Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Apparently for 10 races, Kyle Larson had a monkey on his back

Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs
Kyle Larson won the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 Sunday at historic Rockingham Speedway in his fifth start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and just his 11th overall start in top-tier series competition.

Apparently that wasn't soon enough for the 20-year-old from Elk Grove, California.

"It feels good to finally win a national race with NASCAR. I got close at Phoenix last year in the truck race, and then again this year at Bristol in the Nationwide Series. So it finally feels good to get the monkey off my back," said Larson in a media teleconference Tuesday. 

"Hopefully, we can get some more wins shortly."

He just might. Larson's had a busy year already. The 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion says thus far in 2013 he has eight wins across various series. 

"Two in New Zealand, one at Chili Bowl, the USAC Midget Race at New Smyrna, the Late Model races, the Battle at the Beach, a World of Outlaws win at Stockton, California, or I don't know what they're calling that track. Last week I won a 360 Sprint Car race, and this weekend at Rockingham Speedway," Larson said. "So I think that's eight." 

He has no intention of limiting his schedule to just the Nationwide Series, either. 

"Definitely not. I'm going to try to race as much as I can. A lot of people probably think I should focus on Nationwide or whatever, but I think the more you're in a race car, the more you're learning. So that's kind of how I've been the last couple years," Larson said, citing Tony Stewart as an example of a driver who races often and successfully. 

Larson got into the K&N East program after seeing the success of his former go-kart rival Mackena Bell through the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program. Now he's the first driver from the program to win a national series race. He's got drivers like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart singing his praises, and ones like Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch looking in their respective rearview mirrors. 

After a close race at Bristol, Busch said, "He's got a lot of talent...Obviously, he's already made a name for himself and he's got a lot going for him. I'm 27 and I feel like I'm getting old. Every time I looked in the rear view mirror he caught me, so I stopped looking. I didn't want to know where he was at." 

Johnson said at Phoenix, "I want to be careful not to take any digs on him, because I've been a fan watching from afar. I saw a lot of great things out of him in the race car today and I think he's going to be a big talent going forward."

In winning the Truck race at the Rock, Larson held off Joey Logano, who traveled from Texas to make just his second NCWTS start, the first coming back in 2008. 

Credit Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs
 "I think it's good that we're able to race with Sprint Cup guys that have a ton of experience. It's only better for us young guys that are trying to gain experience and stuff like that," Larson said. "We can learn a ton off racing with those guys. It makes it better for our resume or our career or whatever when we go out there and beat them or race hard with them. So I like racing with them. I'm glad that with the Nationwide Series that we get to race with so many of them. I think it helps me learn a lot."

The young driver seems to have a healthy outlook about his success. "I always try to stay humble. Not get too carried away or get too cocky or anything like that, because I know these opportunities don't come very often and you can lose them in the blink of an eye. So just stay humble and just understand that it's tough."



Janine, aka Lisa or LJ, Cloud, a fifth-generation Texan, lives in Houston and considers Texas Motor Speedway her home track.

She's been a part of the Skirts and Scuffs team since May 2011, going from contributor to media rep, photographer, and associate editor covering both NASCAR and IZOD IndyCar. Janine considers it a privilege to represent the site at the track and to share with readers the excitement of the world of motorsports.

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