Kyle Larson says there are two ways to look at his return to NASCAR regarding whether it will be a challenge shaking off the rust or if his time away provided him a reset.
“I (will not have) been in a stock car in close to a year once we get back racing, so I think there’s definitely going to be a learning curve there in just getting back up to speed and comfortable,” Larson said. “But I feel like I race so often, and in so many different cars, I can kind of adapt fairly quickly. It’s going to be tough not having practice each week, but the races are so long I think I should be able to get up to speed fairly quickly.
“Also, having a new team, they’re trying to learn me and learn my tendencies. I’m sure there will be areas where we struggle at first, but I’m confident. Everybody’s extremely smart here and can get us up to speed quickly.”
Larson ran four Cup Series races earlier this year before being suspended by NASCAR and fired from Chip Ganassi Racing. The most recent was on March 8 at Phoenix. He’ll return in the No. 5 Chevrolet with Hendrick Motorsports in the Daytona 500 on February 14, 2021.
“At the same time, once we start next season, I’ll have raced close to a 100 times this year,” continued Larson. “That’s by far more than anybody else has this season. I feel like I’m still as sharp as ever, if not sharper. We’ll see, but I’m definitely feeling good about it going into next year.
“I haven’t been out of the sport that long, and the rules package should be the same, I believe. I should have that memory of what it was like before and hopefully won’t take me too long to get up to speed.”
Over the last few months, Larson has been running dirt races across the country, primarily in winged sprint cars. Larson has 42 wins in 82 dirt races this season, 23 of which have come competing with the World of Outlaws.
When he wasn’t racing, Larson was on a redemption tour after nearly destroying his NASCAR career using a racial slur. Larson has apologized, expressed his regret and acknowledged his own ignorance, and traveled around the country to better understand his mistake. Along the way, Larson had tough conversations and hired a diversity coach
During his first television interview on CBS two weeks ago, Larson said that he would understand if he never got the opportunity to compete in NASCAR again. Now a return with a championship-winning organization has Larson grateful and excited for the future.
“I already knew that (I loved NASCAR),” said Larson of his time away. “I have a love for racing all types of vehicles, and NASCAR is one of those. I definitely miss the competition and miss being around my friends at the racetrack each week, so I’m very thankful that I’ve gotten a second chance, and I’m going to make the most of it.
“I hope to have a long successful history here in NASCAR. I’m still young, I’m in my 20s, so I hope to be here for a very long time.”