Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell to race sprint cars again this week

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JOLIET, Ill. — Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell both will strap into sprint cars just days after a driver was killed in a similar series.

“I think the normal person out there would probably think like ‘Wow why does Christopher and Kyle still go do that when things like that happen?’ Larson said. “And honestly, I don’t think about the bad stuff that could happen when I’m strapping into a race car. I just love sprint car racing so much.’’ 

Jason Johnson, who won the 2016 Knoxville Nationals — the pinnacle of sprint car racing — died from injuries suffered in a crash at Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) Raceway on June 23.

Bell and Kahne both plan to join Pennsylvania Sprint Car Speedweek. Bell will race Sunday at Path Valley Speedway and be joined by Larson on Monday at Lincoln Speedway and Tuesday at Grandview Speedway. They’ll leave to head to Daytona for next weekend’s Xfinity and Cup races.

“We’re race car drivers,” Bell said of why he’ll continue to race sprint cars even as his NASCAR career blossoms in the Xfinity Series for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“Racing’s not a safe sport unfortunately. NASCAR has done a great job making it a lot safer and so have sprint cars. … I think bottom line is just we love it.”

Kasey Kahne, who also has run some sprint car races season, also plans to be back in a sprint car soon.

“It’s what we do for years and years,’’ Kahne said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio earlier this week. “I don’t know. It’s tough to think about it that way for sure. Definitely when these things happen it makes you think about those things, you think about your family and loved ones, people close to you. But it is what I’ve always done. It’s what so many racers have ever done and for whatever reason we just keep doing it because of the passion and thrill and love we have for racing.”

But when these drivers go to dirt track races there isn’t the level of safety seen at a NASCAR track.

“A lot of the race tracks we go to are pretty nice facilities, but there are definitely some that need some work and there are areas that you see would need work,” Larson said. “I think that comes down to the series whether it’s World of Outlaws or All Stars or USAC or whatever could do a better job of not necessarily demanding that the track become safer, but I feel like sprint cars a lot of times people look at them as being unsafe race cars. But, NASCAR … they have made the tracks a lot safer, which has made the race cars seem a lot safer, which the race cars are a lot safer than they were a decade and a half ago. I think they have made just as many improvements to the race tracks as they have the race cars. 

“Where I think sprint cars, we have continued to somewhat make the race cars safer with tethers and straps and safety bars and stuff like that, but I don’t really feel like we have done a whole lot to make the track safer. The tracks that have become safer I feel like are tracks where they have had issues at.  … I just wish the tracks would be a little more proactive or the series to be more proactive in making sure that the facilities they are going to are safer.”

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