NASCAR PRESS CONFERENCE
April 15, 2013INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody, welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference that features some young names that you're quickly beginning to know. We're going to open with Ben Kennedy, driver of the No. 96 Ben Kennedy Racing Chevrolet in the NASCAR K&N Pro East Series. Ben is the great grandson, of course, of NASCAR founder, Bill France Sr., and he won his first series race at 5 Flags Speedway over the weekend. That was on Saturday. And Ben will be making his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in August at Bristol Motor Speedway. Speaking of the Camping World Truck Series, immediately followed by Ben, we'll be joined by Kyle Larson, another young driver who had a big weekend with his first national series win, which was in the trucks at Rockingham. So Ben, congratulations. Thanks for joining us today. We really appreciate it. Listen, growing up around the sport of NASCAR and living in Daytona Beach, just tell us how excited are you to get your first K&N Pro Series East win so close to home? BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, first off, thank you guys for having me today. It was definitely a really special win. Of course, to win in Florida and at the inaugural event at 5 Flags Speedway, there is so much prestige and history at that racetrack and of course with the Snowball Derby and a bunch of really cool race that's they put on at that racetrack. It was really cool to win there. Of course, to have the race in Florida, it's the first time I've ever raced in Florida in a NASCAR sanctioned series, so it was something really special, and I guess you could consider it my home track for the K&N Series. THE MODERATOR: That's great. Again, we're all very proud of you, and congratulations to you for such a big, big win for, again, one of our young drivers making your way up the NASCAR ladder.
Q. You've been doing K&N for two years before this, I believe. So how antsy were you getting about getting that first win in a series? BEN KENNEDY: I definitely was. Going into that race, it was the second time we've ever sat on the pole, and we sort of had the same situation last year with Cale Conley. We were sitting on the pole one and two, and he went on to lead every lap of that race. I wanted to switch a tire at that time, and I knew it was going to be tough with the field and everything. But the guys with the team had the car spot?on with the set?up. I could not complain one bit at the halfway break. You know, just running the series for three years, and just going through that learning curve with me and the team and everything, it's certainly been a lengthy one. But we've definitely come far in the past couple years. It's finally starting to show and it's finally starting to pay off a little bit.
Q. That car that you won in is prepared at the Daytona shop, right? BEN KENNEDY: Uh?huh, yes.
Q. So now you have a banner to hang in the Daytona shop? BEN KENNEDY: That's correct. We have two banners, one for the pole and one for the win there.
Q. I just wanted to ask how are you balancing school and racing at the same time? How difficult has your schedule been? BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, it definitely is difficult. I really think it's all about time management. I'm taking a full course load right now, and I'll have pretty close to a full course load for the fall semester as well. I'll be graduating in spring 2014, but it's definitely tough. Whenever I'm at school, I'm pretty much focused on school and my exams and knocking all that stuff out as best as I can, so when it comes to racing and the weekend, I can put those aside and focus on the car and the set?up and what I can do better 110% on race day. So just basically scheduling everything and being prepared for all the unexpected.
Q. I remember in your younger years, your mother used to put you with certain people in the garage so you could watch what they did from both sides of it. I remember I guess it was at Daytona one summer, you were shadowing Robbie Loomis and his crew chief role. I was wondering how many other opportunities did you have like that to learn the inside of the business before you got into racing yourself on a regular basis? BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, Robbie is a great friend of mine right now. He's a really cool guy. I love it and I'm blessed to have experiences like that. Of course, with Robbie Loomis, and last year?? I think it was two years ago. It was probably 2010 somewhere in there that I did an internship at Hendrick Motorsports, and a couple years before that I worked around the Speedway at Daytona. I was there at the Daytona 500 Experience and Daytona USA and all that stuff. Did a couple jobs around there. Then they had me running around the track and doing a bunch of different jobs from cleaning up cars and cooking up hot dogs to selling programs, and a bunch of different really cool, unique stuff. I got to see a little bit of the business side and a little bit of the competition side as well.
Q. Did it give you a well?rounded view of the sport as a whole? BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, it really does. It really sort of opens your eyes to how diverse the sport is and how much of a family sport it is. How everyone sort of has each other's back. It really sort of opened my eyes, because I had always been around Daytona. We traveled to a bunch of races back then. But it really opened my eyes to see what all goes on during the race weekend both at the track and off the track. Just sort of the whole broad aspect of it.
Q. I've got a couple of questions. One, you touched on this in your opening statement just how special it was to win in your home state at such an historic track. How does this compare to winning for the first time in Europe and you had that there, but was anybody around to even celebrate with you? How does it compare? BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, the Europe race was definitely something special. Having the first oval race in Europe, and sort of the all the prestige behind it. And of course, NASCAR just sort of coming over there and putting their footprint down in that area. That was a really cool event. This one was really special with the team, because I had been around these guys for years. We've had guys that had just come on this year. We've had guys that have been around with me since I started my racing career. So it was really cool to sort of see our own team develop throughout the years and sort of finally come together and finally get out there and be able to get a pole and dominate the race. Just having everyone around me at that point was definitely something special.
Q. Secondly, I guess with the handful of races for Turner Scott Motorsports coming up later in the Truck Series, how excited have you been to see the success that that team has had, and specifically Kyle Larson just yesterday winning in one of those trucks? What's that mean to you to be joining such a powerful team? BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, it means a ton. My crew chief Mike Fritts was over there crew chiefing Ricky Carmichael when he was there, and I've heard nothing but good stuff about Turner Scott Motorsports and everything they do. Of course, their performance on the track is absolutely phenomenal. Kyle does an awesome job. He's a great race car driver and James and all those guys. I'm really excited to get out there and race. We tested in New Smyrna in a truck in probably mid?December of last year, and really cool to be around the guys. Great bunch of people. I know they have awesome equipment and I'm looking forward to Bristol.
Q. Ben, do you believe in?? you've been around racing long enough, even though you've gotten your first win, you've obviously seen a lot of wins in racing. But do you believe in momentum? What do you think this win?? you mentioned your team?? what do you think this win is going to do for you and your team going forward? BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, I definitely think it's a source of motivation moving forward. We've had our ups and downs, more downs than ups, I guess. But you know that's all part of racing and that's all part of the sport. This will definitely motivate all the guys and hopefully get us determined to go out there and win more of these races and eventually run for the championship at the end of the year. We got off to a sour start in Greenville and Bristol, but I think we can push through that and really make some headway here as far as the points and everything goes. But having a win like that behind us and having everyone in the shop all fired up is something really cool for everyone.
Q. If I could talk a little about just the legendary aura of Daytona. So many people when they come there even for the first time, they're struck by it. You grew up around it. Could you talk about Daytona and what it's like for you to go through those tunnels? BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, of course. I've always been around Daytona, whether it's the business side or there for the races, whether it's bike week or the 500 or 400. It's really, really a special place. It takes a little while to sort of realize that and appreciate that. I feel like throughout the years I've appreciated it more and more, especially with my family and always being around it and hearing the stories, going through the beach race, and putting it all together at the hotel and seeing the places and being around it is definitely something special. Being able to run there, even though it's on the super stretch was definitely a really special night for both me and my family.
Q. Ben, I want to ask you, now that you've won a race, what is your next goal you'd like to accomplish in your NASCAR racing career? BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, just to keep, right now, I think at this point is to go out and win the K&N East Championship and get as many wins under our belt as we possibly can. We were running in three truck races this year, and everything is still sort of up in the air as far as next year goes with sponsorship and all that stuff. But time will come and time will tell. Our ultimate goal right now is really focusing on our K&N efforts and holding that trophy above our head at the end of the year.
Q. Do you know what the other truck races you're going to be doing are? BEN KENNEDY: Yes, it will be Bristol, Iowa, and Homestead at the end of the year.
Q. So was there any?? why did you pick Bristol for your first truck race? BEN KENNEDY: I wanted to start at a short track, because I've been around Bristol. We raced there last year in the can K&N series, and we raced there this year as well. I felt like it would be a comfortable place to start at. It is definitely an intimidating place, but I'm looking forward to it. I've had laps around Iowa as well. Sort of moving to Homestead to try to advance my NASCAR license to have the opportunity to run full?time trucks in 2014.
Q. Bristol, Iowa, and Homestead, the tracks get longer in that progression there. Is that kind of your game plan there? BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, definitely. I definitely wanted to try to get a little bit of everything under my belt. Aerodynamics are coming into play in the mile?and?a?half tracks and stuff like that. So I definitely wanted to get something like Homestead or a mile?and?a?half or something under my belt to have that experience beneath me going into next year. THE MODERATOR: Ben, thank you so very much for joining us today. I know you said you're a little under the weather, but I know the excitement's still there as far as that victory for you. We want to wish you the best of luck throughout the remainder of the season with K&N, especially when you get to that first truck race at Bristol, and your few others after that. BEN KENNEDY: Thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: We are getting ready now to be joined by another one of our young up and comers, and that is Kyle Larson who is the driver of the No. 32 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Turner Scott Motorsports. Kyle currently sits 11th in the series championship standings in the Nationwide Series. But he had a pretty defining career moment during the Nationwide Series off week when he became the first NASCAR Drive For Diversity driver to capture a national series victory with his win on Sunday at Rockingham in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. So, Kyle, welcome. Congratulations on that exciting win holing off who we actually have to call a veteran in Joey Logano in the process. Has it sunk in yet that you've captured that first national series win in pretty much in very short order? KYLE LARSON: Yeah, it's definitely sunk in. It feels good to finally win a national race with NASCAR. I got close at Phoenix last year in the truck race, and then again this year at Bristol in the Nationwide Series. So it finally feels good to get the monkey off my back. Hopefully, we can get some more wins shortly. THE MODERATOR: Thanks a lot, Kyle. Why don't we go to some media questions for our second guest today, and our second young winner of the weekend, Mr.Kyle Larson.
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'm doing a piece on Darrell Wallace tomorrow for his come through Drive For Diversity program. I was wondering if you could talk about how it 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, NewHampshire, 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.
Q. Who did you say was driving that you saw? KYLE LARSON: MacKenna Bell. I raced go?karts with her growing up. THE MODERATOR: Kyle, listen, thank you very much, and we appreciate your time today. Again, congratulations on the big win, and enjoy your off?week of racing. We'll see you back in the Nationwide Series here very soon. KYLE LARSON: Thank you, guys.