CONCORD, N.C. -- Kyle Larson is itching to hit the track for the DAYTONA 500 in a few short weeks. The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE said his excitement this season is greater than it has been in past years, but he expects there to be a learning curve heading into 2021.
“I imagine there might be some growing pains in the beginning with no practices and things like that and trying to get used to a new team and new guys, but they have so much experience and knowledge there, and I have three teammates I can lean on for advice,” Larson said on SiriusXM Channel 90. “I think we should be able to get up to speed quickly.”
Larson is teamed up with Cliff Daniels, who served as Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief since 2019. He said he will be able to adapt quickly to getting back in a NASCAR Cup Series car and will lean on Daniels to get used to how different Cup races are amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m excited to be with Cliff,” Larson said. “He’s a different kind of crew chief that I’ve ever had. I’m thinking of all the dirt crew chiefs I’ve ever had - I don’t think I’ve ever had a crew chief quite like Cliff. He’s young, he’s just very, very driven and focused and a perfectionist. He’s got a pretty intense character about him. I’m excited about that – getting a chance to be teamed up with somebody that, I think, will hold me accountable and do a great job.”
While many would think Larson’s success with dirt races in 2020 and during the offseason would prepare him for the upcoming Cup season, he said they are two different beasts. Larson won more than 40 dirt races over the past year, including the prestigious Chili Bowl. While the Cup Series will hold a dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway in March, Larson doubts he will have the race in the bags.
“I really don’t think anyone has an advantage going there. I guess, maybe, the only small advantage that a guy like Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) or Christopher (Bell) or myself might have is being able to read a track’s surface and how it’s changing. Open-wheel cars are so much lighter and have a lot more power than a Cup car. So, the style of racing will be way different.”
Even though Larson hasn’t raced in a Cup car in months, he expects the level of success at Hendrick Motorsports, combined with some quick adaptation, to help him hit the ground running in 2021. Consistency will be key to regularly contend in the top five and top 10, but Larson is up for the challenge.
“I would be very disappointed if we went all season long without a win,” he said. “I really don’t think that’s the case. I think we will be able to win at some point. I hope we’re clicking at the right time, and when the playoffs roll around, we’re ready to go.
“Chase Elliott proved last year that you maybe didn’t have the strongest regular season, but when it mattered, there wasn’t a better team out there, as far as executing. I hope we can at least do what they did.”