TEAM CHEVY AT DOVER 2: Kyle Larson Race Winner Press Conference Transcript

OCTOBER 6, 2019

Advances to Round of 8 in Playoffs

DOVER, Del. (October 6, 2019) – Kyle Larson ended a 75-race winless drought by claiming the victory in his No. 42 Clover Camaro ZL1 at the Drydene 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) event at Dover International Speedway. This is his first points-paying victory and 15th top-10 finish in the 2019 season.
American Muscle

The victory during the 400-mile race around the 1-mile concrete oval known as the “Monster Mile”, gives Larson his sixth career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, all of which have been earned behind the wheel of a Chevrolet. This is his first victory and ninth top-10 finish in 12 races at Dover International Speedway.

For car owner Chip Ganassi, this marks his 13th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series triumph. The win has secured Larson’s place into the Round of 8 of the Playoffs.

The victory, Chevrolet’s seventh win of the 2019 season, is the manufacturer’s 41st victory for the brand at the Monster Mile. Chevy now has 786 all-time victories in NASCAR’s elite series. Team Chevy made a strong showing with four Camaro ZL1’s placing in the top-10. Leading his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Alex Bowman finished third in his No. 88 Cincinnati Camaro ZL1. Other top-10 Chevrolet finishers included Jimmie Johnson, who finished 8th in his No. 48 Ally Camaro ZL1, and Kurt Busch, who finished 9th in his No. 1 GEARWRENCH Camaro ZL1.

Martin Truex Jr. (Toyota) finished second, Kevin Harvick (Ford) finished 4th, and Denny Hamlin (Toyota) rounded out the top-five.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season continues next weekend at Talladega Superspeedway with the 500 on Sunday, October 13 at 2:00 P.M. ET. Live coverage can be found on NBC, NBC Sports Gold, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.


THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our race winner Kyle Larson, the driver of the No. 42 Clover Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. We will open it up to questions.

Q. Kyle, I asked the same thing to Chad. Other than the All‑Star Race, this was the first win since Richmond in 2017. How necessary and how special was it for this team?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, it’s always good to win, but to end a winless drought was good. But you know, it’s not a shock, either. I feel like we’ve been running really well this year, aside from the beginning of the year, and even at the beginning of the year we had some good speed, I was just making a lot of mistakes. We were able to clean up what we’ve been doing on race days and executing and going about the races more patiently.
Our car has been getting better the last couple months, so it was good to dominate a race like we did today.

Q. Kyle, knowing that you’ve got the win here today, you’re through to the next round, do you feel like this makes you an immediate threat for this championship to get to the round of four?
KYLE LARSON: I don’t know. You know, depending on who makes it out of this round, I’m still going to be a ways back on points to Martin, Kyle, Kevin, Joey to start the next round. To start today, I was like 18 points back of Keselowski, so like that’s still a lot to overcome. It’s going to be even bigger probably to start the next round.
But you know, Texas we could go there and win. We could go to Phoenix and have a good shot to win, Martinsville, hopefully we can go have a good run there. But we’ll see. It’s just nice to get a win, get some playoff points and just kind of chip away at our deficit that we’re in ‑‑ not in, but compared to those guys.

Q. This is the first time that Chip Ganassi Racing is on to the Round of Eight as well as yourself, and you’ve been very loyal to Chip. You’ve said as much, he’s said as much. Does that kind of give this win a little bit of an extra meaning to you?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, Chip has had an opportunity to win a championship I think one other time maybe, and I think Sterling Marlin got hurt that year. He was probably going to win the championship that season had he not gotten hurt. It would be nice to get him that championship that he’s honestly probably owed.
So yeah, to move on to the next round is special, but we’re not just satisfied with being in the Round of Eight. We want to go and make it into that final round of Homestead, where it’s my best track. It’s the final year for the championship race to be at Homestead, so I’ve looked at this ever since they released next year’s schedule as this is my best opportunity to win the championship. I’ve got to take advantage of that.

Q. I know obviously you’ve won in different series, you’ve won different things, so you’ve won in the last two years, but what does winning this race mean? What does it mean for you? What does it mean for this team? I think you’ve always heard if you get to the Miami you could be the favorite, but you’ve got to get there and you’ve got to win races, and you guys haven’t done that and you’ve been building that consistency. What does winning today at this moment mean for you and this team with where it’s come?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, it’s just great to win in any series, like you said. That helps. I think that helps me feel like it hasn’t been a long time since I’ve won a race or even in the Cup Series. I’ve won sprint car races this year, I’ve won midget races this year, go‑kart races. So yeah, I mean, it doesn’t feel like that long.
But I feel like our cars have been capable of winning. I’ve ran second nine times I think I heard since my last win, so we’ve challenged, and we’ve been close to winning, but yeah, you know, it’s just ‑‑ just haven’t put it all together. I’m sure some of those races where I finished second without a second‑place car, I probably overachieved, but I feel like I’ve definitely given up five or six since then.
But yeah, I feel like look at the really good guys and I’m comparable to speed on them, but they just ‑‑ whatever it is, they can go out there and do what it takes to win at the end of the races, where I’ve been trying to get a lot better at that and figure out what that even is to win. But yeah, we’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing. I feel really good about our stuff, feel really good about our team right now, so go on to Talladega and try and win there.
I said we’d be there with no stress, but I still want to go out there and do what I can to win as well as help our Chevy teammates and just keep winning because we’ve got to make some more points up.

Q. And when you talk about just trying to win in the series, obviously you know how to win in the sprint cars, the midgets, and everything else that you’ve won. What is the difference in what it takes to win here? I know in a lot of ways there’s some similar things, but because maybe the competition is harder, what are things that are a little bit more challenging or what’s something you did today that helped push you over the edge? I know track position ‑‑
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, track position is massive here. But yeah, it’s just ‑‑ it takes focus to win in any type of car, but it takes a different type of focus to win a 400‑ or 500‑mile race. You know, in a sprint car race, it’s 30, 40 laps, and they don’t have an opportunity to work on their car at any point in the race to make it better, where in this I’ve tried to get better at my communication and tried to make it easier for the team to figure out what adjustments to make because it felt like when I look at other people in the past, I’ve been good the first half of races or even past that, but then it seems like as other people get to work on their cars, that’s where they maybe get better than me at the end and that’s what they find to go out there and win.
Today I felt like I was struggling, I was getting frustrated in the early part of the race, and then took a deep breath, changed up what I was doing behind the wheel, and we also made our car better at the same time, and here we are with a win.
I think that’s just the things that guys like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick and Logano, Truex, Keselowski are really good at just staying focused, and not that I wasn’t focused, it just takes a different level of focus.

Q. You were talking about the team and I think Chad was talking about it earlier, just how big a win it was because you’ve made some mistakes on pit road, the crew has made mistakes. Do you feel like this win is exciting for you guys or maybe more of a relief and maybe will allow the team to, for lack of a better term, relax a little bit?
KYLE LARSON: I don’t know. I wouldn’t ‑‑ I don’t know if I would call it a relief. I don’t even really know what to call it really. Like I said, I feel like we’ve been close to winning now for the last 12 or 13 races, so it’s been there, and then we did it today, and it’s like, all right, I knew we could do it. So now let’s go get some more.
But yeah, it’s been a heck of a season for us. We had bad luck early in the year, but we also made mistakes. I made mistakes, our team made mistakes, our pit crew made mistakes, mostly my mistakes I feel like, but I’ve been able to clean up what I’ve been doing, still have made mistakes. I think we’ve been top 10 a lot here lately, but Indy I had the best car there and crashed, New Hampshire I crashed in practice and had a great car in the race and then crashed in the race.
You know, there’s still areas where I can get better, but our cars have been doing a lot better, and our team as a whole has been doing a whole heck of a lot better here the last few months.

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Rob Kauffman with Chip Ganassi Racing and crew chief Chad Johnston.

Q. Chad, it seemed like clean air here was king as always, but did that go into your strategy in terms of when to pit Kyle, when to not and get him in clean air?
CHAD JOHNSTON: Yeah, for sure. I told the guys on the pit box, barring a late caution that I felt the race was going to be won on that last restart, so anything we could do to make sure we had control of the race and could come off Turn 2 with the lead was going to put us in our best opportunity to win. To me that race was win off of pit road by the guys on pit road.

Q. Rob, it’s been a long time coming for the 42 car. Talk about the success that you experienced today and having Kyle back in Victory Lane, what that means for the organization.
ROB KAUFFMAN: Well, obviously winning is excellent. That’s why we do this. Just the culmination of a lot of hard work. The 1 team has been a big contributor this year, as well, overall, and obviously puts the 42 team in a good position for the playoffs. We’ve said many times if we can get Kyle into the Final Four at Homestead we have a better‑than‑fighting chance. Hopefully this is a great step in the right direction, so really proud of everyone’s hard work.

Q. Chad, how do you ‑‑ since you’re already into the third round, how do you start approaching the next two races, or are you just focusing more on the third round and trying to get through those and how you view those tracks for you guys?
CHAD JOHNSTON: Yeah, I think for us, obviously you can breathe a little bit easier going into Talladega, being we all know what Talladega is like. But I think we still have to try to put points on the board, whether it’s bonus points or race win points. There’s a lot of guys that have five, six wins and a lot of bonus points that are going to roll over to that next stage, so anything we can do to close the gap on that, obviously with Martinsville being in that last round, that’s not the greatest place for us, but we feel like Texas and Phoenix are places we can win at.
I think our focus is going to be on what can we do better going to Martinsville to make sure we have a solid run there and leave there with the most points that we can.

Q. I understand what you’re talking about getting points. But with where you guys are positioned point‑wise, I know anything can happen, but why focus on trying to score points? Why not focus on almost solely the third round for you guys just because that could elevate you and it may be difficult to get in on points?
CHAD JOHNSTON: Yeah, I would say that we’ve got pretty good momentum. We’ve been executing really well, and I think anything that you do different than what you’ve been doing is taking away from the end goal, and that’s to execute and come out of here with the most points possible each and every week. I don’t think you focus your attention ‑‑ I don’t think you can forget about the next two weeks. Obviously you go to Kansas and have a strong run, you can potentially learn a lot of stuff that you can take to Texas with you.
And then Phoenix, with the repave, races a lot like an intermediate, so I think there’s still a lot you can learn by going to Kansas and being strong, but I think more than anything, just keep executing and we’ve been executing by trying to come out of each and every week with the most points possible. I don’t think taking our eye off of that prize is probably the right thing to do at this point for us.

Q. Chad, it’s hard to believe, but this is the first time you guys have been in Victory Lane since Richmond in 2017. How special and how necessary was it to get this team back to Victory Lane?
ROB KAUFFMAN: There was the All‑Star.
CHAD JOHNSTON: I mean, it’s obviously really important. Like Rob said, we won at the All‑Star Race. People forget about that because it wasn’t a points race, but it’s still a race and a million bucks. But it’s really special, and like I was talking to Claire earlier, I think it’s even more special to win it because of our pit road performance. Those guys have taken a lot of criticism last year, the beginning of this year, made some swaps as far as where we had people at the beginning of this year and they’ve dug deep and they’ve worked hard and they’re coming into their own at the right time, and like I said, that race today was won because of pit road performance, not because of car performance.

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