sprint car racing

Getty Images

Kyle Larson sweeps midget, sprint car races at Placerville Speedway

Leave a comment

The Cup Series is taking the week off, but apparently Kyle Larson didn’t get the memo.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver is still racing this week, albeit on dirt. Wednesday night Larson swept two dirt feature races he competed in at Placerville Speedway in Northern California.

He won in both a midget and a sprint car.

The midget win came in the Lucas Oil BCRA Midget Series and was his first win in his own midget car. The sprint car win was part of the King of the West-NARC Sprint Car Racing Series.

 

NASCAR wants no ‘muzzle’ on Kyle Larson’s love of dirt racing

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
4 Comments

CHARLOTTE – NASCAR’s new president has a new policy for Kyle Larson: Speak your mind about what you love.

After the Chip Ganassi Racing driver said last month that he planned “to just keep my mouth shut” about his moonlighting in sprint cars because it angers NASCAR and its fans, Steve Phelps extended an olive branch Wednesday afternoon.

Phelps, who was announced as NASCAR’s new president last week, told reporters that stock-car racing’s major leagues need to do a better job of outreach to its grassroots tracks, the World of Outlaws and other forms of motorsports because “we can help each other.

“We may be at the pinnacle of (short-track) racing from a popularity standpoint, but we can learn from them, they can learn from us, and we can promote each other in a far better way,” Phelps said during an hourlong interview with nearly two dozen media members at NASCAR Plaza. “So this notion of NASCAR trying to muzzle Kyle Larson and his love of racing couldn’t be further from the truth.

“We want Kyle Larson to talk about NASCAR racing and dirt racing and things that are his passion. We think he can bring his fan base from other forms of racing that he’s doing to us. And we can take our fans and bring them down to that racing as well, so we all get stronger by doing something.”

In January, Larson said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that winning the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals would mean more than the Daytona 500, which drew blowback on social media. During the Aug. 10-12 weekend when he commuted between Michigan International Speedway and the Knoxville Nationals in Iowa, Larson said his love of dirt racing “still made plenty of waves” within NASCAR.

Phelps said Wednesday that his industry needs to take a much less strident tone toward competing series and rebuild its bridges with feeder series and other auto racing disciplines that have proved to be avenues to NASCAR. Both Larson and rising star Christopher Bell made their names in dirt racing on the way into NASCAR, which has been reminiscent of past champions Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.

“I totally agree that’s something we need to do, that will be part of the event promotion we’re looking at with our racetracks is if you look at the dirt event in Las Vegas, it was very successful,” Phelps said. “Kevin Harvick and I have had this conversation, he’s a champion for that whether it’s Bakersfield, or just in general what’s happening from short-track racing.

“What I would say is we need to reach out to home tracks. We need to reach out to World of Outlaws and other forms of motorsports because we can help each other. If someone is a fan of racing, we believe they can be a fan of all racing.”

Racing full-time in World of Outlaws remains Kyle Larson’s ultimate career goal

Getty Images
2 Comments

Kyle Larson wanted to race with his NASCAR racing heroes, but he didn’t need to.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver discussed what his auto racing career goals were last week on the official World of Outlaws podcast, “Open Red.”

The 25-year-old driver was a guest on the show prior to his trip to New Zealand for a six race sprint car tour, which began with proposing to his girlfriend.

Early in the one-hour show, Larson was asked if competing in NASCAR had been always been the ultimate goal for the dirt racer from Elk Grove, California.

He gave an honest answer.

“As everybody knows, there’s a lot of money in the sport (NASCAR), and you know you can make a good living,” Larson said. “So yeah, I wanted to make it to NASCAR. So throughout the 2011 season I had opportunities to go Indy Lights racing and stuff like that, but I just wasn’t into that. I grew up watching Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and you wanted to race with them.”

Larson did get to do that, making his Cup debut in 2013. He’ll head to Daytona in February to start his fifth full-time season in the series.

“NASCAR is where I wanted to make it, but I would have been perfectly fine if I didn’t make it either,” Larson continued. “I’d probably be on the Outlaw (sprint car) tour probably right now, racing and loving life … I would say racing on the World of Outlaws tour full-time is my main goal; NASCAR’s just the step to get there.”

As part of his deal with Chip Ganassi Racing, Larson is permitted to compete in 25 dirt races a year. While he won a career-best four Cup races in 2017, he also won multiple times in sprint cars, including six in a row at one point.

While the topic of Larson potentially competing in the Indianapolis 500 has come up multiple times in the last year, it wasn’t Larson’s answer when asked on “Open Red” what forms of racing he’s still eager to give a try.

“I would say a dirt late model is probably at the top of my list of cars I have not yet raced,” Larson said. “There’s plenty of stuff. But then like I said, I only got 25 (sprint car) races. So I’ve got people who approach me asking if I want to run their car and I’m like, ‘Yeah, but I can’t because I want to race the sprint car more.’ It stinks that I have to pick and choose a lot.”

Earlier this month Larson announced he was taking over full ownership of the World of Outlaws team he had co-owned with Justin Marks.

Tony Stewart making sprint car racing debut in New Zealand this weekend

Leave a comment

Tony Stewart is finally getting around to fulfilling a 20-year-old racing invitation.

The three-time Cup champion, now one year removed from his NASCAR racing career, is heading south of the equator to play in the New Zealand dirt.

Stewart will compete in three sprint car events over the next two weeks, two decades after his NASCAR and IndyCar careers kept him from racing in the country.

On Saturday, Stewart will compete in a Porter Hire International Sprintcar Series race at  Western Springs Speedway in Auckland, which has hosted racing since 1929. Then on Tuesday, he’ll be part of the series’ action at Robertson Holden International Speedway in Palmerson North. He’ll then make a return visit to Western Springs on Dec. 16.

 “The promoter at Western Springs was Willie Kay and he tried to get me to come over for the 1996-97 season but just timing-wise it didn’t work out,” Stewart told The New Zealand Herald. “After 1995 I got my first NASCAR ride and the same with an IndyCar drive so there was no way I was going to have the time to come back over.

“It has been a long time coming to get over here but we are pretty excited about the chance to come out.”

Stewart made his return to sprint racing in February following a nearly three-year hiatus. Stewart stepped away from the sport after an August 9, 2014 accident when Stewart’s car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during an Empire Super Sprint Series race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park.

Stewart earned his first win of the year in April in the United Sprint Car Series Spring Speed Xplosion finale at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Florida.

The co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing said there is “a lot of pressure” on him during his New Zealand tour. He’ll be racing the same 410-cubic inch winger car he races at home.

“I have seen a lot of videos of Western Springs – videos from this season even just so you have an idea of how the race track changes through the course of the evening,” Stewart told The Herald. “We are not coming here blind but until you get on each race track you really don’t know what to expect.”

The New Zealand tour will be another chapter in an already eventful offseason for Stewart, who got engaged on Thanksgiving.

Kyle Larson gets permission to race in Knoxville Nationals on Saturday night

DB3Imaging
Leave a comment

The night before he tries to defend his first career win in the NASCAR Cup Series, Kyle Larson will get the chance to win one of the biggest sprint car races of the year and his career.

Larson announced on Twitter he has received permission from Chip Ganassi Racing to compete in the main event of the 57th annual Knoxville Nationals in Iowa, which he said is the “Daytona 500 of sprint car racing.”

Larson won his A-Main race on Wednesday night, which qualified him for Saturday night’s race. It is the first time Larson has locked himself into the main event with a win. He will start ninth in the race.

“Winning the NASCAR championship this year is my main focus and my main goal but I’m also extremely happy that (owner) Chip (Ganassi) is allowing me to go back to Knoxville on Saturday and try to win a Knoxville Nationals championship as well,” Larson said. “To have the opportunity to go back and win that is very, very special to me. I can’t thank Chip enough for that.”

Ganassi himself also shared a video message on Twitter about the race.

“I’ve been hearing all of you the last few days, my phone and my Twitter account (are) blowing up,” Ganassi said. “I’ve been hearing all the comments. OK, OK, OK. We’re going to let him race at Knoxville!”

Larson said Friday at Michigan that he talked with to Ganassi about Knoxville on the way back from the reveal of Chevrolet’s 2018 Cup car.

“I didn’t know he was going to be in Detroit yesterday with us,” Larson said. “I rode back with him to the airport and we talked about it a little bit. He voiced his concerns about it, but I think more than me asking, I feel like Steve Lauletta (President, Chip Ganassi Racing) and John Olguin (Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications) at our race shop probably had the most impact probably on me being able to run, so, got to thank them, but ultimately, it’s all Chip’s decision. I know my fans really appreciate it. All my sprint car fans and NASCAR fans, so Chip is a hero today and this weekend.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver is third in the Cup Series standings and has won the last two Michigan races.

One reason Larson had to get permission to compete in Saturday night’s race is Ganassi has contractually allowed him to compete in 25 sprint car races this year. Wednesday’s race was supposed to be the 24th race the year. Saturday’s race won’t count toward the 25-race cap.

Larson said the deal with Ganassi also restricted him from driving a sprint or midget car the night before a Cup race.

He’s made his limited races count, at one point winning six races in a row.

“I’ve never been this good in a sprint car in my career,” Larson told the the Des Moines Register Wednesday night.

The question of whether Ganassi would give the 25-year-old driver the chance to race Saturday night was immediately raised.

“I hope he understands how important this event is to me,” Larson told Speed Sport. “I’d love to race on Saturday. Obviously, I know the Cup stuff is the No. 1 priority throughout the year. But this is a big deal, and I feel really fast.

Sunday’s Cup race doesn’t start until 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.