NASCAR Media Tour Notebook: Kyle Larson Unabashed About Lofty Goals For 2015


(NASCAR Wire Service)

By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service

Kyle Larson (Photo: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kyle Larson (Photo: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images for NASCAR)

CHARLOTTE, N.C.— When it comes to their own on-track expectations as a new season approaches, many NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers are reluctant to reveal specific personal goals.

Then there’s Kyle Larson, who appeared entirely comfortable in talking about the racing milestones he expects to achieve in 2015.

“Last year my goals were to maybe win a race, definitely make the Chase and win rookie of the year and be like a top-15 car each week,” Larson said Thursday during the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates session on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Larson did win Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors—by a landslide—and he posted eight top fives and 17 top 10s. Though he finished second three times, at Fontana, New Hampshire and Kansas, he did not win a race in his rookie season. Nor did he make the Chase.

Failure to achieve all his 2014 goals, however, hasn’t prevented Larson from establishing loftier objectives for the coming season or from talking about them.

“This year I think we’re capable, at least the way we ended last year, to definitely be a top-10 car each week, and win at least two races and make the Chase and go for the championship,” Larson said. “I think those are pretty realistic goals.”

Team owner Chip Ganassi likewise thinks Larson’s goals are achievable.

“He has the ability to get maximum speed out of the car without giving the car anything more than it will accept,” Ganassi said. “I think that’s a talent. A lot of guys can give the car more than the will accept, and that just causes other issues along the way, in the race or in the season.

“He’s got a great ability not to do that.”

Ganassi, however, doesn’t believe Larson should try to model himself after other superstars of NASCAR racing.

“I don’t think he should become the next Tony Stewart or the next Jeff Gordon,” Ganassi said. “I think he should become the next Kyle Larson. He has a lot of people who take ownership of his career, whatever, and I’d like to see him become the next Kyle Larson.”

Larson already has won a race this year—just not in the No. 42 Chevrolet he drives in the Sprint Cup Series. Last weekend at Daytona, he joined Cup teammate Jamie McMurray and IndyCar drivers Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan in winning the Rolex 24 Hours, the marquee event of the IMSA Tudor United SportsCar season.

The victory was a record sixth for Ganassi, and Larson was a significant part of the effort, with a Rolex watch to prove it.

“I didn’t really want to come back and run this year,” said Larson, who struggled in his 2014 Rolex 24 debut. “But I’m so happy I did…

“It’s 1:17,” he added, glancing at the watch and grinning.

And the preponderance of opinion in the Cup garage is that it’s also time for Larson to have a breakout season in 2015.

“I want to thank all the people that told us we were bringing him along too fast last year,” Ganassi quipped.


Richard Childress Racing Driver Ryan Newman advanced to the final round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup last year and came within a half-second of winning the championship—and he did so without winning a race.

But Newman is well aware that the surest path to the Chase lies in getting to Victory Lane in the first 26 races of the season. And to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title, Newman believes the eventual champion will have to win the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as Kevin Harvick did in the inaugural season of an elimination format.

“You want to be locked in, you want to win, you want to have that confidence, you want to have something to build on because, ultimately, you have to be a winner in the Chase,” Newman said Thursday morning during the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour. “We’ve seen that.

“Whether it was Harvick or Logano or whoever, it came down to winning the last race to win the championship, and the odds are you’re going to have to win that last race.”

Though Newman fell just short in his title run, he feels his No. 31 Chevrolet team laid a strong foundation for success this year.

“I’ve never had as much fun as I had last year—not winning—in a race car,” Newman said. “We all know how much fun it is to win, but to see our team grow and experience the things that we have and just watch that relationship build, it really was fun.

“It was the way racing is supposed to be, even though we weren’t winning. And I know that, if and when we win, it’s going to be spectacular.”


Driver Martin Truex Jr. shared some welcome off-track news during Furniture Row Racing’s media session on Thursday morning at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Truex’s girlfriend Sherry Pollex has been battling ovarian cancer and recently completed her last chemotherapy treatment.

“We had a little celebration for her,” Truex said. “She’s feeling good, and it seems like every day she’s getting more back to normal, and it’s only been four days. So, hopefully, in the next couple weeks she’s going to be back to her old self, running 180 miles an hour.

“It’s been great to see. It’s been a tough road, and obviously it’s had its challenges. But, all in all, she did an amazing job. She’s special. The way she was able to get through it—like no one had ever done before—was inspiring. It’s going to make me work harder, that’s for sure.”

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