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Kyle Larson On Why Sprint Car Racing Is So Important To Him

Now a NASCAR superstar, the Hendrick Motorsports wheelman has big plans to help racing meet the masses.  

By Andrew Woodin
Kyle Larson celebrating after a win

Before winning the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year; before cruising full throttle to his 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship victory; before taking home the 2022 ESPY Award for the Best Driver; and long before being named this year as one of NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers, Kyle Larson’s need for speed drove him to earn his racing stripes at an early age. Though he was only 7 at the time, he dominated the outlaw kart competition in Elk Grove, California, showing that he possessed not only the skill to swiftly advance up the ladder into NASCAR’s top flight, but also the moxie and mental fortitude to remain a long-term fixture there.

While gobbling up accolade after accolade on his journey into the Cup Series, Larson always remained cognizant of what got him there: grassroots racing. Though he’s already garnered the top prize in the highest echelon of stock car racing, Larson still makes time to compete in Sprint Car racing, which is an exhilarating, yet dangerous, form of dirt-track racing. That form of competitive racing is so important to the now 31-year-old that Larson decided to become a co-owner of the High Limit Racing Series.

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In a recent interview with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the Dale Jr Download podcast, featuring dirt-track legend Brad Sweet – the brother of Larson’s wife Katelyn – the Hendrick Motorsports icon revealed what motivated him to take the leap into ownership and why his humble beginnings on dirt tracks in Northern California remain a vital part of his driver DNA. 

“I wanted to help out the other racers, really, and my eyes opened to this deal when I started to race Late Model,” Larson explained. “Flo Racing has their Tuesday night Late Model Series, and it pays 20-some thousand to win every Tuesday, and I was like, ‘Why wouldn’t that work with Sprint Cars?’ The places are packed every week that I would run. There wasn’t much mid-week racing in Sprint Cars, and I just thought it was a good opportunity for others to race more, make money, the owners make money, all that.” 

Kyle Larson

“It’s gone really well, I’ve enjoyed it. Obviously, when we get great crowds like this, it’s just great for all the teams with the merchandise, and we got 60 cars in the pit area to race for 50 grand on a Tuesday which is crazy.”  

Sweet noted how Larson’s Sprint Car involvement, both in the office and the track, has impacted the grassroots sport.

“So, essentially Kyle, instead of getting paid to show up, he brings the fans in then races for the purse,” stated Sweet. “So, it’s great for the racers; it’s great for the fans; and obviously, it’s drawn a ton of new interest into the sport.”     

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“I really just wanted to kinda elevate, not only the mid-week stuff, I was hoping this would add pressure to weekend shows to raise their purses as well,” added Larson. “I think we’ve seen a big step in that this year, and I think it's going to continue forward, so I would say so far it’s been successful.” 

But every story has an origin, and Sweet revealed how the experience he and Larson had with the duo’s first business deal together propelled their entrepreneurial dream of owning a Sprint Car series. 

“What started this series probably a little bit too was that we took over a race track – our home track in California, Silver Dollar Speedway,” said Sweet. “We were able to team up, and that was what started our first business endeavor. …Kyle has that ability and that uniqueness that he makes every race a little bit better.”

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For Larson, his ventures outside of NASCAR are all about the endgame of expanding racing around the country. 

“I love seeing NASCAR shirts at the dirt tracks,” noted Larson. “Every night I race a dirt race, I bet 10 fans come up to me and say, ‘Hey, this is my first ever dirt race I’ve gone to.’ That makes me happy, it makes me feel like I’m doing something positive for the overall broad spectrum of motorsports growing.” 

“Like Brad said, I don't want there to be a fan that only likes a certain type of category of car,” continued Larson. “I want racing to just be, one. We haven’t even scratched the surface on getting that. It's a goal of mine, I feel like it's a part of my brand and what I like to do is just promote racing by racing."

So, what’s Larson’s suggestion to bridge the gap and show fans of Late Model racing why Sprint Car racing is worthy of their time? 

“I think if Late Model fans would just come and experience it and see the speed and the craziness and the danger of it, I think they would fall in love with it just like I fell in love with Late Model racing because it’s a different style and form.”

“You just gotta give it a chance.”