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.