Up front in the Nationwide Series, and 1-2 in the Sprint Cup race, it was a double dose of Kyle at Auto Club Speedway last weekend, giving the stop at Fontana a distinct West Coast flavor. Both races and both drivers offered up some tasty finishes.
On Saturday, Larson jumps on Busch after the ’54’ gets loose, takes the lead and holds off Cup veterans Kevin Harvick, Busch and Joey Logano to win the Nationwide Series event. On Sunday, Busch and Larson slice and dice through traffic and streak past former champions Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch to provide a dramatic, if not unexpected ending to a day where Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson looked like the cars to beat.
“It’s amazing what Nationwide racing will do for you when you’re racing against Cup guys. It’s no surprise Larson is good. He gets the experience there of racing against us, racing against me, Kevin, racing against guys like Matt Kenseth, whoever else the Cup guys are that race Nationwide. Once he got here he was more ready, and he ran some races last year, got his feet wet, got a taste of it, and then this year him and his crew chief have gone to work and they’ve communicated well, done a good job” said Busch. ” It gives him the perfect opportunity on Saturdays to perform well on Sundays and vice versa. Now that he’s a Cup guy and performing well on Sundays, it gives him the confidence and the belief in himself and his team that he can do it Saturday and Sunday both.” Respect from a Cup veteran, a prolific winner like Busch no less, is no small thing. Yours truly has been a proponent of keeping Cup veterans out of the Nationwide Series, and yet a good point is made. Larson earned his win against some top flight competition.
Wisely, Larson comes across like that eager little brother who just wants a chance. In comparing the Cup drivers to those he faced in the World of Outlaws, Larson said at a news conference last week “….the depth of the really good drivers in the Cup Series is really amazing. That’s what makes it really tough, is there’s 25 to 30 drivers out there each week that are extremely good and fast. You go to the World of Outlaws race, there might be seven or eight guys you have to beat.” He adds racing in Cup has “slowed the game down” for him at the Nationwide level and made him a better racer there.
Good, hard, clean racing; that’s what the Kyles a mix of other accomplished veterans gave the fans on Saturday and Sunday. When you compare how Larson is faring thus far compared to other upstarts who have gone this way before, Kyle Larson is earning attention in a positive way from those who are typically circumspect in giving it out. He’s had a bad day or two along the way, and he’ll have more; even the veterans have that. What’s refreshing is Larson is making noise with what he does on the track, without bumping his gums off of it- alienating his peers in the process.
So to those of you who doubted the 21-year old, what do you think of him now?