The Frontstretch: 2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Kyle Larson by Jeff Wolfe -- Wednesday December 11, 2013

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2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Kyle Larson

Jeff Wolfe · Wednesday December 11, 2013

 

2013 Ride(s): No. 32 Nationwide Series; No. 51 Sprint Cup Series; No. 30 Camping World Truck Series

2013 Primary Sponsor(s):
Nationwide: Cessna (8 races), Eveready, Clear Men, Cottonelle, Vizio/Hulu, McDonalds (3 races each)
Sprint Cup: Target (3 races); Trucks, Autism Speaks, Clorox.

2013 Owner(s):
Nationwide and Trucks: Steve Turner
Sprint Cup: Harry Scott Jr.

2013 Crew Chief:
Nationwide and Trucks: Trent Owens
Sprint Cup: Jimmy Elledge

2013 Final Points Standings: Nationwide, 8th.

Kyle Larson

Stats: Nationwide: 33 races, 9 Top 5s, 17 Top 10s, Avg. finish 13.8, Avg. start 14.6; 102 laps led, 7 DNFs.
Camping World Truck Series: 2 races, 1 win, 2 top Top 5s, 2 Top 2s, Avg. finish 1.5, Avg. start 8.0, 238 laps led.
Sprint Cup: 4 races, Avg. finish 29.2, Avg. start 25.8, 1 lap led, 2 DNFs.

Best Finishes:
Nationwide: 2nd (four times) – Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 300 at Bristol (March 16), The Alliance Trucks 250 at Michigan (June 15), 5-Hour Energy 200 at Dover (Sept. 28), Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead (Nov. 16).
Camping World Truck Series: 1st – North Carolina Education Lottery 200 (April 14).
Sprint Cup: 23rd – AAA Texas 500 at Texas (Nov. 3).

2013 Team Ranking: 2nd out of 3 in Nationwide.

High Point: For Larson, his likely came in one of his two Truck Series appearances in 2013 when he picked up his first career win among NASCAR’s top three series with a truck victory at Rockingham. Larson had a dominating day, leading 187 laps in what may be the final appearance by a major NASCAR series at the speedway. Larson also knocked at the door in attempting to get a Nationwide Series win, but had to settle for second on four occasions. In his first three second-place finishes in the Nationwide Series, Larson did not lead a lap. He did, however, lead 54 laps in the season finale at Homestead. His eighth-place finish led him to Rookie of the Year honors in the Nationwide Series and helped him land a Sprint Cup ride in the No. 42 car, for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2014. Larson was also second in the Mudsummer Classic dirt race for the trucks at Eldora Speedway in Ohio.

Low Point: Larson’s low point came in the opening race of the Nationwide season at Daytona, where he was involved in a crash where parts of several cars were sprayed into the stands, including a tire. Larson miraculously emerged unhurt, even though the entire front end of his car was gone, but over a dozen fans were sent to the hospital. One of the classic scenes was when Larson got of his car to assess the damage only to have a mystifying look of “how did this happen?”

Summary: The young Larson, who turned 21 on July 31st, became the first Driver for Diversity driver to win in NASCAR’s top three series with his truck win. Larson also gained some quick attention and respect early in the season when three-time NASCAR champion and Sprint Cup team owner Tony Stewart raved about how talented of a driver Larson was. And even though he had just four Sprint Cup starts, Larson showed he was ready to be competitive in that series. Driving the No. 51 car, he was competitive enough to run in the top 20, but did not finish two races due to engine problems. Larson also gained valuable experience by being a regular in the Nationwide Series, where he started all 33 races where he completed 5,659 of the 6,012 laps on the season.

2014 Outlook: No one is questioning Larson’s talent, the only question for his move to Sprint Cup is if it is too soon for him at such a young age. Other young drivers have had varying success in recent years as Kyle Busch entered the Sprint Cup at age 20 and now at age 28 has 28 career Sprint Cup wins and is now a regular qualifier in the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship. However, Joey Logano entered Sprint Cup at 19 after dominating in the Nationwide Series, but has just two career wins and qualified for his first Chase this season. Larson’s biggest challenge may be having to learn patience, but really, how many great race car drivers in any series have been born with patience? They are accustomed to running up front and aren’t happy unless they can regularly compete for wins. While Larson has not shown a fiery attitude off the track he clearly has the drive to succeed on the track. Just how good he will be as a rookie in 2014 will be one of the major questions in the Sprint Cup Series entering next season.

2013 Frontstretch.com Grade: B.

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