeah, there's always times where stuff looks like maybe it was an iffy call. I mean, it goes your way a lot less than it goes against you. It happened to go my way that night.

"I think if you look at it, I know a lot of people are talking about funny cautions and stuff recently, but I think NASCAR has done a great job this year of letting races play out, not throwing debris cautions. Saturday night wasn't a debris caution, but they're put in a position where they have to make a split-second decision. It's easy to blame them.

"I think if you look at the week before they didn't throw the caution when a car got in the wall a little bit harder, they probably got flack for that. This past race when somebody gets in the wall, they're going to be more eager to throw it.
They're in a tough spot. They get blamed a lot. I personally blame them a lot. Everybody else does. It would be kind of hard to be in their position sometimes."
(Question regarding stage racing).
"I think stage racing has helped a lot of things. I think it's helped the debris cautions. Now we have two planned cautions. But then also that final run is long everywhere we go. It's been nice to see they haven't thrown -- maybe they have. From what I remember, they haven't thrown any debris cautions. They've kind of let the races play out. I think that's great for our sport. Kudos to them."

How big was it for you to finally get a win on a track shorter than two miles going into this post-season?
"I didn't really think of it at the time, but it's cool to finally win somewhere that's not two miles. Obviously, I've been really fast at a lot of different styles of racetracks. I've ran second I feel like at every racetrack. I mean, I've been close to win. It's not like I'm only good at two-mile tracks.

"Yeah, I could have a lot of mile-and-a-half wins. I could have won the Daytona 500 this year. But it was nice to win at a track where I would put it down there as Martinsville as being my worst tracks. Richmond and Martinsville would be my worst tracks. For me to win at Richmond was a huge confidence booster."

Being the one to take it to Truex, get that victory away from him, if he wins that race, he goes in with a lot bigger cushion over you than what he's got, but to stall the momentum of that 78 team, does that give you a major shot in the arm going into the Playoffs, or winning one race means you move on, does it matter all that much?
"Yeah, I don't know. I mean, I don't know. I don't think it does a whole lot for Martin's season, him losing that race the other night, but it does a lot for me. Those five bonus points plus an extra bonus point for passing the 18 in points for the regular season, so that win kind of played me six bonus points. That's big for us.
"Martin, I don't think it's going to slow him down any. He's still going to win probably two or three races at least of these next 10. We got to do what we can to win some races, as well, and give ourselves a good shot."

Was that as a team really what you guys needed?
"Yeah, I mean, that was a great confidence booster overall because it was a team win. The pit crew really gave us a shot to win that thing, beating the 78 off pit road. That was a great confidence booster for them. I hope we can carry those fast pit stops all throughout these final 10."

What was the most important lesson you learned from your first go-round in the Playoffs that you think will help you the second time through?
"I don't even really feel like I was a part of the Playoffs last year. The first race at Chicago, I was running fifth or sixth with less than 10 laps to go, cut a right front tire, finished 18th. Then Loudon we were in (indiscernible). Dover, we had a battery fall out on the first pit stop. Kicked out the first round. I don't really feel like I was in the Playoffs last year.

"Even if you're not in it, you still get an idea of what you need to do. I mean, really you got to make no mistakes. If you do have a mistake, you know you have to win the next race.

"Makes it fun and exciting for the fans."

How often do you think back to going into last year's Playoffs at this time compared to now, learning how to win this year? Do you think about that ever?
"Yeah, I would say I'm more relaxed this year just because I feel like our racecars are faster. I think last year I knew we would have to do a lot to not necessarily make it past the first round, but I knew the second round would be really tough.
This year I feel like we should hopefully make it through the first round. Then the second round will be a little tough. The third round I think will be really tough. I feel like we've made it a round further already this year. I don't want to jinx myself, but I just feel more confident this year. I think I should be with four wins rather than one at this point last year.

"But anything can happen. I mean, we could win these next 10 or we could be off also. I could have one bad race, then not win the next two, be out in the first round.

"We just got to do everything right."

Obviously, your cars are faster. What has been the biggest change from last year to this year?
"Yeah, I mean, I think our racecars are just a lot faster. We started the year off way better than we ever had. I think that's allowed us to have four wins at this point.

"If you look at my career the first two and three years, we started out awful, then by about this time we were pretty good, but it's too late. We're still kind of clawing for wins.

"Now we've got those wins, we're just at a different step and level than where we've been at years previous. I think that's starting to pay off. Chad and everybody has been working really good together, working really hard."

At what point in the last three years did you feel personally you were starting to trend towards where you want to be right now?
"Our race team in the past has been, like, a rollercoaster. About the time you feel like you're going in the right direction, you plateau, then you take back off a couple months later, then do it again.

"This year, though, has been a steady incline. We had a rough little summer. But, you know, I feel like we got a great shot at the championship this year. I'm with a great team. I feel like now our team knows what we have to do every week, every racetrack. I think we can be competitive for the next couple, few years hopefully, then hopefully build on that, be a championship-contending team year in and year out."
You're close friends with Danica Patrick. Her announcement yesterday, what are your thoughts on that announcement? How important is it for this sport to have her racing?
"Yeah, it's extremely important, I think. She's an amazing person. It's been a lot of fun to get to become close friends with Danica. I hope she can find something. She's already done so much for our sport, though. She could leave right now and she's made a great impact on it. She'll have a lot of other things.
She's so busy already with all the other things she does, I don't even know how she juggles everything she does. She's a great racecar driver, especially the greatest female racecar driver of all time.
"Yeah, it's fun to get to see her away from the track. Her competitiveness is something that's unmatched. She is so competitive. It's sometimes funny to see because she is so intense all the time. No, I hope she can find something and do even more for our sport."

What does it mean for you to see that your team can get out of these slumps?
"Yeah, I mean, I don't know. It makes it easier to get out of slumps when your racecars are fast. In the past when we've had slumps, it's hard to get out of them because we're already borderline scratching for a top 10. Now I feel like we're a top five team every week. When you get in slumps, it makes it easier.
But I still have to do everything right. Our sport's a very humbling sport. It's easy to get down and sometimes hard to get up. But we've done a good job of that this year."

You mentioned you had your slump in the summer. Because of that, it felt like these last two weeks was the first time that you have really gotten to go head-to-head with Truex at the front on a consistent basis. When you're in that situation with someone you know you'll be fighting towards the end of the year, how much are you judging what they're doing in certain situations or what their tendencies are at the front?
"I don't know. I don't pay attention to that stuff really. I am just out there racing. If it's the 18 in front of me or the 78 or the 1, I want to beat them. Maybe our teams kind of pay attention to that kind of stuff, but I'm just out there racing, trying to finish up as high as I can."

I know Chip has been letting you moonlight a bit, you get great enjoyment from that. You said that helps boost you in NASCAR as well. Heading into this stretch without having that on the side, how do you think that might affect you?
"I don't know. There's really not many races to run. I couldn't really go race if I wanted to. I don't think it really affects me. I think I'm content with the races I've gotten to run this year. I had my best ever season on dirt, as well as what I've been doing on pavement this year.

"I've had a blast. It helps when our NASCAR stuff is really competitive as well. The fun factor that I get from racing Sprint cars won't change now that I'm not racing because I'm still competitive in NASCAR."
Do you think since you had your best year in Sprint cars, that that kind of fed you more in Cup? Do you think if you hadn't raced on dirt, you still would have had this kind of year?
"It's hard to say. I would like to say that Sprint car racing and the good year I had over there has definitely helped the NASCAR stuff, just your confidence. I could win a go-kart race, it's going to help me in my confidence when I race a stockcar. So as much as I won on dirt this year, I think you just get that momentum, get that confidence, and it helps."

With the whole issue with the ambulance last week, in your career, what is the weirdest thing you've seen that impeded the natural course of a race?
"I don't know. I don't dwell on that stuff a whole lot. I don't pay attention to it much.

"I mean, there's a lot of awkward moments throughout the year in all types of racing and sports. But that one on Saturday was, yeah, a funny one, and one that I'm sure NASCAR has already learned from. I'm sure they're already planning meetings with the track safety crews. Hopefully that mistakes never made again."

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