Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing development driver Kyle Larson made the impressive jump from sprint cars to stock cars (and trucks) in 2012, winning the K&N Pro Series East championship in his first season in stock cars and earning three top 10 finishes in four Camping World Truck Series starts. For 2013, the former NASCAR Drive for Diversity member (its first champion) joins forces with Turner Scott Motorsports in the Nationwide Series, where he’ll compete for Rookie of the Year.
“It's always the question: Where do you bring a guy?” said Chip Ganassi, co-owner of Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, in a recent NASCAR teleconference. “When a guy is coming up, what series do you punch him into or what is best? Do you go Truck/Nationwide or straight to Nationwide? The good news is I think Kyle has shown an uncanny ability to really drive anything put under him so far. I think he'll be just fine in Nationwide. We talked to Harry (Turner). This is more than a one-year deal with Turner Scott Motorsports. We just feel it was the right year to put him in that series. We feel that he's certainly capable of it. I don't think we're rushing him along or anything like that. Like I said, he's shown great ability in anything he's driven so far.”
Larson – who will have to compete in the ARCA Racing Series Lucas Oil 200 on Saturday, February 16th to be eligible to run in the Nationwide Series race at the track on Saturday, February 23rd – ran approximately 120 races in 2012 between sprint cars, the K&N Series, Trucks and other series. Ganassi hopes Larson’s load will lighten up a bit in 2013. “I've never kept guys from doing that at this stage of their career,” said Ganassi. “I don't look to start dictating what he can and can't do. I think that's kind of dangerous when you have a young horse that needs to run. He needs to get all the seat time he can in different cars. I think as your career grows, I think last year he did 120 races, I'd be surprised if that continues to be 120 races a year going forward, but he's going to have some new things coming at him in Nationwide.”
“He's shown to be very mature,” Ganassi continued. “But he's going to go through a learning process of sorts. A lot of things are going to be coming at him that maybe he wasn't so concerned about when he was running Midgets or Sprint cars. He's going to be obviously dealing with media a lot more, dealing with sponsors and things and people like you. Those are all things that take time. Something can be new like that for a young man, so he's got a lot of learn. Maybe I would hope he would cut that 120 back a little bit.”
Larson intends to stay level-headed throughout the upcoming season and not let expectations get to him. “I know I have a lot of pressure on me,” said Larson. “I try not to pay attention to it at all. Racing is what I love. It's more of a hobby than anything. I try to go out, do the best I can. I don't really try to read articles about me, listen to what people might have to say. It's always good to have people talking about me and putting pressure on me 'cause if I live up to it, it just makes the story so much better.”
Larson, who will drive the No. 32 Chevrolet Camaro for Turner Scott Motorsports, will be working with veteran crew chief Trent Owens in the series. “He gets along really well with all of our guys,” said Harry Scott Jr., co-owner of Turner Scott Motorsports. “He's a really fine young man with an incredible level of talent. The challenge for us and the challenge for him is for him to maintain that attitude and maintain his outlook as he improves and he moves through.”
While not wanting to buckle under others expectations, Larson has set some goals for himself this season. “I feel like I'm with a really good team with Turner Scott Motorsports,” said Larson. “I'd like to win at least a race or two, hopefully contend for the championship. If I could finish in the top five in points at the end of the year, lead some laps, win a race, I think those are pretty good goals to set. I do think we can accomplish them. We've been testing a couple times and I feel like the cars drive really nice, have a lot of speed.”
“It's going to be a really tough season,” continued Larson. “There's a lot of good talent. I think it's by far one of the toughest years it's ever had. It's going to be fun to race with those guys and I'm going to learn a lot. Hopefully at the end of the year I'm a lot better than where I am at Daytona.”
Quotes in this piece provided by NASCAR.
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