NASCAR Cup Series
Crew chief Cliff Daniels discusses Kyle Larson's Indy 500, NASCAR chaos, more
NASCAR Cup Series

Crew chief Cliff Daniels discusses Kyle Larson's Indy 500, NASCAR chaos, more

Published Jun. 13, 2024 2:06 p.m. ET

Kyle Larson is tearing up the NASCAR circuit this season. His win at last week's Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway was his third of the season and puts him first in the Cup Series in total points (561); Larson is one of three drivers with three wins this season, with Denny Hamlin and William Byron being the other two.

Cliff Daniels has been Larson's crew chief for the No. 5 driver's four seasons with Hendrick Motorsports and has nothing but praise for the NASCAR star, which he expressed on the latest edition of "Kevin Harvick's Happy Hour."

"What he does very well is he will compartmentalize the current objective," Daniels said of Larson's mentality. "Whatever the past objective was — gone, over, that's behind us. ‘What is the current objective?' He was asking a lot of questions [last week at Sonoma] — in a good way — to understand who was on what tires around him [and] what our objective was.

"It kind of took us a minute to get that communicated correctly to him, and once he knew what his objective was, we just kind of stayed quiet and let him go to work because he knew the mission. He knew what he had to do."


Larson and Daniels won the Cup Series championship in their first year together (2021). Prior to joining Hendrick Motosports for the 2021 season, Larson drove full time for Chip Ganassi Racing from 2014-20.

Earlier this season, Larson ventured to pull off a one-day spectacle by racing in both the Indianapolis 500, which was scheduled to start at 12:45 p.m. ET, and the Coca-Cola 600, which was scheduled to start at 6 p.m. ET, on the same day. However, Larson's ambitions were crushed by a roughly four-hour rain delay in the Indy 500, resulting in the race ending after the Coca-Cola 600 began.

After finishing 18th, Larson flew out to Charlotte for the Sunday night race and took over for Justin Allgaier, who was driving Larson's car. Larson's goal of driving in both races was officially dashed by a rain delay in Charlotte, which later led to the race being called after 249 laps.

The ensuing week led to debate about whether Larson would be granted a waiver to restore his eligibility for the playoffs, which he ultimately was. Daniels reiterated to Larson that he should be proud of the effort he put in that day. 

Cliff Daniels details Kyle Larson’s double attempt, NASCAR waiver process

"The message to me through all of this is it wasn't failure," Daniels said he told Larson. "Yes, failure's okay and all the things I've said, but it wasn't failure. I told him, 'There's a big difference between failure and sometimes things just don't work out.' Failure would have been not doing it the right way and not checking every box along the way with a great team in Arrow McLaren — great people, great process, great organization and a great team in Hendrick Motorsports. 

"People process, the [No.] 5 team, everything that we had. Everyone along the way checked so many boxes … globally, when I look at the whole thing, what a win for motorsports … and I really wanted Kyle to know that message the Monday after when he was second-guessing everything that he had done along the way, which I just don't think was proper. He did so many things right along the way. Sometimes in life, things just don't work out. What choice do you make to learn from it, to appreciate it and to move forward better?"

Daniels is in his fifth overall season with Hendrick Motorsports. Before joining forces with Larson, Daniels was seven-time Cup Series-champion Jimmie Johnson's crew chief in 2020 in what was Johnson's last full-time season in NASCAR.

Daniels has respect for how team owner Rick Hendrick runs Hendrick Motorsports.

"To be successful in life or in sports, business, whatever it may be, it takes the collection of just a great group of people that are like-minded," he said. "Leadership matters. Culture matters. Some people may not put as much emphasis on those things nowadays on the daily, but the most successful businesses and teams do, and Rick Hendrick is the No. 1 beholder of that. The way he conveys the culture at Hendrick Motorsports, the way he leads all the people. He's always there to hold us accountable if we're not doing well, which is great. 

"Holding us to the accountability of performance, that's our job; that's what he should do. … On the other side of the same coin, if things aren't going great, and you need some uplifting, he's the first guy there."

Hendrick founded Hendrick Motorsports in 1984, with his team having a combined 16 Cup Series championships and 339 individual wins. Outside of Larson, Byron, 2020 Cup Series-champion Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman — who has seven career wins — currently race for Hendrick Motorsports.

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