YOU’VE FINALLY HAD A CHANCE TO GET OUT ON THE TRACK. WHAT ARE YOUR OVERALL IMPRESSIONS?
KYLE LARSON: “I think it’s awesome; everything about it. Staging outside, driving through the tunnel, getting out there – it all kind of has that grassroots feel to it a little bit. I feel like NASCAR did an amazing job with the race track and, so far, I don’t really have any comments of concern. I think that’s something good because I feel like, a lot of the time, us drivers think we’re way smarter than NASCAR (laughs) and we could have done a better job than them with whatever they were doing. Hats off to NASCAR and what they’ve done to build a race track here. I look forward to the rest of the weekend. I know it’s going to be a great event.”
CHASE ELLIOTT: “I completely agree. I don’t have anything else to add. They’ve done a nice job. Great scene. Obviously, we’re sitting up here and this is a great view. I’m not sure that we could ask for much more. Really nice work in the job of putting the race track together. Everything is super nice and well done. Props to everybody involved.”
DRIVERS SEEM TO BE APPROACHING THE RUMBLE STRIPS DIFFERENTLY. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT? CAN YOU CROSS THOSE DURING THE RACE, OR PART OF THEM? HOW’S THAT GOING TO WORK?
KYLE LARSON: “Yeah, Chase (Elliott) and I were talking in the elevator – I think NASCAR accidently probably stumbled across something pretty good because I feel like you can use it to get position on people or us it to get in their mirror a little bit to upset them in front of you to be able to get inside of them for the next corner. When you think of Martinsville (Speedway), they have the curb there and you can only get as low as the curb. But here, I feel like it’s a little bit faster to be just above it or just touching the rumble strips. But if you need to get down there, you can. I think it’s good and yes; I think we were all probably playing around with it a little bit as each practice session went on.”
KYLE, YOU MENTIONED A GRASSROOTS FEEL. AS MUCH AS EVERYTHING IS NEW HERE AND THIS IS A WHOLE NEW EVENT AND WERE IN THE NEXT GEN ERA NOW, DO YOU FEEL KIND OF AN OLD SCHOOL FEEL HERE TOO? WE’VE GOT THE GARAGE IN THE PARKING LOT. YOU GUYS ARE GOING ON THE STREET TO GET ONTO THE RACE TRACK FOR PRACTICE. WHAT’S THAT FEELING LIKE BETWEEN OLD SCHOOL AND NEW SCHOOL TODAY?
KYLE LARSON: “I don’t know. I can’t speak of old school, but like I’ve ran the Gateway Dirt Nationals in St. Louis; similar to this. Or when I ran the Indy midget race, when they had that at the basketball arena. It was similar in the logistics of you have to drive outside the building to get fuel and then come back in and get in line; stuff like that. It’s a long hike to the grandstands if you wanted to go watch. I don’t know about old school, but maybe a little bit of the throwback I guess to our K&N days, when we were pitting out from behind our trailer and stuff like that.”
ESPECIALLY FOR YOU KYLE BECAUSE YOU’RE RUNNING A LOT OF SHORT TRACKS, ARE THERE ANY SURPRISES TODAY?
KYLE LARSON: “I would say the only really surprise to me was just the amount of grip it has. I thought it was going to take until the end of practice until we got some grip. But I feel like it only took a few minutes of each session to feel like you have some grip. Especially the grip on exit, I thought was really good. You could mat the throttle fine and get good grip down the straightway. That was honestly probably the only thing that surprised me.”
“The flow of practice was really fast, too. It was kind of hectic.”
IT’S BEEN A LONG OFF SEASON AND A LOT OF STUFF WITH TESTING THE CARS. ARE YOU GUYS HAPPY TO BE BACK IN THE CARS AND WHAT ARE YOU ALL ANTICIPATING GOING FORWARD? THIS WEEKEND, YOU’RE RACING FOR THE CLASH. BUT NEXT WEEKEND, WE GO TO DAYTONA AND THINGS REALLY KICK OFF.
CHASE ELLIOTT: “For me, it’s just good to be back going. I think we all were probably kind of getting to the point with the Clash in Daytona like we need to do something. That race was kind of just going on, I feel like, to go on. It added a week of being in Daytona and I feel like it was kind of becoming all for what. Let’s make it exciting and wherever this idea originated, obviously when this was first drawn up, I’m sure there were a lot of people that probably didn’t think it was possible. But I feel like it’s added a lot of excitement. It’s given our television partners something to promote differently than just us being at Daytona for another week. Also, it gives us an opportunity to not only have more eyes on this event, which is good; but also be able to promote the Daytona 500 through this event, which in my opinion, are two probably fairly major wins for everybody sitting here and that travel across the country doing this deal.”
CHASE, YOU WERE FASTEST IN PRACTICE. HOW MUCH ROOM DO YOU THINK THERE IS FOR MORE SPEED IN THE CAR FROM WHAT YOU HAVE ALREADY?
CHASE ELLIOTT: “I felt like we could be better, for sure. And I think to Kyle’s (Larson) point, the track does kind of change a little bit as you run. You gain some grip and it seems like everybody goes a little faster the longer you run in a session. That was interesting. We were able to go through the things we wanted to change session to session and now we just need to decide where we want to land; maybe in between some of those changes that we did. But just try to make the right decisions and get yourself in a good position and try to go qualify well. I think qualifying is going to be fairly important for whether or not this is fun for you the rest of the weekend. So, we’ll see.”
GUYS WERE USING THEIR BUMPERS TO MOVE GUYS OUT OF THE WAY. WITH THIS NEW CAR, HOW FORGIVING IS IT TO MAKE THAT KIND OF CONTACT? IF YOU’RE ON THE RECEIVING END, HOW EASY WAS IT TO GET BACK GOING?
CHASE ELLIOTT: “I don’t remember getting hit or hitting anyone yet (laughs).”
KYLE LARSON: “Yeah, same with me. I haven’t yet. But it looks like on TV, it seems the same as before.”
CHASE ELLIOTT: “Like a Martinsville-type impact. It looked a lot like that. But again, I’m not one hundred percent sure.”
KYLE LARSON: “I do feel like though, if you’re fast enough, you don’t really have to because you have room to pass people now. With the rumble strips, you don’t have to use it like you would at Martinsville. Which you don’t have to at Martinsville either, but I think you could honestly use it less here.”
WHAT SPEEDS DID YOU REACH DURING YOUR PRACTICE SESSIONS AND WHAT SPEEDS DO YOU EXPECT TO REACH TOMORROW DURING THE RACE?
CHASE ELLIOTT: “I think about 70 – 75 mph; somewhere in there. Probably top speed averaging probably 65 or something like that. Probably as slow as 40 or 35. I don’t know; pretty slow. But you don’t have to go fast to put on good racing either.”
DO YOU KNOW HOW YOU’RE GOING TO PASS SOMEBODY YET? CAN YOU GO INSIDE? DO YOU GO OUTSIDE?
CHASE ELLIOTT: “I don’t think you’re going outside (laughs), in my opinion. But maybe.”
CHASE, YOUR CAR AND SEVERAL OTHER CARS HAD SCRAPS ON THE WHEEL WELLS. DID THE CAR REACT ANY DIFFERENTLY WHEN YOU SCRAP THE WALL?
CHASE ELLIOTT: “Yeah, I got the wall a little bit there off of (turn) two I think and it was a super minor touch of the wall. If we did any damage with that, then we’re going to have a long year ahead. But I’m not sure. It was a super light scrap so I don’t know.”
KYLE LARSON: “I think we all want to be part of an event. I don’t think any race is a race without it being an event. I think this is going to be an awesome event or show; whatever you want to call it with the concerts and stuff. And just the atmosphere of the crowd here and the close racing. We want to see our sport grow, so I think we’re all excited to be here and excited to be a part of the event.”
YOU GUYS HAVE OBVIOUSLY COMPETED IN A LOT OF BIG EVENTS IN THE LAST COUPLE YEARS OF YOUR CAREERS. TOMORROW IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT BECAUSE THERE’S GOING TO BE TONS OF FANS HERE AND EVERYTHING LIKE THAT, BUT THE LEAD UP SO FAR AND WHEN YOU GOT ON THE TRACK FOR THE FIRST TIME TODAY - HOW HAS THE LEAD UP FELT COMPARED TO SOME OF THE OTHER BIGGER EVENTS YOU GUYS HAVE COMPETED IN?
KYLE LARSON: “For me, I think just the anticipation to get here and just get to look at everything in person is more than probably any other NASCAR race I can think of in my past. Maybe aside from my first few Cup races I got to run – just being excited to get to the track. You’re always excited, but this is something new, different and temporary. Yes, like Chase (Elliott) mentioned, moving the Clash from Daytona to here I think just added a whole bunch of excitement for everybody involved; me especially.”
YOU WERE JUST ASKED ABOUT THE LEAD UP. HOW ABOUT THE OUTCOME? I KNOW YOU’LL PROBABLY SAY ‘IT’S A RACE, I WANT TO WIN ANY RACE’. WHAT ARE THE STAKES OF THIS RACE PERSONALLY AND IS IT IMPORTANT TO WIN IT? WHAT LENGTHS MIGHT YOU GO TO BE THE CLASH WINNER AT THE COLISEUM?
CHASE ELLIOTT: “I think it would be super cool to be the first person to win this race. I don’t think anybody would tell you anything different. Yeah, I think it would be a huge deal. Not only that, but a great way to start your year off. This is something new and exciting. I think we’re all very fortunate and lucky to even be here and be a part of it. If you’re standing on top of the mountain at the end of the day for something like this, this type of location and this type of an event – I think it is special and it should be for whoever wins.”
EVERYONE’S TIMES ARE WITHIN .9 TO 1 MPH. HOW ROUGH AND TUMBLE DO YOU THINK IT MAY GET TOMORROW?
CHASE ELLIOTT: “I think that’s skewed because the track is so small. So, if you’re faster than someone by a tenth of a second, that’s a pretty large chunk and you can really see and feel that inside the car. If a guy has a tenth on you or a half of a tenth on you, he’s going to have a fairly significant advantage over you as he catches and likely passes you.”
THOUGHTS ON A FEW ON THE FINAL PRACTICE RESULTS: JUSTIN HALEY WAS FOURTH FASTEST. LANDON CASSILL WAS EIGHTH. CODY WARE WAS THIRTEENTH. DOES THAT KIND OF SURPRISE YOU AT ALL SEEING SOME OF THE NAMES THAT AREN’T USUALLY UP FRONT TO SEE THEM UP FRONT LIKE THAT? DO YOU FEEL LIKE THAT’S THE TRACK, THE CAR – WHAT’S YOUR THOUGHTS ON SEEING THE MIX OF NEW NAMES KIND OF SHUFFLING AROUND?
KYLE LARSON: “No – I wasn’t surprised. I think it’s just a combination of probably mostly the track just being as small as it is and it just allows other people to be closer and stuff in speed. I think the car being new, too, and the first weekend in it – I think there’s still a lot of good teams with a lot of resources still trying to figure things out. Everybody is.”
“I wasn’t too surprised. I think more surprised at guys who you would expect to be really fast that weren’t. I think those are the ones that stand out more than the teams that are maybe under funded that are up to speed.”
CHASE, YOU’RE A BIG SPORTS FAN. ANY OTHER STADIUMS THAT YOU’D REALLY LIKE TO RACE INSIDE IF YOU HAD YOUR WAY?
CHASE ELLIOTT: “That’s a good one. I haven’t really ever thought about that. Like a stadium in particular, I haven’t really thought about that. But I’ve always really admired Supercross and what they do. I feel like those guys being able to race indoors and in stadiums, their product is a little more logistical to make that happen regularly. Obviously, they have a season of doing it. But I’ve always admired that and I’ve always felt like that attracted a different fan base because of it. Because it’s in a big city and it’s easy to get to. Just a little different vibe and I’ve always thought that was a really nice feel for a motorsport event to go towards for the future. I wish four-wheel racing could do more of that. Yeah, there’s great stadiums across the country that would be great to race in. But this is just not a logistically practical thing to do every week for us. We have a great product elsewhere, too, that we can massage, make really good and make successful for a long time. It’s just different. Maybe we can do this again; I don’t know. But it’s a tough thing to do each week, I feel like.”
CHASE, YOU’VE BEEN TO SOME SPORTING EVENTS AND MAJOR EVENTS. OBVIOUSLY, THERE’S A FAN EXPERIENCE AT A NASCAR EVENT, BUT ALSO A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT THAN SOME OF THESE OTHER EVENTS. YOU SEE THIS WEEKEND, WITH THE CONCERTS AND THINGS LIKE THAT, HOW MUCH MORE OF THAT CAN BE INCORPORATED THAT THIS SPORT NEEDS TO LOOK AT?
CHASE ELLIOTT: “I guess it depends on what you’re into. Like I never go to an event for the half-time show. That’s just me. I don’t go to a major sporting event for what they have scheduled on the side. So, if I was coming to this event, it would be to watch a NASCAR race and to watch a really good short track race on asphalt. That’s why I would be here. But obviously there’s going to be different opinions on that as time goes.”
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