KYLE, NOW HAVING THE ENTIRE OFF SEASON TO PROCESS BEING THE CHAMPION, HEADING INTO THIS SEASON NOW WHAT ARE THE EMOTIONS? DOES IT FEEL ANY DIFFERENT HEADING INTO THIS SEASON BASED ON WHAT YOU WERE ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH A YEAR AGO?
“No. I think it’s really easy for us to kind of move on and forget about the success that you had only a couple months ago. So, I think it is because, for me, I think you know I race so often just trying to get focused on winning the next race or winning again the next season. So, you kind of have to, you can’t really soak up what you did last year I feel like until you are done with your career someday. Just focused on this year and trying to have another solid season all around and hopefully win another championship.”
KYLE, DOING A STORY ON LAST YEAR’S ATLANTA RACE. WAS THAT AN OCCASION WHERE YOU LOSE A RACE TO WIN SOMETHING ELSE DOWN THE ROAD? A LESSON LEARNED YOU KNOW YOU WILL BE ABLE TO PROCESS AND USE TO GO TO VICTORY LANE?
“Not really. No, I mean I think you know that race in particular you know we had dominated all race long. Like dominated, dominated all race long. I think when you do that you don’t want to mess anything up. I think we probably yes, we didn’t work on our car enough throughout the race and then when I finally did have somebody in my mirror, well I wasn’t used to that. So, I’m trying to drive harder and get away from (Ryan) Blaney and just abused my tires too much. Then yeah, the flip side of things, his team was watching somebody else dominate all race long and probably continued to work on their car and got it better. Then he could probably tell he was better than me and managed better than I did, so yeah, I mean I definitely think we learned from that moving forward. I don’t know if we ever utilized that later on down the road, but that’s definitely something I think that we learned or noticed.”
YOU BEING FROM CALIFORNIA, DO YOU THINK THE LA CLASH IS GOING TO CREATE SOME MOMENTUM FOR FONTANA OR EVEN FOR THAT MATTER SONOMA? DO YOU THINK IT WILL CREATE SOME ENERGY IN THAT STATE THAT WILL PROVE BENEFICIAL FOR OTHER RACETRACKS?
“I don’t know. I hope so. I thought it was a great event and I thought there were a lot of fans there. There was, from what I heard, a lot of new fans. Well, new people going to their first ever race. Hopefully now they are fans and will go to Fontana or whatever it may be. Go to Sonoma later on in the year. I feel like the west coast races already have a lot of fans. Whenever we have ran Fontana in the past, I feel like the infield is slammed packed. It’s the best infield in my opinion that we have in our sport. The grandstands on Sunday always have a lot of people. Even Sonoma I feel like it may not look like it because it is so spread out for the road course but there’s always a lot of fans there and merchandise sales are always really good there. I don’t think the west coast needs a whole lot of help, but obviously you want it to get even bigger than it already is. Yeah, the CLASH was good. I thought it went well and hopefully there’s a lot of momentum from it now.”
I AM CURIOUS WHAT YOUR RELATIONSHIP IS WITH THE DAYTONA 500. WHAT COMES TO MIND WHEN YOU GET HERE AND YOUR THOUGHTS ON IT?
“Well, I mean it’s the biggest race in our sport. So, I want to win it and I get excited to come down here. Spend the week, get to go to Disney, get to run sprint cars and run a lot of dirt stuff nearby. Then yeah, compete in the biggest race of our year. I haven’t had much success here, so that part of it doesn’t get me too excited to show up. I was close to winning in 2017. I crossed the line coming to the white as the leader and then ran out of fuel so, that was really cool. I remember the emotions of that while I was running, like wow I could really win the 500 and then not winning it fuels me to want to win it in my future because before that race and every race since then I have been not even close. I would love to do it and hopefully I can continue to learn more about this race. I mean you could luck into winning here for sure, but I feel like I have a lot more to learn, to gain experience, to compete at the front all race long and really have a true shot of winning.”
“No, I don’t think so. For me I have chased races more than championships, so to me the priority of winning big races hasn’t changed at all. It’s more in front of you than the championship is, so yeah it doesn’t change where it ranks on my list. I still want to win this. I want to win the Southern 500 really bad. I want to win Indy. I have won the Bristol Night Race which was cool. I won the Coke 600 last year, which was cool. There’s definitely a few that I still want to win really bad.”
GOING OFF OF HOLLY’S QUESTION, EVEN IN THE LAST YEAR YOU HAVE WON (INAUDIBLE), KNOXVILLE NATIONALS, KINGS ROYAL, CHILI BOWL A HANDFUL OF TIMES AS WELL, IF YOU WERE TO ADD DAYTONA 500 TO YOUR RESUME WHERE DO YOU THINK THIS WIN WOULD RANK AMONGST THE OTHERS?
“I don’t know. I hate trying to rank races because I feel like I will always get picked apart, so I’m not going to rank it right now. Ask me where it ranks after I win it someday.”
JUST KIND OF CURIOUS YOU WERE IN A POSTIION AT GANASSI WHERE YOU RAN OK, BUT CERTAINLY DIDN’T HAVE A YEAR LIKE LAST YEAR. IS THERE A DRIVER OUT THERE WHO MAY NOT BE AT YOUR TALENT LEVEL BUT HAS POTENTIAL THAT MIGHT STAND OUT TO YOU THAT THNK IF THEY GOT IN THE RIGHT POSITION COULD ENJOY THE KIND OF SUCCESS THAT YOU’RE HAVING NOW?
“I don’t know. I think Tyler Reddick is going to have an amazing season. I think he’s been the best car at all the tests. I think he showed last week at the CLASH that he is really good. I feel when I watch him, I am watching myself just because we are both really aggressive and he seems to be even a little more aggressive and kind of keep things in control better than I could back when I was running really hard in Ganassi equipment trying to run up front. He’s the guy that I look at this year that I feel like is going to have the breakout season and win a lot of races.”
AND BOWMAN GOING AND RUNNING A 410 SPRINT CAR, JUST THE FACT THAT HE WAS ABLE TO GO TO THE WORLD OF OUTLAWS FIRST WEEKEND OUT AND QUALIFY FOR ALL THREE FEATURES PRETTY IMPRESSIVE ON HIS PART. I KNOW HE LEANED ON YOU A LITTLE BIT, BUT CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT?
“I mean I have told him a lot of times that I thought he did an amazing job. He did better than I think any of us thought he was going to do, so that was really awesome to see. He outqualified me at Volusia on the first night. Yeah, he did a good job. Quick time in the all-star race at East Bay, so with under 10 starts in a sprint car and really doesn’t have hardly any dirt racing experience in his career, he was mainly a pavement racer before he got to ARCA, he did an awesome job. You know he’s got Joe Gaerte as his crew chief, so I am familiar with Joe and his time at KLR. It was neat to see them run really good, and I am glad that he did because now he is going to be fired up to race even more and gaining experience in that.”
KYLE, WHAT IS YOUR CEILING AS A DRIVER AND HOW DO YOU THINK YOU CAN GET BETTER TO REACH THAT CEILING?
“I don’t know. I’m not sure, just I don’t want to know what my ceiling is. I don’t think any of us do. You just always continue to try, even when you get to your celling, you try to work hard to surpass it. So, I don’t know just keep trying to evolve as a racecar driver, keep racing a lot and trying to win races and just fine tuning different areas of your craft.”
KYLE, THERE HAS BEEN MORE DISCUSSION THIS WEEK ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF YOU RUNNING THE INDY 500. I REALIZE THERE ARE A LOT OF BRIDGES THAT HAVE TO BE CROSSED FOR THAT TO EVENTUALLY HAPPEN. JUST LOOKING AT THAT POSSIBILITY, WOULD YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE SORT OF PARACHUTING IN AND RUNNING THAT RACE AS YOUR FIRST INDYCAR EXPERIENCE OR WOULD YOU WANT TO PLAY AROUND IN THE CARS ELSEWHERE?
“Yeah, no I mean I think it’s too late in the game for this year. If I ever run the Indy 500, I want to be prepared. I want to show up with the feeling that I have a shot to win. I don’t want to just show up and be like oh I get to compete in the Indy 500, that is really cool. Like I want to go there and be confident and know that I have a shot to run up front. With that takes a lot of preparation, a lot of work and I don’t think that’s something you can fully get done in a few months. I mean down the road, I’d like to do it, but I want to do it when the time is right and right now in February 2022 is not the right time. I think it is something more so down the road, but I definitely want to do it someday. It was cool to read Jeff’s (Gordon) article or whatever that said they were open to it and yeah we will see.”
IN THE THREE MONTHS SINCE YOU HAVE WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP, WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY THAT YOU HAVE GOTTEN TO EXPERIENCE THAT MAYBE YOU WOULDN’T HAVE GOTTEN TO EXPERIENCE IF YOU HADN’T WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP AND SPECIFIALLY LIKE ON THE MARKETING SIDE? WHAT KIND OF MARKETING STUFF HAVE YOU MAYBE BEEN PART OF THAT YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN PART OF BEFORE?
“I didn’t really do a whole lot. We had the media day a couple of days after the championship, did a lot of interviews and stuff. Those are all so quick that you don’t really like fully pay attention to who you are doing them with. I don’t know. Honestly probably the coolest thing that I wouldn’t have ever gotten done without winning the championship was just the thing that Elk Grove did for me, my hometown, and the parade the did for me. Other than that it hasn’t been too wild. I feel like I have talked to a lot of the same people before the championship and after. Nothing was like wow that was neat.”
CAN YOU EXPLAIN, GOING BACK TO THE CLASH, THE INCIDENT WITH THE 31 BECAUSE I THINK THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE THAT WAS MORE OF AN INTENTIONAL MOVE OR SOMETHING TO PUT THE 31 IN THE WALL? JUST KIND OF HOW THAT WENT THROUGH YOUR MIND AND HOW THAT PLYAED OUT AND IF THERE WAS ANYTHING THAT NEEDED TO BE DONE AFTERWARDS AFTER REVIEWING TAPE OR ANYTHING?
“Yeah so, I will start off by saying I overreacted. So, I will play it out in my mind. I went down the backstretch and I knew he was on my outside. I got clear like late in the straightaway and the next thing I know he was running the left side of me, so you just see red really quick. Like dangit. So yeah, I was like well now I am stuck on the outside and I am about to get shuffled really far back and I am mad at you so yes, I hung a left on him. I did not want to crash him, but I wanted that inside lane for the next corner. So, I felt really bad. Instantly I felt bad that I crashed him, and he came over and talked to me after the race and I told him that I was sorry that I wrecked you. But yes, I wish I would have you know understood the racetrack that we were at and that somebody probably else shoved him into me and you know maybe I wouldn’t have overreacted as bad as I did. Yeah, definitely felt bad about that but you know it is what it is at this point, and I just have to learn from those moments. I feel like I do a really good job normally staying calm, but I think you know in that instance I didn’t, and I think probably with no points on the line probably played factor in my overreaction but yeah, I just hate that I tore up their car because of the lack of equipment that teams have right now. Nobody can really afford to be tearing stuff up at this point.
I BELIEVE IT WAS DENNY HAMLIN WHEN I ASKED EARLIER TODAY IF THE NEW CAR MIGHT SHOW US SOME SURPRISE WINNERS IN THE BEGINNING OF THE SEASON AND HE SAYS GOOD TEAMS WILL ALWAYS HAVE AN ADVANTAGE. DO YOU FEEL THAT WAY AND IF SO, WHY?
“Yeah, (INAUDIBLE), I thought that yes, maybe a Spire Motorsports could go win a race early in the year because you know we all read what the media writes, and everyone seems to say it is equal but it’s not. Your best teams are still going to be, they just have more people and smarter people with more resources to figure out quicker so yeah, being a part of that Phoenix test on the speed charts it was all the same teams up front to back like it would have been before. I think there’s teams that are a little better than they were, I think there’s teams that are a little worse than they were but for the most part it’s so far doesn’t seem too different.”
“I don’t get too involved in like, I don’t even know what they can do as far as engineering and simulation but yeah I just know that we have got hundreds of people where a lot of these race teams don’t and you know we will be able to figure out things quicker than they will.”
THIS YEAR YOU GUYS ARE LOOKING PRETTY FAST IN THE INDIVIDUAL QUALIFYING TIMES, HOW SIGNIFICANT WOULD IT BE FOR YOU TO GET YOURSELF LOCKED ON THE FRONT ROW TOINGHT AND MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A CAR READY TO GO FOR SUNDAY IF YOU DO SO?
“Yeah, I think that would be huge. I don’t think that I will be the team to compete for the front row. It sounds like our team’s more focused on getting a good handle for the race and stuff like that. Who knows? We could get a wind gust or something and get the pole and go wow, but it sounds like we are not putting all of our eggs in that basket to try to go get on the front row. I think our focus is on the race and with that I don’t think we will have the speed, single-car wise, to be on the front row.”
IN REFERENCE TO YOUR WORDS ABOUT INDY, HAVE YOU TALKED TO SAY KURT BUSCH OR TONY STEWART ABOUT WHAT IT WAS LIKE FOR THEM TO DO THE DOUBLE AND HAVE THEIR INFORMATION AFFECTED YOUR DECISION AT ALL?
“No, I have never talked to Tony about it and I don’t, honestly, remember if I have talked to Kurt about it. I am sure I have at some point while he was my teammate at Ganassi, but no I haven’t talked to anybody really about it. I’m sure once it becomes more of a reality that I could do it, I will probably talk to as many people as I can. For right now, I haven’t done my due diligence I guess and talked to other drivers who have done it.”
YOU WENT OVER TO WATCH SOME FORMULA 1. GENERAL MOTORS IS NOW ADDING FORMULA 1, THEY RUN ALL YEAR NOW. WHAT WOULD IT TAKE FOR YOU TO GET A TEST IN F1?
“I don’t know. I am guessing millions of dollars and a lot of luck. It was a big realization when I went there that I feel like the rest of the world doesn’t care a whole lot about American auto racing. That was pretty eye opening. I would love the opportunity for sure. I think those are amazing racecars and the lifestyle they get to live is really cool, so yeah I would love to do it. I would love to have a test someday. It’s just not viewed, what we do is not viewed as big as the rest of the world what I think is cool.”