NASCAR Media Conference
November 6, 2012
JAYME AVRIT: Good afternoon, and thank you for standing by. Welcome to the second portion of today' NASCAR Cam video teleconference. We are now joined by 2012 NASCAR K& N Pro Series East champion Kyle Larson. Larson won his first NASCAR title with a sixth place finish in the season finale Saturday at Rockingham Speedway, also taking Sonoco Rookie of the Year honors. It marks the first NASCAR touring championship for Rev Racing and NASCAR Drive For Diversity. Larson, a development driver for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, will run the No.4 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Phoenix International Raceway and Homestead Miami Speedway.
Kyle, you won the championship this year not only as a rookie but as true stock car rookie, having not raced full‑bodied asphalt cars prior to the season. How were you able to make such a successful transition?
KYLE LARSON: You know, I did the Speedweeks at New Smyrna this year in a super late model for Tim Russell. I think I ran like seven or eight races straight, so I think that really helped out a lot. I've been racing open wheelers, so many different types of open wheel cars, I think it really helped me become versatile because I jump in different cars each and every night it seems like, so I can adapt pretty quickly, I think, and that definitely helped out.
Q. How important was the opportunity provided to you by Rev Racing and NASCAR's Drive For Diversity initiative in advancing your racing career?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I'm really thankful for the opportunity. Being half Japanese, I got a chance to run with Rev Racing with the NASCAR Diversity program, and they have really good equipment and a lot of experienced crew chiefs and car chiefs and members on the team. They're kind of ex‑Cup guys, so that helped out a lot, to be able to work with those guys. Randy Goss was my crew chief this year. It was really nice to be able to go race at tracks that hopefully I'll be racing at for years to come in the Truck or Nationwide and on into the Cup Series hopefully.
I learned a lot this year and hopefully will take it on from there and get even better.
Q. I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about your racing background before you started racing in the K&N Series?
KYLE LARSON: I started racing Outlaw Karts in California there. They're really light and have no suspension and they have a roll cage and a wing on top. They have a lot of horsepower for how much they weigh, so they really kind of beat you up and let you get used to how much horsepower they have. After I did that until I was 14, I moved into wing sprint cars with 360 and 410 cubic inch engines and got a lot of experience doing that, racing those for I think this was my sixth season. I won a lot of races and won a championship out there in the King of West Series, and last year I moved on into racing in the Midwest a lot with the USAC series in the Midgets, Sprint car and Silver Crown cars and gained a lot of experience there racing for Keith Kunz and a bunch of different car owners really. I ran for a lot of different people.
I think last year was really my breakout season. I won a lot of big races and I got picked up by Earnhardt Ganassi Racing this year, so that helped out, and this year is my first year in the K&N Series. It's been a quick road, but it's been really fun.
Q. You've been really good in both of the truck races you've run this year, 10th at Kentucky and 6th in your other race. What are your goals for the last two races of the season?
KYLE LARSON: Well, my goals are to do better than I did in my last race, which was a 6th, but if I could come away with two top 10s again that would be really good to get four top 10s in only‑‑ only having four truck starts. If I could get a win, that would be great. That would be really cool. I'm just looking to go out there and gain some more experience and get used to the bodies and the different types of tires and get some experience racing on bigger tracks like Homestead. That's going to be really fun. Phoenix should be a lot of fun, too. I've been there to watch before when the USAC cars raced there. Hopefully I can take a little bit of what I've learned by watching open wheel cars into the trucks.
Q. What is your schedule looking like for next year? Do you have any full‑time rides set up for next year?
KYLE LARSON: I don't really have anything set up for next year yet. I know these guys at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing are working on some different things for me and hopefully will have an answer here shortly and can hopefully be racing anything, whether it's moving up into trucks or Nationwide and hopefully I'll still be able to race Sprint cars and Midgets. As long as I'm racing, I'll be having fun.
Q. I just wanted to ask you, what's the most important thing or things that you've learned this year in your experience in the K&N Series and in the Truck Series?
KYLE LARSON: Well, this is my first year in stock cars, so I've learned a lot. I've really learned how to race side by side with guys for a few laps before you can actually get by them because with the Sprint car stuff you just blow right past them and don't waste any time passing them. I've learned that, and I've really learned patience, I think, this year and have kind of‑‑ I don't think I'm the best at saving tires at all, but I think I've gotten a lot better as a driver at saving tires this year. Just staying patient and being there at the end has really helped this year in stock cars, and it's also turned over into Sprint car stuff, too. I've learned all that and learned all these racetracks I've gone to this year, it's my first time going to except I think Iowa Speedway where I've ran a couple USAC races there.
I've learned some different racetracks and learned about the cars, too. It's been a good year for me.
Q. Looking forward into your career in the future, what is the next thing as a driver you want to accomplish?
KYLE LARSON: You know, just go out there and win more races, really. I don't usually worry too much about points races, so this year was kind of a shocker to me that I was up there in the points just because it seems like my driving style is more of a go out there and try and win races. Just keep on winning races and running up front, and if I run for points again in something, it would be nice to win a championship.
But I've won I think 25 races this year throughout all the different cars I've ran, and my goal every year is just to keep winning more and more. Just hopefully just keep winning races and being up front.
Q. And secondly, as a young driver, what are you going to do during the off‑season to prepare for 2013 to make yourself better?
KYLE LARSON: Well, I don't really have too much of an off‑season. I'm still going to be racing some more USAC Midget races out of Canyon Speedway this coming weekend and then Turkey Night and I'll be off for a couple weeks and go to Disneyland or something and head on over to New Zealand for a few weeks and race some Midget, and that leads right on into Chili Bowl. Just staying busy, and I think that's‑‑ staying active in a race car is the best way to stay in shape during the off‑season.
Q. When you look back at this season until the K&N Series, what came easier to you than you expected, and what was harder than you expected with being in those cars?
KYLE LARSON: I don't really know if there's anything easier than I expected. Definitely I didn't expect the competition to be as tough as‑‑ I knew it would be tough, but I didn't think it would be that tough. There was probably 10 cars, 10 to 12 cars you had to race with each and every week it seemed like that were challenging for wins and top 3s and stuff. Just the whole competition was a lot tougher than I expected, and I think that‑‑ I think tougher competition definitely helps me get better as a driver, just because you've got to try harder and race harder. It was good to race with guys like Corey LaJoie and Brett Moffitt and Chase Elliott and Darrell Wallace, Jr. There's a lot of young drivers that are really hungry to go out there and win, and it was good to race with those guys.
Q. And you mentioned all those young drivers and certainly got the opportunity to race against a lot of those guys, even a guy like Ryan Blaney with the trucks. When you look at those guys you're almost part of this group that I guess maybe some people look to as future drivers of the Cup Series if everything works out. How do you look at it? Is that something you guys talk about, hey, if two or three years we might be all up here racing each other for Cup races instead of K & N races and what have you?
KYLE LARSON: Well, there's a deal called the Next Nine where they pick I think the next nine drivers that they think are the future of NASCAR, and I think there's a lot of good guys that are on there. Everyone I named and plus Ryan Blaney and Dylan Kwasniewski. There's a few west guys that are on there that are on the Next Nine.
I've never really talked to any of them about maybe we'll be racing with each other in a few years in the Cup Series, we kind of just live in the moment right now what we're doing. It was cool to see Ryan Blaney have all the success he's having right now with winning the Truck race and running up front in this last Nationwide race really proves to me that I think I can go out there and compete with those guys because whenever Ryan Blaney races with us, we're right there battling side by side. Hopefully I can get my opportunity to move up in the series and contend for wins like he is.
Q. Wanted to talk to you a little bit about what the vision that Earnhardt Ganassi Racing has for you down the road. Have they discussed that? I know you have an eight‑year contract. Is there an eight‑year plan, as well?
KYLE LARSON: I don't really know about the five‑year plan, but I know every year I'm sure that they want to keep moving me up, as long as I'm doing good. Like I said, just as long as I'm running up front, I'm sure the plan is to keep moving forward. Just keep running up front and doing good.
Q. You said a few minutes ago that your driving style is to really race hard and go out and win races. I know the Sprint Cup Series is probably a few years off for you yet, but I was wondering if it's encouraging to see Tony Stewart went out and won the Sprint Cup last year by winning five races in the Chase, and this year Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson are winning every week and they're the top two in points. Is that encouraging for you that that's the kind of style it takes now to win a championship?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I look forward to just watching the Chase each and every year because it doesn't take consistency to win, you definitely have to win races. I think that I really‑‑ I will look forward to that if I ever make it to the Cup Series, to be in the 12 drivers fighting it out for the championship at the end of the year, just because I think those short‑‑ the short 10‑race shootouts kind of fit my driving style. Hopefully I'll be battling for a Chase in a few years.
Q. One of the things we've noticed lately is a couple of big names in the Sprint Cup Series, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart in particular have been quoted recently as being very impressed with your ability to drive a race car. How does it feel to hear that kind of praise from guys such as them, and have you asked‑‑ gone to any of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers at EGR or anywhere else and asked for advice, and what have they told you?
KYLE LARSON: It's definitely cool to have Jeff and Tony talk about me in interviews and stuff like that. It means a lot to me. It's cool that they pay attention like they do. Jeff will text me every time it seems like after I have a good finish and run good. So that's cool. He also sponsored the race car that I won at the World Outlaw Race with this year with his Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation. We had a kickball game to raise money, and I think we raised $37,000, so that was cool to be able to do that for his foundation.
Then I got to race‑‑ well, I attempted to race a Silver Crown race for Tony this year at Eldora, but I had wrecked a Sprint car the race before and got banged up so I didn't get to run the race. But I qualified first the first time I got in his car, so that was cool.
But like I said, it's just really cool to have guys like that talking about me, and hopefully they just still keep an eye on me.
As far as getting advice from them, I don't‑‑ I'm not the type to really go out there and ask drivers what they do to go faster. If I really feel like I'm out in left field, I might go ask. But as far as getting tips and stuff, I don't really do that. Tony helped a little bit this year with guiding my career path and what he thought I needed to do this year. So as far as that goes, I guess I asked Tony for a little bit of advice.
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