Each month during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Kyle Larson will sit down with NASCAR.com to share his thoughts on life on-track and off in stock car’s big leagues driving the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Target Chevrolet.
This week Larson reviews his first Daytona 500 Media Day, talks about his new life as a Cup driver, the support of childhood friends and how eagerly he is anticipating his Daytona 500 debut.
"It’s the biggest race in NASCAR and it’s the sign the season is started."
-- Kyle Larson on the Daytona 500
How was your first Media Day as a Sprint Cup driver?
"I didn’t think it was too much different than last year, actually. It was nice to come back a second time to do it because last year was a lot more (media) than I thought it would be. It was cool doing the camera effects stuff because last year it was all green screen and this year it was all real, flames and special effects stuff."
Any unexpected line of questioning?
"A couple different things that stood out. One is when they were asking about my cat and dog because I walked my cat out in the snow when it snowed a couple weeks ago in North Carolina and I posted a picture of it (on Instagram). They thought it was pretty funny. I wasn’t expecting it. But mostly Media Day is all the same standard questions."
You did get quite a few questions about last year’s Nationwide Series race since you were involved in the massive final lap accident and parts of your car ended up in the grandstands.
"It seems like I get the same questions all the time, but I try to answer respectfully each time. I hope next year I don’t have to answer any about it, but I understand why I get asked because it was such a big wreck.
"I was mentally fine (with it) a day after the race last year and ready to race again, so I'm not worried about it going into this week and I don’t think anyone else should be worried about it either. I just got caught up in something that was just racing.
"My parents and sister were here last year for that race and my mom videotapes all the races on her camera. She didn’t even know it was me. They don't get that scared too easily. Even I said that probably wasn’t even one of my top-five wrecks and they felt the same way. And I got out of the car really fast so I guess that helped everyone not feel as nervous."
Is there any different preseason preparation since you will be competing full-time in both the Cup and Nationwide Series?
"Usually I'm racing year-round so I don’t have any offseason to prepare, I'm just jumping in one car to the next car. This year I had two months off, so I've worked out a few times. With sprint cars you don’t test, now I'm testing.
"I've been working with the Ganassi pit crew coach mostly doing things to keep my heart rate up, nothing too hard on me yet because I haven't worked out much yet. He doesn’t want to kill me yet. You definitely feel better when you’re done though."
Have you sought out any of the veterans for tips or advice?
"I've never done that. It's definitely a bigger step, but it's still racing and I've been racing my whole life. I like to learn things on my own too. It's nice to get advice, but I think it's better to learn on your own. I haven't texted anyone or asked anyone what's your biggest advice. But guys have come up and talked to me and I pick up the bits and pieces. They can give you advice but you're still going to have to go out there and learn it yourself."
Has your lifestyle changed any since entering NASCAR’s Sprint Cup ranks full-time?
"It hasn't changed at all really. I got a motor coach because you almost have to, when you're running Cup and Nationwide."
Must have felt like a huge expense.
"Oh yeah. But I don't own a house, I still live in an apartment. My lifestyle is exactly the same as it was when I moved to North Carolina in 2012 except that I have a nice car and a motorhome."
What are you most looking forward to on Daytona 500 race day?
"I'm excited about the pre-race ceremonies because I know they will be awesome. It's going to be a blast. You watch it on TV and you can see a little of how extreme it is, but standing out on pit road with all the fans, pit crews and celebrities it's going to be pretty cool.
"It's the biggest race in NASCAR and it's the sign the season is started. Like I said, I haven't had an offseason in several years, so I've been waiting for the season to get here and now we’re racing every weekend pretty much for the rest of the year and that's what gets me excited, I get to race now. It's been pretty boring.
"Knowing it's my first Daytona 500 will be pretty special. My family is here for it; a couple of my friends and that will be neat. Hopefully, it all goes good.
"A handful of best friends came to my debut at Charlotte and that was really special for me. They thought it was really awesome. They got to hang out in the motorhome lot and see NASCAR drivers walking about. They thought that was really cool.
"We all said growing up if one of us made it, we're going to support you and they were there for me. These are guys I've known since I was like, seven."