In January, Kyle Larson caused a minor stir when he admitted that winning midget racing’s Chili Bowl would be a bigger deal for him than a victory in the Daytona 500.
The fallout of that statement was on hand last weekend at Michigan International Speedway on the eve of the Knoxville Nationals, one of sprint racing’s biggest events.
Larson claimed he was going to “just keep my mouth shut” about any potential success about the event held the Saturday night before the Cup race at Michigan.
On NASCAR America, Jeff Burton, Kyle Petty and Carolyn Manno had a lengthy discussion about Larson’s comments and whether drivers in a premier auto racing series should compete in other disciplines.
“I was a little offended for him saying the Chili Bowl was bigger than NASCAR’s biggest race,” Burton conceded. “But when I step back, me personally, I think the Southern 500 is the biggest race of the year. That’s no disrespect to the Daytona 500. I never won the Daytona 500. If you ask me which race do I wish I would have won, that’s the one because it’s so prestigious and it means so much. … I think when you are racing and this is your primary racing … and then you say there’s another series you’d rather win a race in, I think some NASCAR fans did get offended by it and to be honest I understand why.”
Burton added, “He’s still here. If he didn’t want to do it, he wouldn’t be doing it.”
Petty believes friction over Larson’s love of dirt racing stems from the collision of generations of fans and fans of different racing disciplines.
“You see guys coming in who dreamed of going to (Indianapolis Motor Speedway), that dreamed of running sprint cars, that dreamed of doing some totally different,” Petty said. “Where I grew up dreaming of the Daytona 500. That’s been in our blood and that’s in the DNA of what this sport is. You expect, as a fan, your driver to come in and say, ‘Tell you what, the Daytona 500, Darlington, the Coca-Cola 600, those are races I want to win.’ So I think we have a bias, or the fans have a bias sometimes, against the guy that didn’t come in and dream about being here all the time and I think that’s wrong. Because at heart, Kyle Larson is a racer. At heart, Tony Stewart, he didn’t dream about coming to Daytona, he dreamed about going down the road and winning at Indianapolis. Jeff Gordon did the same thing.”
Watch the above video for more.