By Chris Owens — He’s only been in NASCAR for three years, but Kyle Larson has burst onto the scene.
This year he makes the move to full-time competition in the Sprint Cup Series. While many people believe Chip Ganassi is rushing the young phenom, Larson comes to an organization that is searching for a face.
With just one full time season under his belt in any of NASCAR’s national series, Larson faces his biggest challenge this season. But Larson comes to Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabatis at the right time.
With the departure of Juan Pablo Monyota to the IndyCar Series, many feel that Larson has big shoes to fill. Yet Montoya wasn’t as successful as many people expected him to be in his seven seasons in the top series of NASCAR. Montoya’s career floundered like many drivers who climbed behind the wheel of Ganassi’s Target sponsored machine.
Larson makes the move from Turner Scott Motorsports in the Nationwide Series. While he didn’t win races last year, he ran competitively against some of the best. Most will remember the spring Bristol race as a race Larson should have and could have won.
Let’s not forget, the same comparisons were also mad about six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson when Hendrick Motorsports brought him to Cup in 2002. Larson wants to be competitive, and maybe one day he’ll be just like the six-time champion.
“I want to beat the guy in front of me. You see what Jimmie Johnson has accomplished, it’d be nice to be Jimmie Johnson someday,” said Larson.
While any move to the Sprint Cup Series is difficult, Larson doesn’t expect to go out and win races right off the bat. That takes time and that’s something the 21-year-old rookie has learned.
“I want to be consistent. Last year I had a lot of DNF’s and that’s what got me down in the points. We were fast every week; we just had some DNF’s,” he said.
“This year, hopefully I’ve learned from that and I can just be patient and just try and be top 12 to 15 each race. I would like to win the Rookie of the Year battle and be in the Chase.”
In 2014, Larson will work with Chris Heroy as the two chase Rookie of the Year honors.
Heroy, who worked with Montoya the previous two seasons, believes Larson has what it takes to compete and win races as well as the Sprint Cup championship.
“He’s a quick learner. He knows how to learn from his mistakes and has a great confidence to him,” Heroy said. “He’s got his emotions under control and has great perspectives.”
“We’re here to win races, and win championships and provide value to our sponsors. He’s a rookie, and I think the important thing is to never compromise your expectations but respect the process. There’s a learning curves and learning opportunities that we are going to do to make sure he becomes a champion.”
With the backing of Target, Larson will make his full-time debut at Daytona in roughly four weeks time. The rookie has already been called the next Jeff Gordon by several drivers in the garage area. It’s time for Larson to prove those guys were right.
While we’ve yet to see his full potentional in a Sprint Cup vehicle, Kyle Larson will quickly become the face of the Chip Ganassi Racing organization. Something that company has lacked in recent years.
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