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Kyle Larson’s NASCAR Title Hopes and IndyCar Ambitions Mean a Lot of Fun for the Wheelman

For the man who proved this year he can literally do it all, there’s still one unchecked box remaining.   

By Andrew Woodin
Kyle Larson enters his car before a qualifying race

In the event that Kyle Larson is still looking for a Halloween costume, considering he’s shown time and time again that his internal motor never stops, none would be more fitting than the Energizer Bunny.

Just look at what the NASCAR star accomplished in one week. While many people were sleepwalking through that mundane nine-to-five routine, Yung Money conquered the High Limit Sprint Car Series that he co-owns, cruised through his Indy 500 rookie orientation program, then edged out Christopher Bell to win the South Point 400 Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. No matter what chaos is unleashed this weekend during the 4EVER 400 Presented by Mobil 1 at Homestead-Miami, a track where he’s the reigning winner, or at Martinsville the following weekend, a course last year where he finished in second-place, Larson’s locked and loaded for the championship race in Phoenix November 5.

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While there’s absolutely no denying Larson’s sensational skill behind the wheel of whatever he’s piloting, the 2023 Cup Series season hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the 2021 champ and the current playoffs points leader. Along with his four wins and 14 top-five finishes, Larson had some bad luck as well, succumbing to an unfamiliar seven DNF’s.

Kyle Larson celebrating after a win

Reflecting on the six incidents he’s been in this year, Larson talked about channeling his mental fortitude to help get through the disappointing times.

“I try to always, I guess, find the positive from it,” Larson told FOX Sports. “It's been a good year, but there's been a lot of missed opportunity. You keep working hard, keep trying to execute and just putting yourself in position. If you can put yourself in position, you may not win all of them, but you'll win some of them.”

One of this season’s missed opportunities that’s seared into Yung Money’s brain is his Texas two-step with Bubba Wallace from earlier in the playoffs.

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“Just a bummer,” Larson noted after the Texas race in September, according to Frontstretch. “I wasn’t expecting to get loose in like that underneath the 23 [Wallace]. …I should’ve gave a little more space. …I was just trying to get it all too quickly and should’ve just worked for another corner.”

Stemming from his desire to always push the limits, perhaps it’s enduring the rocky road and learning from that makes Larson such a dominant wheelman. His Vegas victory is a prime example. In full throttle, late in Stage 2, Larson careened into the wall on Turn 2, but he miraculously managed to course correct and keep his No. 5 Chevrolet out of harms way.

“I almost gave it away there, getting sideways into the wall, had to fight back from there with our balance,” opined Larson about his near wreck that could’ve cost him the race.

Nascar Danika Patrick Kyle Larson Tall Challenge3

If Larson was more of the play-it-safe type of driver, would he have been prepared to save his car from a potentially catastrophic collision like he did in Sin City? It’s a fair question, but that’s just the type of driver he is. The skills are what they are because he never stops honing them. It’s in his DNA to compete which is why Larson’s gearing up to run the legendary Memorial Day “Double” – the historic Indy 500 in the morning, followed by the Coca-Cola 600 Cup Series race that evening.

In his FOX Sports sit-down, Larson talked about the wild swings of emotion he’s had since completing his IndyCar rookie orientation program.

“I was definitely excited,” gushed Larson. “I never really got nervous, so I was surprised by that. It was just nice to get it done, kind of get a feel for the car and have some expectations now leading into the next time I get in the car. And we can just kind of go out there and have a test plan and stuff like that now.”

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“It was good to get in,” he added. “It was really cool to see the amount of fans that came out and were standing in Turn 2 to watch me just run some practice laps was pretty neat. It was a fun experience. I'm kind of glad that's over with so we can move forward and focus on the important stuff.”

While the important stuff always equates to more hardware, though Larson says he definitely wants to win more titles, he’s not obsessing about what a second title would mean for his legacy as a Cup Series driver.

“I never really thought I'd even win one, so I haven't really thought about winning two,” Larson revealed. “I don't have an opinion on it. I'm happy to have one. For sure I want more. But I don't know how winning two changes anything at this point. Later on down the road for sure it does. But I don't really have an opinion.”

Passing the records of seven-time Cup Series champions Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt is the ultimate goal for Larson and other elite competitors, but the Elk Grove, California native is realistic.

“In this day and age, I think that'd be very difficult,” Larson said. “But I'd love to get one step closer.”

And this year he could do just that.