Kurt Busch says he sees something in Kyle Larson and that’s part of what drew him to join Chip Ganassi Racing.
With 18 full seasons on his résumé, the 2004 Cup Series champion has had his fair share of teammates over the years, but when it comes to Larson, Busch admitted to feeling a small responsibility in helping him. Busch went as far as to say Larson can be “bigger” and “better” and there is more everyone wants to see from him.
That would be “everything,” Busch explained. “Short track wins. Superspeedway wins. The road courses, he’s got the talent with the poles and success he’s had there. The biggest thing, once he completes a full race knowing what to do through all segments of the race, I can’t wait to say ‘watch out.’
“There was another guy I knew when I was younger, and his name was Kyle, and I thought that my little brother was going to be special, and I see the same thing in Kyle Larson.”
Larson has five career wins in 182 starts. He goes into the 2019 season off three consecutive top-nine finishes in the championship standings.
Told about Busch’s comments, Larson said it was cool for Busch to say that and he believes there is also more for him to do. However, it comes down to growth, and Larson acknowledges he still has some growing to do and things to change in order to be better.
In particular, Larson points to closing out races, which he says would be his biggest challenge right now. Larson didn’t win last season although he had 12 top-five finishes. Six of those were second-place efforts, as opportunities at places like Fontana, Bristol (where he led 200 laps), Pocono and Chicago (where he lost the last lap duel with Kyle Busch) slipped past him.
“But you look at me running second as much as I do, there’s definitely a lot where I’m running first and finish second, but I would say more often than not, it’s me running eighth all day, and we have a restart at the end or we have a good pit stop or a good pit call and we finish second,” Larson said. “It’s just hard to get to the lead.
“You can look at a lot of my dirt races from last year, I led a lot of laps and would wind up second. So, it’s not just in NASCAR, and I don’t know why it is that I — I don’t want to say can’t close, I feel like that’s bad — but I just need to figure out that extra little bit right at the very end. I don’t know. You look at the analytics and stuff it’s not like I’m the worst closure either. I feel like I do a better job in the last 10 percent of the race than other people. It’s just I finish second.”
Busch doesn’t believe there is much work to be done for Larson to put it all together.
“It’s like having all the pieces to the puzzle,” he said. “The frame is there, the outer part, and now you’re just plugging in the pieces. There’s just a few little pieces missing is all that I can see.”