For whatever reason, whether it is a product of the collective consciousness of society or biologically wired as part of humanity’s propensity to follow the leader of a group, the sport-watching public. love a winner. Win anything and win often, and an athlete will see their personal and professional profiles quickly elevated to levels that elevate them and their sport to relevance beyond the niche of their field through their dominance.
It’s no wonder, then, that Kyle Larson became one of the sport’s biggest stories in 2021. A career-high five NASCAR Cup Series wins highlighted what racers have long known about the player. 29-year-old from Elk Grove, Calif.: that he’s capable of dominating and winning in every race he competes in and in every car he drives. Larson’s success in NASCAR is only a small part of his notoriety, as his racing season has been a tour of some races, large and small, professionally and locally.
This year alone, Larson won the Chile Bowl national championships for midget cars, five cup car races – a sixth if you count the All-Star race and countless other sprint car races – most notably on weekends. -end last when he got home. the famous Knoxville Nationals. And such success is tied to Larson’s stated career goal: In an interview with NBC Sports in June, Larson said he “always wanted to be known as one of – if not the greatest – pilots. racing car of all time. “.
On Thursday, Larson said whether or not his 2021 season brought him closer to that goal was more a question for others than for himself. But speaking one-on-one with CBS Sports, Larson acknowledged that his dominance is something that elevates a lot more than himself.
“I really think as much as I race and so many different types of cars that I drive – and being successful too – I think it helps develop motorsport,” said Larson. “It’s not something I really have to work for. It just happens naturally. And that’s what I love to do – I love running so much.
“I think the fans really appreciate seeing me run. So I don’t know. I just go out there and do what I love, and it really grows without me having to try, I guess, though. it makes sense.”
Larson’s success began to give him a level of mainstream notoriety that has been enjoyed in the past by other versatile riders – Mario Andretti, AJ Foyt and Tony Stewart are a few examples – who could and would race anything. and win loads of races by doing it. While those who are not in the running have noticed how talented he is, his success in many forms of running has inspired the imagination of sportsmen.
Legendary IndyCar reporter Robin Miller, for example, wrote a column this week begging open wheel racing to find a way to get Larson to race the Indianapolis 500 next year – an article Larson said he read and appreciated, and a prospect that Larson would pursue if the right circumstances presented themselves.
“I would love to race the Indy 500 someday. But I would only want to do it if the right opportunity presented itself and I was in a car that I felt could win with a team and crew that have a history of win here at Speedway, ”said Larson.“ These cars, I’ve never driven them, but they’re probably very different from anything I’ve ever driven. So it would take a lot of time and effort to become good and comfortable.
“And I don’t want to just show up and say I competed in the Indy 500. I actually want to give myself a legitimate chance to win. And with that comes a lot of hard work. But yeah, I totally would if the right opportunity was there. “
The draw for a star like Larson is clear as he begins to climb to heights few runners reach. In the aftermath of the Knoxville Nationals, Jeff Gluck of Athleticism expressed this by stating that Larson was the best racing car driver in the United States – and that he “might even be the best in the world.”
These superlatives – especially being called the best in the world – might be flattering and make Larson proud of what he’s accomplished, but also fall under the group’s responsibility to be something to say about him rather than something to be said for. ‘he will say about himself.
“I think the definition of ‘greatest racing driver’ is different for everyone,” said Larson. “I see a lot of people who think Formula 1 is where the world’s greatest drivers race, so their racing fans might think a driver is better than an American driver or whatever. I think of all. way, receiving compliments from my peers and competitors and whoever it is, it makes you feel good on the inside and makes you want to improve even more. ”
This week alone, it’s an illustration of why Larson has become so famous as a real racer: Wednesday and Thursday nights he will compete in the BC39 for USAC midget dirt cars at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Dirt Track, then will travel to Williams Grove. Speedway Friday for the World of Outlaws dirt model competition. On Saturday he will travel to Sharon Speedway in Hartford, Ohio, and from there he will travel to Michigan International Speedway for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race.
Larson started out by winning Wednesday night’s Stoops pursuit, and he would ultimately like a weekend of sweeping through all events. But as much as winning more and more races would add to Larson’s profile, there is one accomplishment Larson has yet to achieve that would really take his growing racing legend to the next level.
Since appearing on the national stage, Larson has never won a championship in a professional touring series – his only title came in regional competition when he won the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro East Series Championship. With two races to go in the regular season before the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, Larson is in a position to win the regular season championship, which he leads by 22 points over Denny Hamlin.
Win the regular season championship and Larson will receive an additional 15 points in the playoffs, which would add to the 37 series-lead points he has already earned to continue with him on his path to a Cup Series title. And if Larson were to ultimately be crowned the Cup champion, a major barrier he did not eclipse would have been crossed.
“I hear that a lot – ‘Well, he’s never won a championship.’ – It doesn’t matter. But I haven’t really been in as many championships as the Cup Series since I was in the Cup. It’s the only championship I can race for, “said Larson.” When I was racing cars. sprinting and stuff like that, we never get into a streak. We’re just trying to get into all the big races and stuff.
“I didn’t have a chance to run too much for points and all, but this year is definitely my best chance to win a championship. Our team is really good, we had some great races, we won a lot, we have accumulated a lot of points. But these last 10 races of the season are difficult. A lot of things have to go in your direction, you have to perform well every week and not get into bad positions to lose points. “
The distinction of being a Cup Series champion, would surely go to the top of Kyle Larson’s resume. But the real significance of Larson’s accomplishments in 2021 is how he has risen far beyond NASCAR and made him the hope and pride of the entire motorsport world. or the dirt and dust of any local trail Larson may take on any given weekday evening.
Whatever the track and whatever the car, Kyle Larson runs and wins. And as he continues to win, more and more people admire him and declare him the best at what he does. Because no matter what sport, people are drawn to and love a winner.