Fresh off an 11-day trip over the holidays where he raced midget cars in New Zealand, Kyle Larson will do even more frequent flying over the next month to race.
Now that he’s back in the U.S. – he was at Daytona Beach International Speedway on Thursday to take part in a sponsorship announcement – Larson heads to Tulsa, Oklahoma on Sunday to spend the next week preparing for and racing midget cars in the annual Chili Bowl Nationals.
As soon as the checkered flag falls in Tulsa for the final time on January 18, Larson will once again be hopping a plane and flying back across the Pacific Ocean to compete in several sprint car races in Australia.
Then it’s back across the ocean and very little rest afterward as Larson will be back to his regular job, preparing for the season-opening Daytona 500 on February 16.
Larson talked about his upcoming expeditions Thursday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “On Track.”
Here are some of the highlights:
On the Chili Bowl: “It’s definitely tough to describe. … It’s one of the biggest races everywhere. Nothing I’ve been to is like the Chili Bowl. It’s all in one building. There’s 350 competitors there, all the fans and trailers are in one building. It’s pretty incredible, the atmosphere and parties are some of the funnest times of the year. … And having Tony Stewart out there on the tractor on the racing surface and multiple grooves to race on, gosh, there’s just no other event like it. You can’t really explain it to somebody and give a good idea. They just have to go for themselves and experience it. Definitely any fan that’s never been definitely should (go) at least once in a lifetime.”
Christopher Bell has won the Chili Bowl the last three years. How do you beat him this year? “Our car has been really good ever since I got my own midget. We’ve only lost one time in it. … Christopher is obviously an amazing driver and you can never count him out. I think it’s going to be a little tougher this year maybe than years past. We’re less than a week away so we’ll get a good idea of who’s fast this Monday morning (in practice).”
Look back on last season, when you had your career-best finish in Cup (sixth place) and also won the $1 million prize in the All-Star Race at Charlotte: “If you could almost forget about the first 10 races, it was a pretty good year. We had some bad luck and blown tires and stuff like that, and mistakes on my part and crashes, but after the first 10 we finally found some momentum. Winning the All-Star Race kind of turned our season around, we became more consistent and started getting more top-five and top-10 finishes. Obviously, you want to make the final four and give yourself a chance for the championship, but it was pretty good and hopefully this year we can be better. I know we can. We ended better than where we began last year. Our cars are better, our team is better. If we can start off the Daytona 500 with how we were performing at the end of the year, hopefully we can contend for more wins and contend for a championship.”
Where does the team need to improve the most? “Every area needs to get a little bit better. If every area on this race team can get better, we can contend more often. If we can get everything better and I limit my mistakes and limit mistakes on pit road, I think we’ll run better and be in the top 10 a lot more. … I feel like the last two-thirds of the season I was a much smarter racer and that really helped us out. We just have to be smarter.”
Thoughts on this year’s Daytona 500, which will be your seventh: “It’s definitely one that’s tricky. Everybody gets caught up in a wreck and we seem to get caught up more often. When I ran out of fuel (on the last lap of the 2017 Daytona 500), that was definitely heartbreaking. I’m hoping this year we can get it done. If we can just not get in a crash, we leave ourselves a better opportunity.”
There are devastating fires currently throughout Australia. Are you still planning on racing there after the Chili Bowl? “They’ve been racing there since October and even with the fires going on, that doesn’t seem to be affecting the racing down there at all. You hate to see the damage that’s been done in that country, but the races are still on as scheduled. I haven’t got an email that my flight’s cancelled, so I’m going.”