What off-week? Kyle Larson gearing up for Knoxville Nationals

For many NASCAR drivers, a week off is an opportunity to rest.

Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

Not Kyle Larson. The 24-year-old Chip Ganassi racer received quite the workout qualifying for the 5-hour Knoxville Nationals on Thursday night. 

Although Larson stays in relatively good shape for his day job — behind the wheel of the No. 42 Target Chevy in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series — admittedly, he felt rusty behind the wheel of a 410ci winged sprint car. 

“The competition is really hard when you come here to Knoxville,” Larson told motorsport.com. “You have to be more precise on half-miles. These are big track for us. I know for you NASCAR people these are small but half-mile are really big. Aerodynamics come more into effect and you can really upset your balance if you do a bad job. 

“Last night I was kind of rusty and wasn’t very smooth. Our car wasn’t great but I didn’t help it out either. We didn’t run great last night but luckily we qualified good enough that we earned some decent points. We’ll just have to run the B main tomorrow.”

Performance thus far

Larson’s speed of 15.654-seconds was seventh quick in the Thursday night’s qualifiers. He finished third in the B main to transfer to the feature where he ended up 14th. Larson earned 444 points — the 19th most once the two nights were tallied — so he’ll line up third in Saturday’s B Main. 

Does Larson believe he can be one of the four drivers to transfer into the A main and battle his way to the front?

“Yeah, we have a great equipment,” Larson said. “Paul Silva is the best there is when it comes to setting up a sprint car. It’s nice that we’re starting in the second row. If you get further back, it’s hard to pass.

“It’s hard to say what the track will be like. In years past, it’s been pretty narrow in the beginning. So it will be nice that we’re already in a transfer spot. I just have to do what I can to stay there.”

Larson Marks Racing

Larson is also stoked about his own driver — Shane Stewart, who pilots the No. 2S for Larson Marks Racing. Stewart qualified 12th on Wednesday but beat nine-time Knoxville Nationals champion Donny Schatz for the win in the A main. Stewart earned the eighth most points after the qualifying night were tabulated and is already locked in to start eighth in Saturday’s A main. 

“Shane did a really good job on Wednesday night,” Larson added. “He beat Donny so, that’s good. But Donny never shows what he’s got though on the prelim nights. He steps it up quite a bit on Saturday

“Still, any time you can beat him, that’s good. And this is Shane’s best track as well. He has to come from a few rows back. But hopefully, if I can’t win, it would be nice if Shane could.”


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