CONCORD, N.C. -- Cliff Daniels has two races under his belt this year with new Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson and the crew chief can’t help but be impressed with the 28-year-old.
Daniels said Larson’s work ethic is extremely high as he prepares for each race every week. The No. 5 crew chief described Larson as reserved in preparation, then as an intense and daring driver on the track.
“He’s so calm and methodical in how he prepares for a race and his whole approach leading up to the race,” Daniels said. “When he’s in the car, he drives like a lion. He’s so aggressive and so fast and does such a great job. To have that mix where he’s so thoughtful in how he prepares, then he can really turn the wick up and turn it loose when he gets behind the wheel, is really cool to see.”
Daniels knows Larson is putting the pressure on himself to make sure he earns a spot back in the NASCAR Cup Series and establishes himself with Hendrick Motorsports. The Elk Grove, California, native secured a top-10 finish at the DAYTONA 500 and was gunning for second place at the DAYTONA Road Course last week when he hit a tire barrier with less than 10 laps to go, relegating him to a 30th-place finish.
“I know he’s doing his homework and focused on everything about being perfect in the driver’s seat,” Daniels said. “We’re doing the same thing about trying to be perfect with the car and how we call a race. Last week was tough not to get the finish we wanted but seeing him be that aggressive and trying to go for it, I really liked that. We’ve just got to make sure we give him everything he needs to make it stick the next time.”
The next time will be this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Larson has had success. He has three top-five finishes at the track, including a runner-up result. Larson is especially adept at 1.5-mile tracks. While he has yet to visit victory lane at a 1.5-mile venue, he has nine second-place finishes, 20 top-five results, six stage wins and has led for 794 laps on those tracks.
Daniels said Larson has given him insight on what makes him so successful on 1.5-mile tracks and what to expect during different scenarios at Homestead, such as temperature changes as the sun sets and when the track takes rubber. Larson’s experience will help the No. 5 team prepare even more for any on-track adjustments needed as the race progresses.
“Learning that from him has been good,” Daniels said. “We definitely have high expectations going into the weekend. We just got to hit our marks. If we do our part with the car and on pit road and how we call the race, I know he’s fired up and ready to go.”
Fans can tune in to see Larson, Daniels and the No. 5 team in action at Homestead-Miami Speedway this Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.