To many NASCAR fans, Kyle Larson is best known for his horrific crash in February’s Nationwide Series race at Daytona, but he is much more than that. He is the best driving prospect since Jeff Gordon. n What makes Larson better than all the other drivers in NASCAR’s minor leagues? It’s a combination of qualities that every champion needs. – By Zach Brown, Bleacher Report
Some of NASCAR’s top drivers of today, including Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne, grew up racing sprint cars and midgets on some of the fastest short tracks in the country. Larson boasts that experience, too.
And driving a car sideways around other cars with no spotters for 30 laps takes an incredible amount of car control, and Larson makes it look easy.
In a qualifying run from Hanford Speedway, Larson muscled an ill-handling car around the speedway, something that the best Sprint Cup drivers are asked to do on a weekly basis.
Larson is probably the most aggressive driver to come up through the ranks since Kyle Busch. He is not afraid to take any opening that is presented to him, and when it comes down to the end of the race, don’t be surprised to see him put the bumper to the car in front.
In February’s Whelen All-American Series race at Daytona, Larson’s car was battered and beaten, but the youngster is still able to chase down C.E. Falk for the lead in the closing laps. And once he gets there, he’s not afraid to use the chrome horn.
Though this particular example was probably an overly aggressive move — I don’t think a guy like Jimmie Johnson would take very kindly to having his race end like that — it’s a lot easier to restrain a driver than it is to teach them aggression.
And Larson has plenty of it.
It’s very hard to rattle Larson. The fact that he was able to come back and race a week after the horrific final-lap crash at Daytona is a testament to that.
Larson recognizes his calm demeanor as one of his strengths. In an interview with Speedway Media’s Mary Jo Buchanan, Larson said, “That’s what I think people would find surprising about me. I never get winded. I think it’s just because I stay calm.”
Listen to the in-car audio on any given Sunday, and you will quickly find out that even the best drivers in the sport lack the coolness under pressure that Larson has.
Stewart has long been considered the most versatile driver in motorsports, having won the USAC Triple Crown, an IndyCar Series championship, three Sprint Cup titles and multiple World of Outlaws events.
Larson has been just as versatile, winning in everything he has raced on his way to the NASCAR Nationwide Series this year. His talent is not lost on Stewart, who called him “absolutely phenomenal” in a Wind Tunnel interview last year.
After winning countless dirt races in midgets and sprint cars, Larson has been nothing short of spectacular in his limited time in stock cars. In 35 total races under the NASCAR banner, 27 times he has finished in the top 10.
The biggest advantage Larson has is Chip Ganassi, who signed him to a developmental deal in late 2011 and has been overseeing his career ever since.
It was Ganassi that got Larson his ride with Turner Scott Motorsports in the Nationwide Series this year, and it is Ganassi who is going to bring him to Sprint Cup in the near future.
Yes, Ganassi has swung and missed in the past (Casey Mears and Reed Sorenson never panned out), but he has had enormous success.
With Chip Ganassi in his corner, Larson is virtually guaranteed a Sprint Cup opportunity within the next two years.
Once he gets there, the sky is the limit.