On Sunday, Kyle Larson turned in a dominating performance at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway and held off a hard-charging Joey Logano on a late-race restart to claim his first-career NASCAR national-level win in the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 Camping World Truck Series race. The victory came in only his fifth-career Truck Series start and his 11th across all NASCAR national series. On Monday afternoon, Larson participated in a NASCAR teleconference to talk about his impressive win. Here’s a transcript.
Q. I noticed that you’re saying you finally got the monkey off your back and all that. How does it feel to be fighting the veteran for a win?
KYLE LARSON: I enjoy it. I think it’s good that we’re able to race with Sprint Cup guys that have a ton of experience. It’s only better for us young guys that are trying to gain experience and stuff like that. We can learn a ton off racing with those guys. It makes it better for our resume or our career or whatever when we go out there and beat them or race hard with them. So I like racing with them.
I’m glad that with the Nationwide Series that we get to race with so many of them. I think it helps me learn a lot.
Q. I was wondering if you could talk about how NASCAR’s Drive 4 Diversity helped you, what exactly were the benefits and steps that helped enable you to get where you are right now?
KYLE LARSON: Well, it helped with getting me exposure in NASCAR in a series like the K&N East Series, and also being able to race on tracks that I’ll be running on this year. We got to go to Iowa, New Hampshire, Richmond, Darlington — not Darlington, but Dover, and tracks like that. It helps us gain experience.
It was my first year racing stock cars too, so it helped all around with driving and introducing me to all the media that I’ll hopefully be having to do in my future. So it was good for me.
Q. I know it’s only a few races in the Nationwide Series so far, but I’m curious to know because there are a lot of Cup guys that run in the Nationwide, but has it been more difficult than you expected, less difficult than you expected? Talk about the first few races?
KYLE LARSON: It’s been about as difficult as I had expected. I know it’s going to be tough to get wins and even Top 5s. So I’m not expecting to go out there and every week get Top 5s and wins. I understand how tough it is. Just trying to take it and learn as much as I can racing with those guys. Hopefully, by the end of the year when I’ve learned a lot more I can be challenging for Top 5s and wins. But right now I understand how tough it is. Like I said, hopefully I’ll learn more and can get better.
Q. I remember back during Speed Week you had won several races up until you got to Daytona and while you were at Daytona. Do you know how many wins you have since we got into 2013?
KYLE LARSON: Right now I have eight wins. Two in New Zealand, one at Chili Bowl, the USAC Midget Race at New Smyrna, the Late Model races, the Battle at the Beach, a World of Outlaws win at Stockton, California, or I don’t know what they’re calling that track. Last week I won a 360 Sprint Car race, and this weekend at Rockingham, so I think that’s eight.
Q. Are you going to continue to do these dirt track races and sprint kind of races and midget races, or are you just going to focus now on stock cars?
KYLE LARSON: Definitely not. I’m going to try to race as much as I can. A lot of people probably think I should focus on Nationwide or whatever, but I think the more you’re in a race car, the more you’re learning. So that’s kind of how I’ve been the last couple years.
I mean, you see Tony Stewart, and he’s off racing Sprint cars whenever he can. He still runs good. So, yeah, I learn something every time I’m in a race car. So I just keep trying to learn as much as I can, and race as much as I can.
Q. As far as all of the winning that you’ve done, how do you approach racing with staying grounded and not getting too swept up in your own success?
KYLE LARSON: I don’t know. I always try to stay humble. Not get too carried away or get too cocky or anything like that, because I know these opportunities don’t come very often and you can lose them in the blink of an eye. So just stay humble and just understand that it’s tough. I don’t know.
I’ve just always been pretty humble. I don’t know. My parents have taught me to stay grounded and stuff like that. So I don’t know. I think it’s been good for me and good for my career so far.
Q. And you beat a guy like Joey Logano who obviously is a veteran. But he came along and he was sliced bread. He was coming along and came along at a very young age and got in at a good level like you are doing. Can you take a lot, do you think, from Joey Logano?
KYLE LARSON: Well, he came up really fast, and kind of struggled the first couple years he ran Cup. So, hopefully — it’s hard. It seems like I’ve kind of taken a quick route to where I’m at now like he did. So hopefully it goes well for me and stuff.
But I think Joey’s done a great job the past couple of years and he’s been doing really, really good this year. It’s good. People have called me the next sliced bread. So I guess that’s good for me.
Q. Was it kind of a cool experience for you as a young guy to get your first national win at a track like Rockingham, which is so old and has so many unique, historical features?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, it was cool to win at Rockingham with how much history it has. How cool a racetrack it is too. It’s a really fun racetrack. The driver is really important there. You can do a lot as a driver to make your car better. It’s a lot of fun to drive there.
It was really special too because we had Autism Speaks on the truck. And my crew chief, Trent Owen’s son, his five-year-old son, Gray, has autism. And I know it’s special for him, and it felt good for me to be able to win for Trent, and also give Turner Scott Motorsports their first win of the season.
Q. I was curious if you had gotten a call or text or something like that from any of the Drive for Diversity guys you’ve known or any Cup guys you’ve met over the years?
KYLE LARSON: I got a lot of texts saying good job and stuff like that. But there are a few drivers that said good job and stuff, so it was nice.
Q. Some of the drivers yesterday, and I believe one was Timothy Peters, said that he would like to see tires fall off even more. When it comes to tires, do you like that or do you prefer one that doesn’t have hardly any falloff?
KYLE LARSON: No, I think the more falloff, the better the racing is. I don’t know. The better driver can maintain their tires longer and can do better. So I think it makes the racing more exciting. I think there will be more passing, and a little bit different strategies and stuff kind of like what you saw with Joey at Rockingham. He was able to save the set of tires and kept cautions just right and almost beat me at the end.
So I think it makes it a little bit more exciting, but it’s hard. Racetracks now, there are a lot of them that are getting repaved, so it’s hard to get tire wear. So I know Goodyear is probably working on their tires and stuff to make the racing even better. I think the racing has been pretty good this year, so I think they’ve done a good job.
Q. Secondly, with this weekend being an off week for you in the Nationwide Series, maybe just talk about some of the races you’ll be running this week and next week?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, this weekend I’ll go race with the World of Outlaw Sprint cars on Friday night at Paducah, Kentucky. Then Saturday at Haubstadt, Indiana. Then we might go to another Sprint Car race Sunday in Jacksonville, Illinois. So getting three races in this weekend which is nice.
Q. Just checking to see. I know Ben Kennedy who was on just before you is going to be driving in three truck races for Turner Scott Motorsports. Have you had a chance to work with him much? He spoke very highly about the operation. If you could speak to that as well and what he brings to the table?
KYLE LARSON: I haven’t gotten to work with Ben ever. I ran the K&N East Series last year with him and thought he was a really great driver, and got to race with him at the New Smyrna race and stuff. He was always really smooth.
He’s going to do great with Turner Scott and their trucks. Their trucks are really good, and I think he’s really good. So I think it will mesh pretty good, and he should be running up front easily.
Q. Who kind of gave you the push into things in NASCAR?
KYLE LARSON: I grew up racing outlaw cars with MacKenna Bell who is running with them in the K&N East Series this year. And I saw how well she had been doing with the program, so I decided to sign up and tryout at their little combine they had in 2011 at the end of 2011 and did pretty well there. So they gave me the opportunity to run the full K&N East schedule last year in 2012.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR