- Kyle Larson – Winning Driver
- Cliff Daniels – Winning Crew Chief
- Rick Hendrick – Winning Team Owner
KYLE LARSON, NO. 5 VALVOLINE CAMARO ZL1 1LE, PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
THE MODERATOR: We’re now joined by our winner today, Kyle Larson.
Introductory sentence: how bad of a machine was that that you had today?
KYLE LARSON: It was another good one. We’ve had probably the best race car on the racetrack for at least a month and a half. Good to take advantage of it, get another win. Able to jump out to a lead right from the get-go, basically lead the rest of the race. If it wasn’t for the cautions at the ends of the stages, we had a near perfect day.
Just happy with it, happy to get another win. The crowd was awesome, too. Kind of I think the atmosphere felt really high before the race. It was just cool to be here, cool to be in Nashville all week. Always great to get a win.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q: This is your 10th career win, third straight points paying victory. What do both of these stats mean to you?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, it’s awesome to get multiple wins in a row now in the Cup Series. I mean, really it’s four wins in a row. Just cool to do that. Didn’t think that was possible ever for me in the Cup Series anyways. I’ve gone on streaks in dirt racing and stuff before, but never been close to doing anything like that in Cup.
It’s been awesome. To get to now double-digit point paying wins is great. I’d like to keep winning and keep inching my name up the winner’s list not only at NASCAR but at Hendrick Motorsports, too. I think that’s important to me.
Q: The guitar trophy has taken extra meaning as a memorial to Sam Bass. Did you have a relationship with him?
KYLE LARSON: Not really. I talked to him a handful of times. He was always an extremely happy person whenever I was around him. He did a lot for the sport of NASCAR, especially this race I think when it was going on here in the past.
Cool to win a trophy, a cool trophy. Cool to win that guitar. I think that’s what we all were striving for this weekend, was to get a guitar.
Q: You win a lot whether it’s at this level or sprints. It feels like sometimes when one guy starts to win all the races, fans get restless, this guy wins too much. The reception for you has been glowing. What do you attribute the receptiveness among fans to? Fans celebrate. Why do you think that is?
KYLE LARSON: Well, it’s still just early on, so it could change.
I think fans can appreciate me because I do it in all different types of forms of racing, not just NASCAR. You don’t know what car I’m going to be in on what day of the week. I could be in a sprint car like I will be tomorrow, in a late model middle of the week some other day, then a Cup car on Sunday.
I think fans, because I’m a little bit different than your normal race car driver, I think that’s why fans so far seem to still cheer me on and like to see me winning.
Too, I think they can appreciate my story and how hard I’ve had to work to come and get to where I’m at today, too. I think there’s a lot that goes into it. I appreciate the fan support and I like being a fan favorite. It definitely means a lot to me.
Q: Do you look at this season as four wins or it could have been eight wins? It’s pretty conceivable you could have won four other races this year.
KYLE LARSON: I don’t know. Right now I’m guess I’m not thinking about that. At times, yeah, I can catch myself thinking about it.
There’s definitely been a few that have slipped away. At the same point we do have the most wins now in the series, which is great.
I really am just looking forward now. You can’t change the past. I’d like to just continue to win, continue to win stages, keep racking up the Playoff points to try to distance myself from the competition and make our final 10 weeks a little easier or give us a little bit of wiggle room in case we slip up, make a mistake or have some bad luck.
That’s my goal, just to keep winning, win races, but to rack up those Playoff points.
Q: Some of those cases have been circumstantial. You’ve been able to do it the last couple races here. Is there something you were able to do a little bit more these last couple races as opposed to what didn’t work out before?
KYLE LARSON: I don’t know. I mean, I think you learn from all of those times that you didn’t win. Yeah, I mean, there was a lot that I learned from at Atlanta that I’m sure without even really knowing that I’m doing it that I put into my driving that has made me better to win races here lately.
Kansas was another one I could have won. I feel like there’s been a couple times now where I’ve been in the second row of being the guy pushing, restarting. I’ve done a better job of not screwing that up. You learn from every time that you don’t win.
Yeah, I mean, I think it kind of adds up and stacks up to now you can race and make less mistakes, get wins.
Q: With all the talk of corded tires we saw during the tire test a few months back, what kind of wear did you see with your car today?
KYLE LARSON: Well, I didn’t get to see any of the wear from my seat. From what my crew chief was telling me after the cautions, every time they said my tires looked great. Obviously I burned them down there after the checkered, so we don’t really get to see that last run, it was really long. I felt like I was getting tighter towards the end of that long run there.
But, yeah, they put that resin down. I wasn’t here at the test. I know at the test, I heard at the test, they were only able to go 25, 20 laps before they’d cord a tire. They put this resin down and it obviously got us a long ways through a run.
I felt like that was a really good thing for this concrete-style surface. I’ve never raced here before. Like when we race at Dover, Martinsville, there’s concrete in the corners – trying to think if there are any other tracks – when we get a caution, we pick that rubber up. Seemed like today that resin was just sticky enough or something that it didn’t allow us to pick up the rubber up under yellow. I think that helped our tires live throughout a run.
Yeah, I don’t know if that will work on a pavement track like it does on a concrete track. I feel like it’s a good move that NASCAR did.
Q: Talking to Cliff earlier, he says he’s a pavement, late model stock guy, you’re dirt car. He said in y’all’s relationship, he tried to learn your lingo to better forge that relationship. Do you remember a moment in the season where maybe you saw him bridge that gap, or were you immediately clicking?
KYLE LARSON: Well, I think I’m really easy to work with I feel like. My lingo is pretty easy because I don’t really talk a whole lot. I just say I’m loose or I’m tight.
I think he did come to a handful of my dirt races throughout the end of last. He came to the world finals at Charlotte for the late model. I think he was there when I ran the sprint car. He came to a midget race at Millbridge.
I think kind of him putting himself around me, I guess listening to me from a distance, maybe that helped. I haven’t really felt like there’s been a bridge to overcome or anything like that. I feel like we’ve worked really well together this whole year. We continue to probably get even more comfortable and work even better together.
He’s also a really easy guy to I feel like communicate with because he is so good at communicating. So, yeah, I feel like I’m easy to work with, and so far he and my whole team have been really easy to work with.
Q: Rick has pretty much taken the restrictions off; you can go race anywhere as long as he feels like this is your priority. Was that a conversation you needed to have when you were doing the contract? Are you glad you’ve been allowed to do whatever you want to do?
KYLE LARSON: Well, I’m definitely glad, for sure. It’s not something they typically let their drivers do in the past. I’m friends with Kasey, when he was racing at Hendrick. Yeah, I had known about them and kind of how they didn’t like Kasey when he’d go race other stuff. He didn’t get to do it a whole lot.
Yeah, when I was getting ready to start talking with Mr. H and Jeff about racing their Cup cars, I was a little bit nervous and bummed that I probably wouldn’t be able to race as much dirt. I didn’t think that they would cut me fully. I also didn’t expect them to kind of let me do whatever I wanted either.
It’s worked out really great for me. Cliff I think understands that when I race, I get better. I just kind of go through with him on what races I want to run. He’s been cool to let me race as long as, yeah, it’s not interfering with anything I’ve got going on with the NASCAR team because that’s always been my number one priority, even in the past.
I know a lot of people don’t think that. NASCAR has always been my number one priority. I don’t miss anything. I don’t go race a dirt race when I could be doing something else with the NASCAR team, whether it be sponsor appearance or sim day or whatever. I’m there for the NASCAR team. I’ve kept it that way, I’ve been able to race a lot throughout the week. Summer is really busy, but I love it.
Q: Is winning here any more special considering the rich history that racing has in Nashville, the first NASCAR Cup Series race in 30 years, Hendrick Motorsports has a rich history here and at the fairgrounds?
KYLE LARSON: I think it definitely adds some enjoyment because, yeah, I mean, this is the first time the Cup Series has been to this racetrack. I stayed in the city this week. I got to see how pumped up all the race fans were for the race this weekend. There’s a lot of fans that recognized me throughout the last couple days walking around, wishing me good luck, saying how excited they were to go to the race.
That’s what kind of made me feel extra special about this race, is just seeing how excited the fans were to go to a new venue, sort of get to watch some Cup racing in Nashville.
Q: That quarter-mile burnout you did in front of the grandstands, just a salute to the fans? Your thoughts on seeing all the people that came out here today.
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, it pretty much was a salute to the crowd. I didn’t get to make it the whole length of the grandstands before my tires started shredding. I was going to try.
I was getting ready to do a burnout at the flag stand. I noticed the fans stretched out a long ways down, and people were still standing up cheering. I was going to go down there, do a burnout as long as I could. It was cool.
Q: Rick said he might have to evaluate during the Playoffs about extracurricular racing. Does that bother you at all?
KYLE LARSON: No. I have my schedule pretty much set up where it slows down a lot once the Playoffs come around. That’s kind of what I always used to do, too. Like I said, I’m not doing anything different than I did before. There’s just a few kind of midweek races local that I’d like to do.
Yeah, like I said, NASCAR is my priority.
Q: Rick said he worries about you getting tired. He said but your stamina is like nothing he’s ever seen before. How do you do it? You’ve won four races in seven days and run five.
KYLE LARSON: I don’t know. I mean, this is what I’m used to doing. My body’s built to be busy, I guess, be racing all the time.
I don’t know. I get sleep. I mean, the dirt races start at like 6:00. I get more sleep on those nights than I do for a normal day when I’m getting up early to take Owen to school, go work out, stuff like that. Summer months I probably get more sleep now than I do throughout the normal parts of the year.
Like I said, it’s what I’ve always done. Last year I raced 96 times or something. I’m used to it.
Q: Valvoline was a sponsor this week. How important do you think it is to win when you have a company that has chosen to come aboard with you?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, definitely. It’s definitely important to me to do a good job on the track, but also try to give them as much exposure as we can throughout the night. We were able to do that today.
Just really cool that they’re willing to back me and get on our race car. I’m glad we could bring them to Victory Lane today. There was a lot of people from Valvoline here. Cliff and I got to hang out, talk to them for a while before the race.
Yeah, nice to have them here. I look forward to the other couple races we have Valvoline. Hopefully we can get some more partners throughout the rest of the season.
Q: The last Cup race was won 37 years ago in a No. 5 Hendrick car. Comment on the coincidence or oddity, linking the past and the future?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I didn’t realize that until he mentioned that in Victory Lane. Definitely a really cool stat. I think more than anything, it just shows how well Rick Hendrick has been able to maintain this success throughout so long. It’s unbelievable how he’s done so much for this sport. We’re all very fortunate to be racing for him. Mechanics, everybody at the shop, I don’t know if there’s a single same person part of the race team that was there 30 something years ago when they won here last time. But we’re celebrating with another win.
Like I said, it just shows how he is so good at bringing people that he believes in to keep his organization as strong as it is.
Q: Are there any weaknesses on the 5 team right now? How do you look forward to Pocono next weekend?
KYLE LARSON: I don’t know. I mean, there’s definitely probably areas we can always get better. I think you can always get every area of your game better. Even when we’ve been winning, we still look at things that we could have done better, whether it be on the racetrack, on pit road, just little things to maximize our day.
I guess I can’t pinpoint like one thing that’s a weakness, but if we can continue to get every area better, I mean, we’ll be really hard to beat. We’re winning and we’re happy, but we’re never content. We’ll have a meeting again tomorrow and talk about how to be better.
Q: How do you feel about Pocono next weekend?
KYLE LARSON: I’m obviously excited to go to any racetrack right now. I do enjoy Pocono a lot. I think that will be a style of track we’re really fast at hopefully. It’s three different corners. I mean, there’s that that will make you a little bit nervous.
Yeah, I’ve always felt like I’ve gotten around there pretty well, even at Ganassi. I’m excited to get there.
THE MODERATOR: The win was 1984, Geoff Bodine.
Q: Rick said you came in at midnight. Was that Friday morning?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah. I got here at 4:30 in the morning. I raced Wednesday at Waynesfield and won, yeah, drove all night, pulled in here at 4:30.
Q: You weren’t tired?
KYLE LARSON: I got an energy drink from Sunshine, it helped me get there. I actually wasn’t that tired. I got caught up on my sleep, for sure. I was tired, yeah. You’d be tired.
Q: Your three points wins have been on three different types of tracks, three different aero packages really with Charlotte, Sonoma, here. Does that add anything to the significance of it?
KYLE LARSON: I don’t know. I guess I don’t really think that way. But I think it just shows the strength in our race team right now, in our organization, for Hendrick Motorsports. I’ve won, but really all four of us have been really good at all those styles, too.
I think it says a lot for the Playoffs and stuff like that. But, like I’ve said every week now in here, it’s still a lot of racing left to go, a lot of opportunity for other teams to get better, and even for us to get better. Just got to keep working hard.
Q: Today’s win tied you on NASCAR’s all time wins list with Sterling Marlin. There’s such a great history of great racers in middle Tennessee, the Nashville area. Anybody in particular that you admired up through the ranks?
KYLE LARSON: I don’t know. When I got to race at Ganassi, I heard a lot of Sterling Marlin stories, funny ones, from McMurray, probably that I can’t really talk about (smiling).
I guess I did get to think of Sterling. I heard he always would stay at the hotels. He’d bring a motorhome, but stay in a hotel in town. I stayed in a hotel this week. Maybe we channeled some inner Sterling Marlin and got a win this week.
I think with him being at Ganassi, me being there, he would be the one I admired a little bit.
Q: The moment where the final restart happens, Cliff is saying you have to save three laps of fuel, you get the debris on the front grille, how did you manage that part of the race there?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I knew we needed to save fuel even before he ever kind of told me to. I was kind of starting to back my entry up, be easy on the throttle on exit. He was able to realize what I was doing, kind of coached me on doing a little bit more of it.
Yeah, there was paper and plastic flying all over the track all day long. There was a few times throughout the race where I got trash in the grille, would have to tuck up, get it off. Thankfully it never landed in a spot where my temps rose quickly. They just slowly rose.
That last time it got to where it was starting to get too hot, was able to get it off quick. Was a little bit stressed out then. But I was saving, could pay attention through my mirror, still realize I was still pulling away.
Q: Seems like you and Cliff never lost your composure. Does that speak to your working relationship?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, definitely. Cliff’s a great leader. He’s really good at I feel like communicating and keeping everybody informed, keeping you calm that way.
So, yeah, when you are saving fuel, it feels like you’re going way slow. It’s easy to calm yourself down that way, at least for me. I was calm and just trying to count the laps down, hoping that a caution wouldn’t come out because I knew strategy would get crazy like it did at the ends of the stages. I didn’t know what the call was going to be if a caution came out, but also trying to plan ahead, stuff like that.
Yeah, thankfully it played out like we needed and we got the win.
Q: Does all the racing help you at a place like here?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I think all the racing helps for everything. I win a Cup race, it helps me for dirt racing.
I think, too, even though it’s different race cars, looking at the driver telemetry data and stuff helps when I go race a sprint car, as well, even though they’re different cars. I can kind of imagine a line in my head of what I’m doing in the sprint car. I think that helps me.
Then, too, I think just racing a lot. I’m in racing situations more than anybody else in the world really, but especially in Cup. I think that helps me stay sharp, it helps me be aggressive, it helps me understand what things are doing, tracks changing, stuff like that.
Too, I think you’re just getting into a rhythm and staying in a rhythm, where none of these guys are going to get back in a car until Saturday. I think it’s a big advantage for me to be in a car multiple times throughout the week.
THE MODERATOR: Kyle, congratulations. Thank you for the time with the media. Good luck for the rest of the season.
KYLE LARSON: Thanks a lot.
CLIFF DANIELS (CREW CHIEF, NO. 5 VALVOLINE CAMARO ZL1 1LE) AND RICK HENDRICK (OWNER, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS) PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
THE MODERATOR: We’ll get started with our post-race press conference here today. Winner of today’s Ally 400, NASCAR Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway. The winning car owner is none other than Mr. Rick Hendrick.
Interesting stat we saw on the board that now six of the last 13 venues that have opened, a Hendrick Motorsports car has won. Goes back to Indianapolis, Auto Club Speedway, Kansas with Jeff Gordon, and of course the Daytona road course and COTA with Chase Elliott, here today with Kyle Larson.
Talk about today’s race, Kyle, unbelievable job by the entire 5 team.
RICK HENDRICK: I thought he was good in practice. I thought all our cars were pretty good in practice. He did an awesome job. Cliff called an exceptional race. Pit crew did their job. It was pretty flawless all day long.
They’ve been in full stride here for the last seven, eight weeks. Really all year. But it’s good to finish it off. I wish William had had a little bit of gas that we could have went 1-2 again.
We’re happy to be here. I love this place. I love the crowd. It felt like old times. Fans excited. I got trapped trying to get in. But it just felt good. It felt like we were back years ago with the fans excited, shoulder to shoulder.
Really proud of this guy. He’s worked hard. They’ve all brought good cars. Glad to get this win.
THE MODERATOR: We’re also joined by Cliff Daniels, the crew chief for the No. 5 machine.
Cliff, how worried were you at the end of the race, could you make it on gas, could you not? How much was ate worry for you?
CLIFF DANIELS: Yeah, definitely a concern. Kyle knew going into the race, he and I talked about so many different strategies, even the caution coming out late, if we had to take rights or stay out.
Actually one of the last questions he asked me before he walked out of the truck was what a fuel run was, what would be a scenario to save fuel. I kind of walked him through potential scenarios.
We didn’t know how the race was going to play out like here in Nashville. Hats off to the folks at Nashville Superspeedway. What a great crowd, what a great race. Really cool atmosphere being here.
Definitely concerned at the end of the race, but Kyle kind of owned what he needed to do to save fuel, got us to the end. He did a great job on track. Pit crew did a great job. Thanks to Valvoline, hendrickcars.com, everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet. What a cool day.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions.
Q: Rick, to see the 5 car have so much success, we all know what that number means, what does that mean personally for you for Kyle to come out here and show everybody that he is one of the greatest drivers out here?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, you know, when I thought about it this year, the 5 was our first number. I was super excited to bring it back. Then to run Ricky’s paint scheme on it, that was kind of like icing on the cake. Then to see the car run like it does, and Kyle do the job, Cliff do the job he’s doing, yeah, it’s super exciting for me to see all of the cars go.
But the 5 was the first number. Almost didn’t get through the year. Now to be here and have this many victories, to see that car back on track, it never gets old.
I mean, I get nervous toward the end we’re going to run out of fuel, there’s going to be a caution, all those things that I go through. What is it, 270 times now?
CLIFF DANIELS: I think 271.
RICK HENDRICK: Well, I’m old. I can’t keep up with it.
Every time that the car’s on the track, I think back to Geoff Bodine, I think Harry Hyde. I think about the little shop on the hill. I think about how I was renting transmissions, rear-end, all those things. I don’t think I had 200, 300 thousand dollars to start.
I think back to those days, kind of reminisce how hard it was, then how lucky I’ve been to have the talent that I’ve had, the drivers I’ve had. It’s just been unreal.
I was talking to Richard Petty. I said, I remember getting an autograph from you. I never thought I’d get to go in the pits, let alone have a team. Then we talked about the fact that he backed out on me (smiling). Maybe he had enough championships.
No, it means a lot. I think about all the people along the way. I still kept Harry’s shop just like it is with equipment in it. I can go up there and walk through there. It’s like going back in time.
Q: Cliff, this is the closest thing to a plug-and-play situation in racing. You take a good driver, put him in a new team, it takes a year or so for everyone to gel. You hit the ground running. You tell Kyle on the radio, I like what you’re doing, keep doing that. Is there ever a moment when you don’t like what you see out of Kyle? We haven’t heard a lot of it.
CLIFF DANIELS: The first answer is no, not at all. The second answer would be, I’m so thankful to the group that we have back at the shop. We do a lot of prep work every week, all teams do, right? But Kyle really owns his time to come to the shop, just to dig into the notes with us. Obviously there’s not a whole lot of notes for Nashville, other than testing notes years ago. But Kyle has a great routine of how he preps for a race.
Something I’ve tried to do this year is to really understand the dirt world a lot more than I ever used to. I grew up in asphalt, late model guy. I’ve exposed myself a lot more to the dirt this year because of Kyle. Just to learn how to speak his language so that when we get in these situations, I can understand his feedback better, what he sees for a track, what he sees for a car. There’s no denying his talent is 10 out of 10 right now.
Our job and my job is to make sure that he sees all the notes and all the perspective of a race just for how to manage a race, if you get behind, how do you get ahead, what different strategies can play out, things like that.
Not only is he an amazing talent, he’s also very, very smart behind the wheel of understanding what is going on with other racers around him, if somebody is off sequence, if we’re off sequence, what does that look like. He does such a good job.
We’re kind of in sync going into a race because the prep time we put in during the week. I think if we weren’t able to do that, then it would just be a tougher learning curve.
Sounds crazy to say, but we’re still learning each other every week. Couldn’t be more thankful for what we have now.
Q: Mr. H, in the past you’ve had reluctance to let your drivers go out of and do other disciplines. Kyle has done way more than I thought he would ever do with you. What was that initial conversation like? Does him having success allow him to say, We’re going to keep this rolling?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, I’ve let Chase do races, and Alex. I basically told them, If you get hurt, I got to put somebody in the car.
I think as we get closer in the Playoffs, I think we’ll slow some of it down. But Cliff and I have talked about it. It makes him better to drive all these different cars, especially those high-horsepower cars on dirt.
The one thing that Cliff has talked to me about is he spends as much time or more time than any other driver in the shop. If he wants to race, he’s got this as a priority. I mean, he digs and digs and digs. It’s all he thinks about.
I think he’s happier. I want him happy. I don’t want him hurt. I’ve kind of given up on these guys wanting to drive. The crew chiefs and I have talked about it. They think it’s good. The safety deals are better. I’ve told them all they can drive what they want to.
Q: Mr. H, last Cup race in Nashville was won by the No. 5 with Geoff Bodine. What do you remember from that victory?
RICK HENDRICK: I got the coolest guitar. I got a Chet Atkins limited edition. It’s the prettiest guitar in my collection. I just remember how unbelievable that was. I still can’t believe we won three races that year. It just blows my mind from the start.
Yeah, Nashville’s a great place to race. It’s a great city. If I didn’t live in Charlotte, I’d want to live here, so… I’m a country music fan. I was hanging out with Brad today. We’ve been buddies for a long time.
It’s special to come back and compare these two. I don’t get the guitar this time. Do we get a duplicate guitar?
THE MODERATOR: You can get anything you want, Mr. H.
RICK HENDRICK: I’ll put that beside my other guitar.
Q: You had Valvoline on the race car. Third race this season that a non Hendrick company has been on the car. How is the interest in Kyle going from companies?
RICK HENDRICK: It’s a lot of interest. But my guys don’t want to take ‘Hendrick’ off the car. All the dealerships, they’ve got all kinds of promotions. Valvoline has been a great sponsor for us for a long time. We’ve had a lot of interest. It’s growing every day.
We want to wait for the right deal. We don’t want to take a piecemeal deal because I think it’s worth more to me than to do that. But it’s tremendous interest in Kyle. A lot of companies are telling me they appreciate me giving him the chance. Some of them are ready to spend some money, just not enough.
Q: If he keeps winning this way, why doesn’t hendrickcars.com sponsor him?
RICK HENDRICK: I think we’re getting real close to that (smiling). I keep jacking the price up to the automotive group and they haven’t said no yet, so…
Q: Rick, a couple weeks ago you were asked if you could compare Kyle Larson to any driver you’ve had in the past. You said Tim Richmond. Now we’re looking at Kyle’s third win in a row, because the All-Star Race. We don’t know where the ceiling is yet. How much do you start to think about that summer of ’86, with Tim winning six times, Pocono through the Southern 500?
RICK HENDRICK: I just remember how talented Tim was. He enjoyed it. He was fearless. He did things with the car. Like qualifying at Charlotte, he would tell me when I run four laps, I’m going to graze the bumper on the wall every lap. He’d sit on the pole, but he’d take the paint off the right rear bumper qualifying four times.
I mean, he was fun. I think he would have been an awesome champion. I don’t know when you look at Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, all of the guys that love to race, just excited to get in the car, he just reminds me a lot of Tim.
Q: Cliff, after all the talk of cording tires during the tire test a few months ago, what kind of tire wear did you see with your car today?
CLIFF DANIELS: I thought Goodyear brought a great tire. Our tires never had cords, never had any edges worn out or anything like that. A tire, when you can race hard, has two seconds of falloff or more over a run, the drivers get to slip and slide around. It looked to me like guys that pushed their stuff really hard, you could kind of back off, cool it down, make another run.
I thought the track, the way the resin application went down, was great because we had multiple lanes you could race at any point of the race. You had guys that were fast on the bottom, guys that were fast on the middle, or even up top. That’s what we want to see from a racing standpoint when we come to any track really, especially a new track.
Hats off to the track. Hats off to Goodyear. I thought it was great.
Q: Cliff, fair or not, maybe a knock against Kyle at times is not being able to finish off races where he’s been dominant. Are there certain things that are starting to come in place that’s allowing that to happen? He was calm when you were telling him about fuel mileage, the grille issue.
CLIFF DANIELS: Yeah, I mean, I don’t remember every scenario over the past for races that maybe he didn’t finish out after he led a lot of laps.
Speaking to our year, there’s been races where we led laps, we haven’t gotten the job done. We took that very personal, right? We took it on the chin, went back to work at the shop. Really looked at the way the whole race played out from changes or communication that we had earlier in the race to what did we need to improve to really execute at the end.
Fortunately things are going well right now. I cannot say enough about our pit crew and the road crew, the guys back at the shop. They’re building fast race cars. The guys are doing a great job on pit road. Having such strength of a team behind us almost makes that easier so then we can hone in on those fine details to make sure I make the right call, to make sure he gives the right feedback, makes the right moves on a restart. A lot of it is circumstantial. That’s when you need to make the right decision and move.
Q: Rick, with this run, the wins, the top twos, the last six weeks, this is something that is Jimmie Johnson-esque, Jeff Gordon-esque. How do you view that? Do you see it in those terms with what he’s doing? I think last time Jimmie won four in a row was in ’07.
RICK HENDRICK: We’ve had a streak, but today wasn’t a very good day for the 48. They’ve been battling up there among themselves. I think this year is the best year for all four cars. We said we have one team with four cars, and they work together. Chad is in the shop. The cars are identical as we can make them. The feedback and exchange is the best I’ve ever seen between the drivers. My job is to keep it that way, not to have any feuding and fighting.
I think on par I look at William and how far he’s come, and Chase. I think that we’ve got four cars on any given race weekend we got a shot to win with them. But Kyle, he’s just ripping it up right now.
Jimmie was a lot like that. Jeff had a streak. So it’s fun when it happens. It’s a lot better than trying to go back and figure out how to get in the top 10 and the top 5.
I think they’re feeding off each other. This guy right here, he’s not taking enough credit for the hours and the videos and the work that he does. I think when I look at all the crew chiefs, I think about Ron, Chad in the shop. I think we’ve got more talent, more depth than we’ve ever had.
Q: Rick, I wanted to ask you, what are you seeing in Kyle that is allowing him to win four races in a row?
RICK HENDRICK: He’s one of the hungriest drivers that I’ve ever seen. Other than his family, he doesn’t care. I mean, that’s all he wants to do. That’s all he thinks about.
He drove some track here, drove his motorhome here, got in 12:00 at night, wasn’t it?
CLIFF DANIELS: True story.
RICK HENDRICK: He just eats, sleeps and drinks racing. He wants to win every race.
I think about him getting tired. But if you run 600 miles, go win another race that night, win two more races, his stamina is unbelievable. But I’ve never seen anybody more intense that wants to race every minute of every day, and he wants to win.
Q: Cliff, a lot of teams have brake issues. Some were choosing between short track and intermediate brakes. Did you pick short track brakes? Were there any concerns?
CLIFF DANIELS: We were short track brakes. Very, very, very conservative on everything braking, from brake tape open, our whole strategy. Unfortunately you see some of the issues out there.
We had a decision to make coming here. Our kind of process this year has led us down a conservative road in these categories. We were conservative at Darlington, we were conservative at Dover, places like that that we ran okay.
It’s tough when you go to these races, new track here, so we don’t have a data point of what the race is going to be like. Then you go to Darlington, unload, race, Dover, unload, race. I’m conservative by nature. Our nature was to try to be conservative with that. Everything held up well.
Q: Mr. H, could you talk about how much Alba Colon has been instrumental and part of the Hendrick Motorsports success.
RICK HENDRICK: She’s done an awesome job. She’s super smart. She runs a tight ship. She’s all business, too.
CLIFF DANIELS: She is, yeah.
RICK HENDRICK: She attacks things. So we’re very fortunate to have her. She’s also been of course on the GM side, so that helps us a lot when we’re talking to GM and their engineers about things we want to do. She’s special. She really works hard.
Q: Cliff, is there a weakness on the No. 5 team at this point?
CLIFF DANIELS: We’re still searching every week. We identify things on a Monday. I know Kyle’s nature, he’s going to come in and meet with us. We may do it over video conference tomorrow or Tuesday. He’s going to identify things that he can do better, I’m going to identify things I can do better. That’s the mentality of our whole team. We search a lot every week.
Guys call me sad or grumpy at the shop trying to make sure we uncover every detail that we can, just to make sure we don’t miss something. We missed a little something in qualifying today. I was sad about that. Kyle and I talked about it. We made sure we had good stuff under him for the race.
But, look, all teams are working really hard right now to make sure they can bring their best stuff to the racetrack. Our team is certainly doing that. We just have a really heightened sense of awareness. We know any point we get comfortable, that’s when the competition is really going to catch up. They’re going to do more than just catch up.
It’s amazing to have the wave that we’re riding. I can promise you we’re going to keep our foot on the gas and keep it going.
THE MODERATOR: Cliff, Mr. Hendrick, thank you so much for being here today. Congratulations on a great win.