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NASCAR Cup Series

Kyle Larson Goes to Cup in Sophomore Year

Kyle Larson was officially unveiled as the next driver of the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Target Sprint Cup Chevrolet on Friday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Despite all the questions about his inexperience and preparation for the next level, Larson was cool and confident while handling the media and not willing to admit any hesitation as he prepares to make the jump to the faster and more competitive Sprint Cup cars.

“I’m real excited,” Larson said. “I’m sure there’ll be growing pains for sure, but I’ll grow as a driver and mature as a person.”

Larson believes Sprint Cup will be a better showcase of his talents more than the Nationwide or Trucks Series because of the increase in speed, with the 21-year-old saying that he’s used to “having too much horsepower.”

He added that he felt comfortable in the cockpit of a Cup car following a test a few months ago at Rockingham Speedway.

Larson will join the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Team next season with team owner Chip Ganassi calling his young prospect the future of the sport.

“He’s a unique talent and that was a racing decision,” Ganassi said. “We feel Kyle is the best short and longer term choice for (team sponsor) Target. Kyle was our first choice. We didn’t offer any deals to other drivers. We talked to a number of other drivers and at the end of the day, we felt Kyle Larson was the best option.”

Larson replaces Juan Pablo Montoya with the Target team after a seven-year tenure with the team. The former Indianapolis 500 winner and Formula 1 star has won two races at the Sprint Cup level, at Sonoma and Watkins Glen respectively.

Larson is currently competing in the Nationwide Series for Turner Scott Motorsports. He’s eighth in the standings with six top-5s and 13 top-10s after 26 races. Those numbers don’t entirely predict immediate success at the Sprint Cup level but at 21-years-old, Larson has time to grow.

Some of his future competitors made their Cup debut around the same age that Larson is now.

Kyle Busch was 19 when he made his first start while Jeff Gordon was 20 when he debuted at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1992. So history would suggest that talent will eventually overcome inexperience and that’s what Ganassi is banking on.

“We’re sure there will be growing pains,” Ganassi said. “My expectations and advice to him will be keep the car on the track and run laps.”

By Matt Weaver

Matt Weaver is the Executive Editor of POPULAR SPEED. He has covered NASCAR since 2011 and full-time since 2013. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He has been published all across the country and routinely makes radio appearances on Sirius XM Satellite radio and NBC Sports Radio Network.

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