Kyle Larson: "NASCAR has always been my No. 1 priority"

Kyle Larson would like to clear something up – NASCAR is where his focus is and where he has always hoped to compete.

Larson’s extensive sprint car background, including his continued participation in numerous races during the Cup Series season, have often raised questions over whether NASCAR was where he really wanted to be racing fulltime.

Following his victory Sunday in the inaugural Cup Series race at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway – his fourth consecutive win (including the All-Star Race) – Larson tried to put those doubts to rest.

Larson, 28, was asked about being allowed to do a lot of extra racing since joining Hendrick Motorsports this season – something team owner Rick Hendrick has generally discouraged his drivers from doing.

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“It’s worked out really great for me. Cliff (Daniels, Larson’s Cup crew chief) I think understands that when I race, I get better. I just kind of go through with him on what races I want to run,” Larson said.

“He’s been cool to let me race as long as it’s not interfering with anything I’ve got going on with the NASCAR team because that’s always been my No. 1 priority, even in the past. I know a lot of people don’t think that.

“NASCAR has always been my No. 1 priority. I don’t miss anything. I don’t go race a dirt race when I could be doing something else with the NASCAR team, whether it be a sponsor appearance or sim day or whatever.

“I’m there for the NASCAR team. I’ve kept it that way.”

The benefits

There’s no doubt Larson keeps a hectic schedule but racing and competing for wins is what drives him and he believes being successful in one type of racing can help him become better in another.

“I think all the racing helps for everything. I win a Cup race, it helps me for dirt racing. I think, too, even though it’s different race cars, looking at the driver telemetry data and stuff helps when I go race a sprint car, as well,” he said.

“Then, too, I think just racing a lot (helps). I’m in racing situations more than anybody else in the world really, but especially in Cup. I think that helps me stay sharp, it helps me be aggressive, it helps me understand what things are doing, tracks changing, stuff like that.

“Too, I think you’re just getting into a rhythm and staying in a rhythm, where none of these guys are going to get back in a car until Saturday. I think it’s a big advantage for me to be in a car multiple times throughout the week.”

Right now, Larson’s team owner seems to agree.

“It makes him better to drive all these different cars, especially those high-horsepower cars on dirt,” Hendrick said of Larson. “The one thing that Cliff has talked to me about is (Larson) spends as much time or more time than any other driver in the shop.

“If he wants to race, he’s got this as a priority. I mean, he digs and digs and digs. It’s all he thinks about. I think he’s happier. I want him happy. I don’t want him hurt. I’ve kind of given up on these (stopping) guys wanting to drive.

“The crew chiefs and I have talked about it. They think it’s good. The safety deals are better. I’ve told them all they can drive what they want to.”

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