– Kyle Larson is with us now, and they were just talking in studio about the Clash on Sunday and that final lap. So what do you chalk that up to? Is it the bumpers not matching up, or is it just last-lap aggression, Kyle?
– I don’t know. You know, I felt like I had tried to hit him as square as I could. You know, maybe I didn’t hit him exactly, 100% square, but definitely, as soon I got to him, it turned him sideways. So I’ll just have to be extra careful about that probably the rest of the week.
– You know, I feel like I’m fairly cautious when it comes to superspeedway racing of not pushing and stuff like that, because I always get an uneasy feeling when people are pushing me. So I can only imagine what they’re feeling when I’m pushing them. But my car was a handful on Sunday, so we’ve got some work to do.
– You were doing a lot of this.
– My hands weren’t moving, but my car was moving a lot.
– You know, Kyle, looking back at last year, I know the playoffs were not kind to you, but I mean, across the board, four wins, eight second-place finishes. You even finished second in the All-Star race at Charlotte. I mean, that’s over a third of the races, top-two finishes. That is a pretty strong year.
– Yeah, that was a solid year for us, and, you know, I did the math, and I think I ran like 71 races or something, and I was in the top two like 50% of them, throughout all of my racing. So I had a lot of seconds in sprint car stuff as well, but, for sure, one of my best seasons I’ve ever had. Especially in NASCAR, it was my best season yet. So hopefully, I can do the same this year, and if not, you know, a little bit better and turn some of them second places into wins. But definitely, you know, if we can make the playoffs, I hope to have a little more, you know, stress-free playoffs.
– I’ve said it all along. Just get him to Homestead. Just get him to Homestead.
– I’ve been saying that the last, you know, ever since I’ve started Cup racing, really. So if we can just put together a nice nine races, I feel like we’d have a great shot at Homestead
– You mention the playoffs, though, and you did nothing wrong. You put yourself in position to be successful, have a chance to win the title, and then just a run of bad luck absolutely at the worst possible time. But given the way 2017 ended, what does that do to your thought process as we go into 2018 starting Sunday in the Daytona 500?
– Honestly, I don’t even really think about what happened in the playoffs. I’m just ready to get going. I know our race team and myself, you know, we could kind of taste that championship a little bit last year throughout the whole season, so I think that makes everybody at the race shop a little more motivated and myself more motivated to make this year just as good, if not better. So I’m just ready to get going and get racing, get the 500 in, and then, you know, kind of get to the heart of our schedule and get to the mile-and-a-halfs and stuff, where you can, you know, see how the rest of your season’s going to be.
– Kyle, I know you can’t dwell on the past, and I know all you can do is drive that race car. You can’t calculate fuel mileage. You can’t do any of those things from where you’re sitting. But what were your thoughts one year ago when you did take that white flag leading the Daytona 500.
– Well, when I took the white flag leading, I was, like, man, I remember in my mind, I was like, I can’t believe I am winning or leading the Daytona 500 right now.
– And the white flag waving.
– And looking in my mirror, and like, I don’t think they can pass me. Like, I’m going to win. And as soon as I thought that, it was like, ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba. Ah, dang it. So that was disappointing, for sure, but it was still, in my position, you know, I’ve never been close to really winning a superspeedway race. So to be able to lead the 500, you know, coming to the white flag was a cool feeling. And hopefully, someday, I can get the chance to win the 500. But that was cool last year but also disappointing when I did run out.
– You haven’t won a plate race, but you have been successful with it and spent some time at the front. How much of that do you attribute to your teammate Jamie McMurray, who, as we know, is really good and has won both the Daytona 500 and also at Talladega?
– Really good and really aggressive, too, I might add.
– Yeah, he’s super aggressive at the superspeedway races. But, yeah, you know, I’ve learned a lot off Jamie, not only here but short tracks, especially. Even mile-and-a-halfs and stuff, where I feel like I’m good at, I can always lean on Jamie if I’m struggling for anything. So he’s a great teammate, but, for sure, you know, when I first got– my first couple of years, I had no idea what was going on on superspeedways. So I could talk to him quite a bit and watch him, you know, because our cars drive similar and all that. So he’s an awesome teammate and always love working with him.
– Your career was kind of here in ’14 as a rookie, and it just keeps stair-stepping up, and Larry recited the numbers from 2017. If you take the next step this year, it’s going to be a magical campaign. All the best, and thanks for being with us, OK?
– Yeah, thank you. I hope so. It’s a lot of opportunity, for sure.