Kyle Larson on NASCAR return: ‘If opportunity was there, I’d love a shot’
Kyle Larson remains interested in a NASCAR comeback, though he said he hasn’t explored the options for a return to stock cars.
“Well, I’ve been so busy just racing pretty much every day of the week that I haven’t even had time to work on anything, but I would love an opportunity if it came,” he said during a recent interview with MRN Winged Nation (that was posted Tuesday to YouTube) about his impressive tear through dirt racing this summer. “But at the same time, I’m also having a ton of fun right now.”
Larson has focused solely on dirt racing since being indefinitely suspended by NASCAR and losing his ride at Chip Ganassi Racing for using a racial slur during an iRacing event in April.
Since the beginning of June, he has 20 victories in 34 starts with a worst finish of sixth while barnstorming through Pennsylvania, Ohio and several other states to race in various sprint car series and some USAC midget events. Before taking last weekend off, he finished second in a three-way battle with World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car champions Donny Schatz and Brad Sweet that snapped a six-race winning streak.
While the success has kept him preoccupied, it also hasn’t led to any concrete offers to return in NASCAR.
“There’s a lot to weigh and stuff, and there’s nothing that’s come up, either, so I haven’t had to make too many tough decisions or anything like that,” said Larson, who will turn 28 Friday. “But definitely if the opportunity was there, I’d love to give it a shot to get back and prove to the NASCAR world that I am a great race car driver, and I know if I got the right opportunity, I could win a lot of races like I am right now.”
Other hurdles would exist for Larson to return to NASCAR. The first would be reinstatement for a driver who was considered the top impending free agent for the 2021 season prior to his suspension. Though he completed sensitivity training to begin racing the World of Outlaws in May after his apology for the incident, Larson would need to satisfy NASCAR requirements to become eligible to return (a NASCAR spokesman confirmed Tuesday to NBC Sports that Larson remains on suspension).
He also would need corporate sponsorship after several companies (including McDonald’s, Chevrolet and Credit One) disassociated with Larson because of his suspension.
“I understand kind of how the world is right now, and with the mistake I made, that it’s going to be really tough to get another opportunity” in NASCAR, he said. “But even if that opportunity comes, it’s more than just about racing a race car at this point. We’ll see, but I would definitely love the opportunity.”
After racing in NASCAR’s premier series for the past six years, this summer has been much different for Larson, who stayed with his family at the Kampgrounds of America in Jonestown, Pennsylvania, while racing around the state during its annual Speedweek for sprint cars. Larson was crowned the 2020 champion and said his wife, Katelyn, was “extremely busy selling T-shirts” at his merchandise stand (notable because Larson said three years ago the business was more lucrative in sprint cars than NASCAR).
“It’s been awesome … Pennsylvania race fans are the most dedicated I’ve ever come across,” Larson said. “Getting to spend a few weeks here now, it’s been really cool. I kind of feel like they’ve taken me in a little bit. Getting to see a lot of Pennsylvania fans wearing my stuff each night has been really cool. Seeing the crowd cheer for me and get excited for Katelyn to shotgun her beers (her winning tradition when Larson wins), it’s all been really fun. I’ve grown to love Pennsylvania for sure.”
After being contractually limited to 25 dirt track races annually the last few seasons with Ganassi, Larson said the constant reps were primarily the key to his success in team owner Paul Silva’s No. 57 car.
“I think just us being able to race a lot more and on a more consistent level has really helped our team get faster,” he said. “We’ve always been good with the 57, but only racing 20 to 25 times, I feel like we’ve gotten behind. Now we’ve been able to race more than anybody in the country, and I think it’s helped us get our car working a lot better than other people.
“Paul Silva is the smartest person I’ve ever been around, and if you give him opportunities night after night to get his car better, it’s pretty dangerous. Just been a pleasure to get to race for him, and then I think of the same point of me getting to race a lot more in a sprint car, and really just 100% focused on this has helped me just become more comfortable again. I feel like my mind is just really sharp when I’m on the racetrack and so far we’ve just been able to make good decisions out there and help get us to the lead.”