The 12 Questions series of driver interviews continues this week with Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing. This interview was recorded as a podcast, but is also transcribed for those who prefer to read.
1. Are you an iPhone person or an Android person, and why?
I’m an iPhone user. All Apple. It’s just simple. Life’s simple with Apple.
2. If a fan meets you in the garage, they might only have a brief moment with you. So between an autograph, a selfie or quick comment, what is your advice on the best way to maximize that interaction?
Usually when a dirt fan walks up and starts talking about a race, that’s a good way to get a good reaction out of me. Or just have your camera ready, and then usually I think that would put all of us in a better mood and more willing to chitchat for a minute. But I enjoy interacting with people.
So it pisses you off when somebody comes up and they’re like, “Oh, let me get a selfie,” and then they’re trying to unlock their phone…
They don’t even have it out of their pocket yet. Yeah.
3. When someone pulls a jerk move on the road when you’re driving down the highway, does that feeling compare at all to when someone pulls a jerk move on the track?
Yeah, I guess a little bit. If somebody cuts you off or something like that, then at least in the race car, you can run into them and show your displeasure. Where I guess on the street, if somebody cuts me off, I just tailgate them for a couple miles.
A couple miles? Wow!
Yeah, or at least until they turn. So I would say it’s similar, just you can’t run into somebody on the street.
I don’t do any hand gestures though because when we’re on the racetrack, you can do a hand gesture because you know you have backup when you get to pit road (for a fight). If you do a hand gesture and somebody gets you to pull over on the side of the road, they’d probably beat you up and you don’t have any backup.
4. Has there ever been a time where you’ve had a sketchy situation with your safety equipment?
I’ve had times like where I’m rolling around yellow and maybe I didn’t get (the HANS device) clipped in all the way and it becomes unclipped under yellow, but I usually have enough time to get it hooked back up. Gosh, yeah, I don’t think I’ve had anything too sketchy. I feel like I have really safe equipment. My Arai helmet’s been safe and so yeah, knock on wood, I haven’t had anything crazy happen.
You wear like a strap version of the HANS, right…?
It’s a Safety Solutions (Hybrid Pro). Simpson owns it now, but it’s called a Hybrid Pro.
Why do you do that? More comfortable?
I was like their test dummy kind of back when I was 10 or 11 racing go-karts, back when they were first getting started, at least with the youth stuff. So I’ve always used their stuff; back then it was called like the R3. So I kind of developed their youth stuff and I’ve just always used it as I’ve gotten older.
I think it’s a safer device than the HANS, I think because it clips to you and it still is working somewhat if your belts were to slide off — which I’ve never had my belts slide off. But when I wear a HANS, I don’t feel like it’s that tight on me and it’s not doing as much for me. And it’s a lot easier on your collarbones too, especially for dirt racing. A lot of people break their collarbones with HANS (devices).
5. If your crew chief put a super secret illegal part on your car that made it way faster, would you want to know about it?
(Editor’s note: I accidentally skipped over this question. New season goof-up. Sorry.)
6. What is a food you would not recommend eating right before a race and are you speaking with personal experience with this recommendation?
Maybe like a couple cheeseburgers and a root beer float. I wouldn’t recommend eating any of that.
I hope that’s not a personal experience.
Maybe a little bit of a personal experience. I really don’t want to talk about it. (Laughs)
7. Is there life in outer space, and if so, do they race?
Oh. I believe there’s life in outer space. I don’t know if they race, though. Maybe. Wow. Yeah, there’s gotta be life in outer space. I feel like I’ve seen some UFOs before, so I think there’s life. Do they race? I don’t know. I would hope they do. That way I could maybe go race in outer space.
When you cross over to the various series, you can be one of the first intergalactic racers.
It’d be like, “Dude, Kyle Larson is good on any planet.”
He’s out of this planet. Yeah, you’re right.
Where have you seen UFOs? When you’re on the ground? Or when you’re flying, like, “That’s something weird out the window.”
Dude, so I remember, I was driving through Sacramento, so this is right by ARCO Arena where the Kings used to play, and I’m cruising up (CA Route) 99 and out the right side there’s a bunch of little colorful objects, like zipping around back and forth as random as could be, like all different directions for a least a minute while I was driving. And I was just staring at them, I was like, “What the hell is this?” It wasn’t like a drone, because there were multiples and they were flying fast. Pretty low to the ground. Probably 50 feet off the ground. But just little lights. Maybe I was crazy for a second. But no, I swear I saw something funny.
8. What do drivers talk about when they’re standing around at driver intros before a race?
I dread driver intros. Davis (Schaefer, his PR rep) could admit that I’m the last one up to the intro stage, just because it’s awkward. It’s like going to lunch in junior high and you’re like, “There’s the cool table and there’s the nerd table and there’s my dirt friends. I’ll go stand with my dirt friends.” So we usually just talk about dirt racing, so I’ll stand around (Ricky) Stenhouse and (Ryan) Newman and (Clint) Bowyer, and Denny Hamlin’s getting into liking dirt racing, so he’s usually around. We’ll talk about stuff because we’ve all watched (streaming service) DIRTVision from the night before, so we’ll talk about that.
But yeah, I hate intros. I don’t go up there early. There’s drivers that get up there (early) — I feel like Martin Truex is always the first one up there and he qualifies good (which means he show go up later). I’m like, “Man, what are you doing up there so early?” Because he’s quiet, he doesn’t talk to anybody. But yeah, so I don’t like going up there early.
9. What makes you happy right now?
That I’m getting to knock these 12 Questions out of the way before I have to wake up early in the morning or something, or when I’m tired and grumpy and getting ready for practice like at Pocono or something like that. (Editor’s note: Larson was bored during Daytona 500 media day so suggested we do this interview now instead of during the season.)
That makes me happy as well.
Yeah, so we both get to get that out of the way. But I don’t know. Doing the 12 Questions and just getting ready to get this season started. It was a short offseason, but I get to go racing full-time again.
10. Let’s say a sponsor comes to you and says, “We are going to fully fund the entire rest of your racing career on the condition that you wear a clown nose and an 80’s rocker wig in every interview you do forever.” Would you accept that offer?
No. (Laughs) There’s probably other sponsors out there that would sponsor us and not do that.
Take your chances?
Yeah, and I’d just go sprint car racing in that (case). So no, I won’t wear a clown nose. I would maybe wear the long hair, but not the clown nose.
11. This is the 10th year of the 12 Questions. There has never been a repeat question until now. Pick a number between 1 and 100, and I’m going to pull up a random question from a past year’s series.
OK, 62. When is this from?
This is from 2015.
So I’ve had this question before.
That’s true, actually. I should look up your answer and see how it compares.
OK. But don’t tell me how I answered it.
Do you ever get mistaken for another driver or celebrity?
So that was back when I had Target, so I was red. I didn’t get Stenhouse all that much. So now I get Stenhouse a lot.
Yeah. It even happened today downstairs.
Yeah. So I get Stenhouse and Chase Elliott the most.
At least Chase Elliott has dark hair.
Yeah. And Chase Elliott and I actually look a lot alike in our baby pictures and such. But yeah, I get Ricky a bunch. Ricky probably the most. And Ricky gets me a lot, too.
What? I don’t see that at all. I don’t understand how that’s possible.
Yeah, I don’t know.
Do you want to guess who you said back in 2015?
Probably Ryan Truex.
That’s correct. Actually, you said, “I used to get mistaken for Ryan Truex but now it’s kind of the other way. It’s nicer that way for me.”
Yeah. (Laughs) I don’t get mistaken for him, he gets mistaken for me.
12. The last interview was with Joey Logano. He wanted to know: What is your plan to help our sport and our community in the next year? What are you goals to make what we do better outside of the race car?
That’s deep. Well, Joey does a really good job at all that. He’s probably like the best these days when it comes to community stuff. I don’t have a Kyle Larson Foundation or a charity really that I have focused on or spent a lot of time or effort on helping. So I guess that’s something I can do in the next year or so, maybe set up a foundation, figure out what I want to give back to and help out, whether it’s sick children or just people in need, really.
There’s a lot I can do. I guess try to take the next step into all that as a professional athlete, because I think a lot of professional athletes, that’s what they do, is give back to the community. So that’s something I need to grow up and do, but I still don’t really know how exactly I’m going to do that.
Do you have the question I can ask the next driver? It’s Aric Almirola.
He recently introduced me to his grandfather who raced sprint cars, so maybe ask him what race stands out to him of watching his grandpa the most racing sprint cars.
Do you regret doing these 12 Questions? That’s the last question.
That’s been more than 12 questions now.
Previous 12 Questions interviews with Kyle Larson: