NASCAR All-Star Race post-race Press Conference
KYLE LARSON & CHAD JOHNSTON, NO. 42 ADVENT HEALTH CAMARO ZL1
KYLE LARSON: Gosh, after the year we've had I would have not guessed that we'd get our first win at the All‑Star Race, but I think the way that the format is and how crazy the race is, it kind of helps out us. We always seem to run good this weekend. So it just feels like a big relief to finally get a win. It's been a long time since I've been to Victory Lane in a stock car.
After being close to winning this race a couple years and allowing Joey to get by, it feels really good to get some redemption.
Q: Two questions for you, Kyle. First, you noted it's been a while, September of 2017 I think it was. Chad spoke to it a little bit earlier, but from your side, what have you done over the last year, year and a half where you've been close and had things keep beating you down to not let yourself get down and just keep pushing for a result like this?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, this year has been different for me. I've never worked out before, and I've been in the gym a little bit more this year with Josh Wise and just working out with him, and being around him puts a lot more confidence and ease into me. I feel like I'm just more calm.
I wasn't nervous at all that last restart, and I think partly of that is just from feeling like I am prepared. And also losing close races. I just ‑‑ I feel like I've done a good job of not getting stressed out, even with me losing the Chili Bowl. I felt like I was really calm until the last two laps and I gave the race away. Tonight I wasn't going to let that happen.
With those losses that I've had, you grow from each and every one of them. Hopefully we can continue this, and I feel like ‑‑ everybody becomes a better driver the older they get, but I feel like I've put more work and effort into it this year.
Q: It looked crazy out there, much like it did last year. How do you feel like the racing was different this year, and how do you feel like the cars drove differently, if they did, compared to last year's package here?
KYLE LARSON: From what I remember of last year's package, I feel like you would get choked down a lot more on the bottom lane than we would this year. So that's really the only difference I can think of off the top of my head right now. It's been a while. Those cars were even slower than what we have tonight.
But restarts were intense for sure. That's what makes this race so exciting is it's short runs, people are going crazy. Even though it's a 20‑lap run, there's still a caution or two in each segment because everybody is just going nuts. So just having short runs like that I think really show cases this package.
I felt like the first run, it got strung out, and it would have been pretty impossible to pass, but the restarts were wild.
Q: Obvious question, I don't know what your cut is, but what are you going to do with the money, man?
KYLE LARSON: I don't know. I was joking with Owen today about what would you want me to buy you if you won a million dollars, and I don't think he understands what a million dollars is. He didn't really have an answer for me. So I don't have any plans.
I think, too, a million dollars is cool, but just winning is more cool than a million bucks to me. I think maybe we're just ‑‑ us drivers, NASCAR drivers are in a good place in our life, it pays well. So whatever.
But just winning a big race, a prestigious event means more to me than the money. I'm all about trophies and big wins.
Q: Kyle, I don't know that this seems like ‑‑ I'm coming from a different perspective, but at Talladega when I see you do what happened there, I just say, how do you come back from something like that. How do you get yourself in a frame of mind where a month later you're sitting here talking about a victory?
But really just ‑‑ I think the string of four or five races we had there in a row where we just had issue after issue after issue, blown tires and penalties and things like that, that stuff is hard to overcome more so than flipping down the backstretch. Yeah, it was just good to get a finish at Dover, a good finish, a good weekend, and then a decent week at Kansas last week, and parlay that into a victory today.
Q: Kyle, you are one of two drivers to run every lap tonight in the Open and the All‑Star Race. Do you think the added on‑track time was a benefit?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I always think if there's one positive to being in the B Main, it's that you get that extra track time. I feel like in the first few laps, those guys that are in the bee main can be really aggressive because they know the limits of the race car and stuff, and so you can see the four of us or whatever kind of be really aggressive and get to the mid pack pretty quickly. And then everybody kind of figures it out after that.
But there's a slight advantage for the first 10, 15 laps, I think, of being in that race.
Q: You finished second to Kyle Busch back in 2017. This year you won the race and Kyle Busch pretty much used up his car trying to track you down. Does that make you feel good, a little bit of vindication on that loss in 2017?
KYLE LARSON: I think it was the year before actually that was more of a bigger loss to me. I think it was '16. I was leading it, I had fresher tires than everybody, got to the lead, and then Joey was able to track me down and get by me, and we just kind of played chicken with each other into 1 and I got into the wall, and he went on to win. So that one ‑‑ that's the one where I feel like this race feels like I got some redemption back because I felt like I was in an amazing spot to win this race then and just didn't get the job done.
And then I don't honestly remember how the race in 2017 went for me. I forgot I even ran second. I knew I've contended to win a couple of these, but yeah, we always seem ‑‑ like I said, we always seem to run really well this weekend for whatever reason. My balance is just good, and then in the 600 miles, we get really loose or I make a mistake, hit the wall. So yeah, hopefully we can keep this balance that we've got with our car and be strong next week, too.
Q: Kyle, can you talk about your approach to today? When you began the day you didn't even know if you'd be in the field and now you come away with a win and a million dollars. How was your mindset when you woke up today? What were you thinking?
KYLE LARSON: Well, I was thinking, we needed to get Owen to tee ball on time. He had his last tee ball game today. I don't know, we were just pretty relaxed. It's cool, my crew chief's son and Owen, they're on the same tee ball team, so we were both there relaxing. Aric Almirola's kid was in the game before us. It was cool to see, everybody has got big stakes, racing for big money in a few hours, but we're hanging out there with our kids for a few hours. So I was pretty relaxed.
Yesterday in practice I knew we had a good car compared to the guys that were in the B Main, and then so because of that, I feel like I had to be a little less aggressive in that race just to take care of my equipment tonight, not dig myself a hole and get some damage where I couldn't contend to win one of those segments.
You know, we were able to try and give it away a couple different times but got it done, and I was getting a little more stressed out kind of each caution we had because I was thinking how it wasn't going to work out. But we were able to make it in, and the rest is history.
Q: Have you been more frustrated this season because you've felt that you have had cars and the speed capable of winning, or have you felt frustrated because you didn't think you guys were on par to some of the others in the field?
KYLE LARSON: No, I mean, just more frustrated at the luck probably more than anything. You know, it's ‑‑ I don't even know if this locks us into the playoffs or not ‑‑
THE MODERATOR: It does not. Sorry ‑‑
KYLE LARSON: Thanks. I was hoping you were going to say it does. Don't we get like some playoff points, though, at least?
THE MODERATOR: No.
KYLE LARSON: Wow, that sucks.
THE MODERATOR: But you won a million dollars.
KYLE LARSON: Yeah. Dang. So anyways, it's just tough to ‑‑ as I've learned in my Cup career, aside from 2017, it's pretty tough to make the playoffs. There's a lot of cars that make it, but those last four or five spots, depending on what guys win throughout the season, it's tough to make the playoffs.
With the string of DNFs that I had and bad finishes, that's what was more frustrating because I knew we were putting ourselves in a bad spot to make it to the playoffs where you have to be extremely consistent and just take what you can get from now on, where you can't almost be as aggressive as you could be if you had a fast car and were consistently running in the top 5 and stuff like that. That's what was more frustrating. I feel like Kansas kind of showed it last week. I feel like I've been like a seventh‑ or eighth‑ to kind of 12th‑place car all season, but I haven't got to show for it. And seventh to 12th isn't that great. A week ago or a few days ago I would say we can't win a race like that, but we proved today that we could.
We've just got to continue to keep working hard and learning what we can, making our cars better and faster and more grip, more speed, everything. Pit crew has got to be on it, I've got to be on it if we want to continue to run up front.
Q: Chad was in here and said it was a relief. You mentioned earlier, it's a relief. In other sports when a guy is in a hitting slump he's gripping the bat too tight, he's trying too hard, gets a couple of hits, relaxes and everything starts falling into place. Do you see potentially for your team this is the last little thing so you guys can relax, settle in and do your deal and win some more races?
KYLE LARSON: I hope so. You know, it's been such a rocky start and we haven't gotten any momentum at all up until the last couple weeks a little bit, and then today I hope kind of helps it. This is a great time of year for me to get a win. Winning not only is important for me in NASCAR because it's what I make my living in, it's what I race for points and for a championship in, but this is the time of year when I start getting to race a bunch. I'm going to be in a race car, I think, every day for the next probably almost seven or eight days, so this is a good time of year for me to get some momentum and get into my sprint car season, my midget season as well as the NASCAR stuff on the weekend. Hopefully this will turn it into where I can get some double digit wins this season.
Q: What's your schedule like?
KYLE LARSON: I'm going to race my Outlaw car at Millbridge. We always do that on Tuesday and Wednesday. I think they practice there on Monday. I hope I've got some partying to do tomorrow, but I've still got some work to do on my go‑kart. Then I'll be at Charlotte, the dirt track, Friday and Saturday, racing with the World of Outlaws, the 600 Sunday, then we go to Lawrenceburg on Monday, then I have a few days off. And then after Pocono, I think I do Fairbury with the Outlaws and then a couple nights of Midget Week, and then we have our off weekend, then I race six nights in Ohio. I get to race it a bunch here. This is a fun time of year for me.
Q: I know that Kevin Harvick's Happy Hours is coming up this week, and so I've been asked to ask you about Kevin Harvick giving you that push. I saw the back of your car. Talk us through that.
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, it was nice for, I guess, the Millenial car to ‑‑ I don't even know if I'm considered a millenial still. But it was nice to have the Millenial car give me a big shove like that. One of our social guys said I yeeted the Millenial car. I don't know what that means, but he does. So cool.
Q: On a scale of 1 to 10, how was that push from Harvick?
KYLE LARSON: Am I supposed to answer with emojis? It was fire.
THE MODERATOR: We're going to start rolling here with our post‑race media availability. We have now been joined by our race‑winning crew chief of the No. 42 Advent Health Chevrolet and crew chief Chad Johnston. Chad, congratulations on winning tonight's Monster Energy All‑Star Race. It's a good one to win. Talk about us about the run tonight and obviously bringing home your first win of the season.
CHAD JOHNSTON: Yeah, it comes at a good time for us. We've had a rough year. We've had a lot more speed than what we've shown in points, obviously, but haven't been able to string together any finishes until as of late. So we come off of a third‑place finish at Dover and a seventh‑place finish at Kansas, and with the exception of that and Phoenix it's the only three races we haven't had issues.
To be able to come here to the All‑Star Race and take home a million dollars is huge for us, and hopefully it's kind of a stake in the ground for a turning point for us.
Q: Chad, obviously it's been a rough stretch for you guys over the last year plus not going to Victory Lane. How much have you had to do? What have you done or said to Kyle to help keep him from getting too down on himself and just keep fighting through all this to get back to the top tonight?
CHAD JOHNSTON: He's pretty good about that himself, but we just keep plugging away and trying to find speed. Like I said, we haven't got the finishes we've deserved. Obviously we haven't had the speed we've wanted. I feel like most races we've been fifth‑ to tenth‑place cars, which isn't good enough. We just keep plugging away at it, and he's a racer so he's going to give you 110 percent no matter what he's got, and it's just up to us to figure out with this new package and everything what he needs to go fast. Obviously this weekend was a different package than what we've been racing, but it's still ‑‑ it's never bad to win, especially when it's for a million dollars.
Q: Chad, because you guys haven't won in so long, what was the initial feeling? Was it excitement that we've won or relief that we've finally won?
CHAD JOHNSTON: I think a little bit of both. Obviously relief because we had a couple good years there where we won a lot of races, and last year we got a lot of second‑place finishes and were in contention to win, just couldn't close it off. Like I said, any win is a big win. Obviously this weekend is a little bit different because it's not points racing, but still, everybody is laying everything out on the line because it's not a points race and you're racing for a million dollars. I think it's more relief for me than probably excitement, but by tomorrow maybe it'll be a little bit more exciting.
Q: Chad, what does this do for maybe the confidence of you and Kyle in each other? Especially kind of after Richmond it seemed there might be some frustration.
CHAD JOHNSTON: Yeah, I'm not sure what you're referring to there ‑‑
Q: Him taking the car to the hauler, you're like, come to pit road and then he took it to the hauler because he knew it was ‑‑
CHAD JOHNSTON: Yeah, he knows better than anybody else, so it definitely couldn't be out there. We couldn't have fixed it. He knows better than anybody. I don't know this there's ever been any frustration between the two of us. I've got 100 percent confidence in him. I believe it's the same from him to me. We're just plugging away. You know, it's the same group of guys that we won races with, and it's a different package and a lot of things different this year. We definitely haven't started off like we wanted to, but normally we start off pretty well and don't end up finishing well, so hopefully we're on pace to kind of hit our stride and get to where we're stringing together some finishes and competing for wins towards the end of the year.
Q: With the passing that we saw tonight, how much do you think will be replicated in the 600, or with the radiator ducts and the different splitter, is there no correlation?
CHAD JOHNSTON: I think it's really hard to say. I'd have to go back and watch the race because obviously for me I'm watching our car, not everybody else's, so I can't really comment on how easy it was to pass. I felt like when you run the Open you kind of have an advantage the first ‑‑ especially with the first 30‑lap run of being on track knowing what to expect, being able to adjust on your car, where the guys that are in the All‑Star Race don't have that. So it's a good time to take advantage of that information and being able to gain some of the track position back pretty quickly.
Q: NASCAR shared with us some of what they found in their study of the Talladega crash, that they felt the car lifted because of damage in the right front quarterpanel and it lifted more from the right side rather than it being rear lift. Is that what you ‑‑ do you kind of agree with what they were showing you, and is there anything ‑‑ they said that no changes need to be done to the cars. Do you agree with that?
CHAD JOHNSTON: I think there's no arguing that the right side of the car came up more than the rear of the car was ‑‑ it's 60 degrees of yaw and it was laid over on the left‑hand side and the right‑side skirts came off the ground and it got airborne. It had pretty significant right side damage from where the 24 came over and hit it, so definitely I think that that had a big factor in it.
You know, it's not for me to say, but yeah, I don't know that you could disagree with it. I think the encouraging part to me was how well the car held up in the driver cockpit area. Everything stayed where it was supposed to. Our biggest concern was the mirror bracket got ground off, so to me when you have an accident like that and to come out of it unscathed and only be worried about a bracket is a pretty big atta boy for NASCAR and how safe the cars are nowadays.
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