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Kyle Larson: NASCAR should encourage stars to race at short tracks

Marty Snider catches up with Kyle Larson's crew chief, Chad Johnston after their Cup Series win in Fontana and asks him about the biggest difference he sees in the driver compared to last year.

Kyle Larson will race almost anything if you let him.

As one of the rising stars in the NASCAR Cup Series, Larson says his time indulging in his passion for sprint car racing across the country is beneficial to his full-time job.

Larson believes the NASCAR should “encourage” its stars to show up and race at short tracks in lower series, as he, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have done over the years in sprint cars. Larson says these efforts help shore up the “grassroots” fans he believes NASCAR has lost touch with in recent years.

“I get asked that question all the time when are they going to shut you down,” Larson said Friday at Martinsville Speedway. “But I feel like everybody needs to encourage me and others to go race at your local short track and all that because I feel like we’ve lost touch with our grassroots race fans. And, I really think with me going back and doing that stuff and Kyle Busch running Late Model races throughout the year, it really kind of gets the local fans back excited about NASCAR.

“I feel like the last decade or so they’ve kind of lost touch with it. Yeah, I feel like everybody should instead of making (team owners) Chip (Ganassi) and Felix (Sabates) feel like they have to shut me down, should encourage them because it helps our fan base out.”

Larson, who is allowed by Chip Ganassi Racing to compete in 25 sprint car races a year, knocked another one off earlier this week at Placerville Speedway in California. With his appearance, Placerville played host to the most recent Cup Series race winner after Larson’s Auto Club 400 victory three days earlier.

Even though he’s allowed those 25 sprint races, Larson’s owner isn’t comfortable with his star driver - who is first in the points standings - moonlighting on dirt.

“Let’s just say this: I do get concerned when he wants to do that,” Chip Ganassi told USA Today’s Brant James earlier this week. “I would say I’d be much happier if he said he wanted to go play golf. But also, at the same time, I don’t want to slow him down. If he thinks that makes him better, OK, great. If he thinks that’s slowing him down, I would think he would stop it. But for now, he thinks it makes him better.”

But as long as he’s allowed those 25 races, Larson says he’s “going to fill all 25 of those up.”

MORE: Felix Sabates doesn’t think Kyle Larson should run Indianapolis 500.

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