Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Hendrick Motorsports driver quotes for 2021 Southern 500

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on Darlington and the start of the playoffs: “This is the best opportunity I’ve had to win a championship. There’s nothing easy about Darlington. It’s tough because we run so close to the wall and it’s so tough getting to pit road. It’s a crown jewel that we all want to win, and it means even more since it starts off the playoffs.”

Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on point standings affecting race strategy: “I have not looked at points (during the races) all year – I did not look at the points even once (last) Saturday night at Daytona. If we do our jobs correctly, the points should take care of themselves.”

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on working with kids from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta on DESI9N TO DRIVE: “The program is a really big deal to me, personally. I don’t think all of these kids watch NASCAR every weekend, so we have that opportunity to introduce some of them to it and allow their ideas and designs to come to life. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about to me. It’s about giving them some excitement, something to look forward to whether they watch racing or not. It doesn’t matter. If it gives them three hours of excitement or five minutes of excitement, that is a win, in my opinion. Obviously, the proceeds of the auction items benefit Children’s, which is bettering their program. It’s all for a great cause. For the kids specifically, it’s just about their imagination and ideas coming to life.”

Elliott on kicking off the playoffs at Darlington: “We are super excited for Darlington this weekend. These next three weeks are exciting races. Three, I feel like, really cool racetracks with fun environments for us. It’s getting to be that time of year. Fall is an exciting time of year for a lot of things around sports and our season is getting down to it, as well. We are just excited to get going. It’s hard to believe we are 26 weeks in. It doesn’t really seem like it, but here we are starting another playoffs and heading into the final 10 of the year. It goes by fast, but over two months of racing is still a long time. They will click off and you’ll get in certain moments that you might like, some you might not like, and we’ll make the most of them all.”

Elliott on crew chief Alan Gustafson: “He has really seen a lot through his career and I feel like people sometimes don’t realize that and how much experience he does have. I am certainly thankful for that. He does a fantastic job with just keeping our team super levelheaded and really just riding the waves, both the ups and the downs, kind of with the same mentality. He does a great job of not only exemplifying that but making sure the rest of us understand that that’s important, too.”

Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on making his 600th Cup start as a crew chief: “That’s a lot of races. Surviving 600 races is a pretty big feat in itself. I’m certainly honored to be able to do what I do. I’ve been able to work with some great people and that’s the biggest thing that stands out to me – those relationships and working through, you know, like you mentioned, the ups and downs, the successes and the failures together. Overcoming that, the relationships you form – that, to me at this point of my career, is the sweetest thing about victory – is just being able to do that with people you care about and work with and see them enjoy it. That’s what really motivates me and fuels me and gets me excited. It’s crazy; it’s a big number, so I feel super fortunate. Hopefully, I can get quite a few more.”

Gustafson on the pressure of the playoffs: “It is a little daunting, but I really enjoy it. This time of the year, I enjoy that feeling or pressure, however you want to describe it, of the urgency and finality of if you don’t get it done. I like that. It’s something that I enjoy and feel like our team thrives in. We are ready to do it. The past is the past and all the talk about the future is really kind of pointless. It’s just doing what you have to do and that’s what we need to focus on. Focus on what we can control and if we do that, we will be in great shape.”

Gustafson’s mindset heading into 14th career playoffs: “My mind set is just to get the team and everybody operating at their maximum potential. You got to be operating at 100%. I feel we got the team, the car, the sponsors. We got what we need to do it; we just have to make sure that everybody is operating at their maximum ability. If we do that, I feel very confident that we can compete with anybody. That’s it and peaking at the right time and all those things you hear from Chase, that’s what it’s about. Just getting everything working to see what’s optimal. (We’re) trying to get that.”

William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on racing at Darlington for the first race of the playoffs: “Darlington is a track that has a lot of character. I feel like you really have to drive your car to its limit all while understanding the grip and limit of your tires. You can’t exceed that level every lap. You have to stay within a certain limit. I think that is a factor at just about every track, but it’s really magnified at Darlington. Any time the drivers are challenged like they are at Darlington, it brings out the desire and passion within all of us. It just makes it that more intense when it’s kicking off the most intense part of our season with the playoffs. It’s definitely a cool race if you can win it track-wise but also because it sets the tone for how the next nine races go.”

Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on what it will take to be successful in the playoffs: “Daytona was a tough one for us, just because we had a car that could have won and the extra playoff points would have been nice. Unfortunately, preparation doesn’t always equal results, but you can’t get results without the preparation. While we’ve been preparing every week like we’ve already started the playoffs, we’re resetting for the start of the Round of 16 this weekend. The playoffs are a long, hard-fought war, but it starts with small battles. Our team has had the speed all year; we just need to execute and put ourselves in the best position to keep moving forward and get through the rounds. Obviously, the goal is to make it to the final four at Phoenix, but we need to win the small battles along the way to ensure we get there. This team is fully capable of doing that and it starts this weekend at Darlington.”

Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on the momentum the team has going into Darlington: “Last year, we had some rough weeks during the summer but showed up in the playoffs strong each and every week. I believe we have the ability to repeat that and go further in the playoffs this year. Hendrick Motorsports has a lot of momentum right now as an organization and the No. 48 team is bringing some fast Ally Camaros to the track every week. Darlington is a place where we have had good results in the past, and I think it is one of three or four in the playoffs that suits our program."

Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on bringing the energy from last season’s playoff run to this year: “I feel like having three wins in the first 26 races is definitely marked for a good season. You can check off some boxes like getting a win, getting a pole and making the playoffs. Obviously, there are a couple of races that we would want to take back and think we could have run better at. Most teams, if not all teams, find the one or two things that didn’t go right during certain races and focus on improving those going into the playoffs. We had a great playoff run last year and we are going to try to pull from that experience going into the playoffs this year.”

Ives’ thoughts on how the repave will affect Sunday’s race: “The repave at Darlington in turn two is going to provide some challenges for teams just because we don’t know how it will affect the tire wear. Going to a track that has been repaved typically doesn’t wear tires as much and has a tendency to run edgy free versus more of a slidable free. You also tend to run a little faster, for sure. It is going to be fun and exciting to figure out on Sunday. There are some things that we can look at doing differently as a team with the setup, but ultimately the teams and drivers that adapt quickly will be successful with it.”

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