Sunday, Mar 26

Transcript: Kyle Larson and Cliff Daniels - Homestead Miami Speedway

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by the crew chief of the race-winning car, which was the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Cliff Daniels.

Q. I guess the big question is what was the speech that Kyle referred to and that you gave the team that really seemed to make a difference to them?

CLIFF DANIELS: Yeah, it was pretty colorful. If you look at the 5 car throughout the course of the season, we've had great cars. So on performance, we have not been down. It's been execution. It's execution from me, the guys on pit road, Kyle at times, and we've had so many fast cars that I've been getting frustrated showing up at the racetrack knowing that we're going to have another fast car, and even having a sliver of doubt of our execution -- because I know that our team when we're at our full potential, we have a lot of potential.

I went through our playoffs and how many mistakes that we've made since the start of the playoffs and how many of those things have been in our hands that we have had control over, and we just haven't -- as a team and really it start with me, we haven't done a great job of grasping.

My words today were focus and discipline, and it takes a lot of focus and a lot of discipline to run the fence for all the laps that he did, and it takes a lot of focus and discipline to go through seven or eight pit stops like we did today, and the guys had a phenomenal day on pit road.

That was really the moral of it, because he knows we've had great race cars, I know we've had great race cars, and for whatever reason, somewhere along the way, it's been a little mistake over here in this department.

Then we'd fix that and we'd come back over here and have a little mistake over here, over here, over here, and we just needed a day to get it all right, and finally we did.

THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by the driver of the No. 5, Kyle Larson. This win today puts the No. 5 in the owner's championship for Phoenix.

Q. Cliff, I guess both of you, what does this win mean after the last two weeks, being eliminated at the Roval and obviously what happened last week?

CLIFF DANIELS: It means a lot. It means a lot to the team, because like I was just alluding to, we have such a core group and a lot of strength in our group. I told them all today, if we do our job, at our worst we're going to be really good, and if we do our job, at our best we're going to be great. So that's the window, really good to great, if we would just do our job, and we did today.

It means a lot to everybody at Hendrick Motorsports who have been giving us fast race cars all year long. I know it means a lot to Mr. H. I don't think it quite sank into him yet when we were talking about it in Victory Lane that we were locked into the owner's deal in Phoenix.

But yeah, the Roval was disappointing to get knocked out of the driver championship. But to have the reflection on the team be that we're still in it, we've had a very character-building year, and we've had to be tough through the adversity and learn from our mistakes to still be in it and have a lot is pretty special.

Q. Will you approach next week like you're racing for a championship?

KYLE LARSON: I mean, the championship race isn't in Martinsville. I don't know. Go in there and try to win another one, I guess. Try and have a great day, which I haven't had many of them at Martinsville, but I feel like we had a good test there a couple months back.

I don't know, it's a difficult place for me. I would love to just honestly not set my goals that high but realistic, and I think a top 5 is realistic.

I think our team is obviously capable of it. Our car is capable of it. Just got to put together 500 good laps and a good rhythm. That's where I struggle is just -- it takes me a minute to get into a rhythm, and it's just a difficult place.

Glad that we were able to win today. Like last year, we won the first race this round, and then today we won this race of this round. Haven't had to quite worry about Martinsville.

Yeah, thankful for that, and too, with the bad points day that we had last week, as well, I felt -- not that we were in a must-win to make it to the owner's title part of it, but we needed to have a great day, and we were able to win both stages and didn't want to screw that up at the end of this race, either.

But I knew winning was going to be the most important thing to not have to worry about next week.

Q. I meant Phoenix; when you go to Phoenix are you going to be thinking championship?

KYLE LARSON: Oh, yeah. Duh.

CLIFF DANIELS: Yeah, we're in.

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I view myself as -- if I say we were to win Phoenix, like my name isn't going to be on the championship, but having our team be the champion I think is honestly better than -- like I would hate to be in Ryan Blaney's position. I think he's the one that's only in on driver, not owner. I would hate to be in his position, and say he wins the championship and he is credited with a championship but not his team.

If I was to have it one way or the other, I would rather be out on my end and be able to celebrate the team championship.

I'm happy that we get to go compete for that again, and honestly that's the paycheck, too. We're going to go for that, and we're fired up about it.

Q. Kyle, the incident with Martin on pit road from your perspective, what happened?

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, from my perspective, I'm just running my pit road speed. I'm running my lights. I'm trying to stay on those as consistent as I can. I think I had a few feet from my front bumper to his rear bumper.

Usually you peel off and you're still in the gas until you've got -- the guy has got a lane to go by. He started to peel off and then all of a sudden he like slammed on the brakes. I hit him. I didn't really have any time to react, I was so close to him.

I didn't know at the time if he was trying to get me to check up and play games or anything, but it sounded like he just misjudged where his pit stall was.

This is the hardest pit road to find your pit stall when it gets to that time of day. The sun is about straight in your eyes. You've got debris all over your windshield. I've missed my pit stall here before because of that. So I assume that's probably what happened.

I haven't heard his comments or anything, but I hope that's what happened because -- I mean, I'm just running my pit road lights. They're not counting me into his pit stall, so I'm just trying to maintain what I'm doing, and he got to the brakes really hard.

I hate that I spun him because he had a great day going and a great car, but just unfortunate.

Q. You wear that Hendrick Motorsports thing proud, but when you talk about competing for the owner's championship and all that, do you often think about the great drivers that have passed through like Jeff Gordon, and the list goes on, and how you're trying to keep that continuity and that tradition that that brand holds?

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, definitely. What is it, I think Rick is going for his 14th or 15th championship as a team owner? 15th. That's remarkable. That's obviously a great feat in itself being where he's at currently. He's got four great drivers, four great teams that he can be confident in that can go chase to win a championship.

Yeah, I'm happy that we are locked in to try and bring him his 15th. It means a lot, too.

He's got such a successful history in this sport, and when you think of team owners and teams, Hendrick Motorsports is the bar. They are the best team. It's an honor to race for him and everything that they have built.

I hope that I can do my part to bring him his 15th.

Q. Kyle, I talked to several drivers post-race and they said when you get up against the wall like you do and get hooked up, you are gone. We saw that kind of today. Ross and AJ, they couldn't catch you. What is it about this track and the way you drive, because sometimes obviously you get into the wall and it doesn't work out, but it paid off today.

KYLE LARSON: Well, I think today honestly it paid off because I finally have a car strong enough for me. I can get in the wall and it's not going to flatten your tire or mess up your aerodynamics.

I got in the wall probably three or four times today a decent amount to where it would have been, with the old car, probably a pit stop, and I would have killed my race.

Thankfully this car, I think, played into my favor a lot because I do push the limits more than others. You can see it in the right side of my car. That's pretty obvious.

But yeah, it's just a fun track. It honestly reminds me so much of Eldora, both ends of the racetrack. They're different. You're running the wall, but they're exactly the same to Eldora. 1 and 2 and Eldora, you run through -- if you run into the wall it runs through a point where it's really sharp. 3 and 4 is more sweeping. But same thing. The closer you can enter the wall, typically the faster you can go.

I would say myself and Reddick and Noah in the Xfinity Series kind of have a feel for it, and it helps, too, when you have a great car. My car was amazing up against the wall. It also has to handle how you want it to.

It did everything I wanted it to against the wall. The ride quality was great into 3. It turned where I needed it to turn on entry so I could carry speed. It turned on exit so I could just stay committed to the throttle. It wasn't too loose on exit or too tight where I had to bail out of the throttle at all.

It was a good car to go along with the comfort, I guess, that I have up there.

Q. I want to talk about really that last caution that happened with roughly 21 laps to go where you were trying to chase down Martin Truex Jr. to the end. Once that caution came out, were there any adjustments, and if so, what kind of adjustments were those?

KYLE LARSON: You should ask Cliff that.

Q. Well, behind the wheel at least.

KYLE LARSON: Small air pressure, I think, adjustments. It didn't really feel like it did much for me. I was thankful for the caution because honestly, Ross let me go, and I was very thankful for that.

I thought I was going to be able to catch Martin pretty quickly. I was looking at my lap times and running really strong lap times. I was running teens and 20s and a few 30s against the wall, and that was better than I was running all race long. I was like, man, if I keep this pace up, I'll catch him quick.

It seemed like I was probably only catching him a half a tenth or less a lap. I don't think I would have been able to get to him and pass him. Was happy for the caution, just to give ourselves an opportunity for a restart and things to happen. Good pit stop, coming out the leader, get to pick the lane you want to pick, and yeah, it just worked out.

Just grateful for a fast car and the caution when it came out.

Q. It's your first win at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series. What does that mean for you, especially at a track that you really do relatively well at?

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I mean, it means a lot. I don't know what my career laps led is here, but it's got to be close to 1,000 laps led in the Cup Series, maybe 800 or so. Throw in the Xfinity Series, probably well over 1,000. That's pretty remarkable I feel like for somebody under 10 years of Cup experience.

Yeah, I haven't gotten the win. Whether it be just -- I've got a list of excuses of why I've never won here, but hey, it doesn't matter. Got it done today, and I think it makes it feel even more special, too, that I've had to wait since -- I think I ran my first Homestead Cup Series race here in 2013. Going on close to 10 years, nine years, I guess, since my first time here.

Yeah, I love this place. Here and Bristol are by far my favorite tracks. They're by far my most successful tracks, too, as far as laps led goes.

Glad that I can add my name to the winners' list finally. I wish the boat, though, was still part of the win, but I guess it's not.

Q. Kyle, you talk about this being one of your favorite tracks, but once upon a time, this was a very flat track when I was here a while back. Can you imagine what it would have been like if you had raced on an entirely different track versus what you are on now?

KYLE LARSON: I think that was way before my time, so I'm glad I never had to race on that, just because I feel like this track suits my style a lot. I honestly haven't even probably seen a lap of this track before it was reconfigured to this or any highlights or anything. I'd heard that it was kind of like Indianapolis, which I enjoy Indy. I had always ran good there when I would run the Brickyard 400.

But this place just suits my style. I love tracks that have two straightaways, progressive banking and a wall that you can run. I wish there was more of these places on our circuit. It would benefit me. But that's kind of selfish.

But no, I hope they never repave this place, either. It's perfect. It's perfect, and it continues to get better.



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