Sunday, March 21, 2021
Atlanta Motor Speedway
An Interview with: Kyle Larson
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by today’s runner-up, Kyle Larson. We’ll go straight into question for Kyle.
Looking back, would you try to push it more on the last run early or do you feel like you had to save something there for the end because of the long run?
KYLE LARSON: I mean, no, I was pushing the whole time, every lap really from when I left pit road. I was trying to get out to a big gap. But I never really did. I think I extended it a little bit, but not nearly enough.
Before the other green flag stops I could exit pit road, I feel like I’d gain a few seconds over the course of like 20 laps. I was hoping it was going to be like that. I thought me having to race him and pass him was what used my tires up the little run before, but after the green flag stop, he was just really good. I couldn’t get out to that gap that I could earlier in the race. Ultimately just had to run my tires too hard to try to get that gap, and I didn’t have anything there at the end.
Do you think if you had gotten by Logano at all or quicker you would have been able to hold off Ryan, or was he coming so fast that didn’t matter?
KYLE LARSON: I mean, it’s hard to say. I definitely would have had a better shot had I gotten by Logano when I got to him. But, yeah, I mean, it just was hard. My tires were pretty much gone at that point. I was sliding around. I just didn’t get through traffic good at the end.
Kyle, with 56 laps in the final run on the tires, would you have hoped for a late race caution or did you think you would be able to navigate that distance and keep the lead?
KYLE LARSON: Well, initially, yeah, I mean, I wanted to go green because I’d been so good on the long runs. But then when I realized that he was better than me, and he was catching me there at the end, yeah, I was definitely hoping for a caution just to get some new tires on it and hopefully come out the leader, control the restart and try and win that way. I knew I was in trouble. But it didn’t play out that way.
In regards to the track surface, it’s asked all the time if this place needs to be repaved. Is it past the point of race-ability? Does that need to happen sooner or later?
KYLE LARSON: I enjoy surfaces that are wore out. You can move around. I hope this place doesn’t ever get repaved. I feel like each year we talk about it more and more. We’ll see what they do.
I enjoy it how it is. I mean, if it’s not repaved, it’s a totally different style of race. It’s kind of whatever you’re into. For me, as a driver, I’m into this style.
With today’s performance, we look at Texas and Atlanta the second time around, what is your expectation for the rest of the season for these types of racetracks?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, our Hendrick Chevys have been really good on the mile-and-a-half’s. Really every track so far this season. I’m excited to go to the racetrack every weekend.
Given my win at Vegas, being good today on another mile-and-a-half, I think I look forward to the mile-and-a-half’s the most. But, yeah, it’s fun to have cars that are this good. It gives us confidence as a team each weekend.
What is the ceiling for this team? You mentioned the win at Vegas, today you were dominant. What are you capable of? Does this give you hope for the rest of the season that you can do something special?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, I would have loved to win today to really pick up some momentum. But, yeah, I mean, we’ve had the fastest car most weekends. If we can continue to evolve and continue to get better, yeah, I mean, we can do great things.
Our pit crew has been really good. Our car has been really fast. I feel like for the most part I’ve been doing a good job. With all that Cliff and all the guys making good decisions on the box, yeah, we can definitely go out there and keep contending. If we can contend as much as we are, yeah, I mean, we can win a lot of races.
Is this the first time in your career where you’re going to every track and you feel like you can dominate and win every single race?
KYLE LARSON: 2017 we were really strong. Probably not this strong. But, yeah, I mean, 2017 also I was a little bit like surprised that we were that good early in the season because normally we weren’t. But once I realized we were a top-two car, the 78 at that time, yeah, I felt like I could win every time.
I didn’t really, from what I remember, dominate races like I did today. Yeah, I was confident like I am now.
A non-race question for you. NASCAR put out a tweet before the race honoring the victims of the Atlanta Spa shootings earlier this week. Just curious your thoughts on how NASCAR has done bringing light to real world issues and trying that in with the sport?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I feel like NASCAR’s done a great job. You look at everything they did last year after my deal, everything that they did here in Atlanta was great, Talladega, really throughout the whole season, they continued it through now.
Yeah, the real life stuff hits hard with everybody. I feel like NASCAR as a sport has done a great job to get ahead of it and honor those people.
How were you personally able to process this week?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, I really didn’t pay too much attention to it. But obviously, me being Asian-American, I started noticing it more and more. It definitely hits closer to me probably. But, yeah, hopefully things will get better in our world. It’s just a terrible, terrible time for Asians. I hope it gets better.
All the work you’ve done away from the track in the past year, how has that affected your mind when something like the Spa shootings do happen, and your reaction to them?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, I did do a lot of stuff last year. It’s definitely opened my eyes to how people are treated differently. That’s something I never really paid attention to before. It stinks that somebody can be treated differently because of their race or the color of their skin. That’s really what I learned a lot about last year.
So, yeah, it definitely means more to me now than maybe it would have in the past after everything that I went through.
It’s not necessarily anyone’s responsibility. When you do have a platform, do you feel the need to be more forward on any issue?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, I think so. I think us as athletes, for sure, we have powerful voices. We can try and lead a change. It’s definitely important. Like we mentioned earlier, NASCAR has done a great job on these topics, as well.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Kyle, for taking the time. Good luck next weekend on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway.
— NASCAR —