Tom Sorensen

NASCAR needs a Monster jolt, and there’s a driver who has provided one, quietly

Kyle Larson is among the NASCAR leaders in victories after winning the FireKeepers Casino 400 in Brooklyn, Mich. Don’t be surprised.
Kyle Larson is among the NASCAR leaders in victories after winning the FireKeepers Casino 400 in Brooklyn, Mich. Don’t be surprised. AP

NASCAR can always use a jolt, and Kyle Larson has quietly provided one. He’s 24 and leads the Cup series standings. He’s won two races, same as Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski. Only Jimmie Johnson has won more (he has three victories).

That’s good company, and it’s not a surprise. The surprise would be if Larson weren’t in the group.

Larson drives for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. At Daytona International Speedway in 2014 Sabates began to tell me about Larson. If I hadn’t cut him off, we might still be there. Sabates was thrilled about Larson’s potential, and he introduced me to him.

I thought, “Nice to meet you. But I’m looking for your dad.”

Larson is 5-6 and not big and was 22 when we met. Even now, if he buys a beer, he undoubtedly gets carded.

He’s nice, he’s courteous and he’s supremely confident. There’s nothing imposing about him until he slips into his Chevrolet.

Some people get to do what they appear to have been designed for, and Larson is one of them. He grew up in Elk Grove, Calif., south of Sacramento. He went to his first race when he was a week old and apparently liked it. Look at old pictures and movies, and there he is in a little car, or playing a NASCAR video game, or lining up Matchbox cars three-wide in a narrow turn. He’s raced since he was seven.

Larson is fearless. If you need somebody new to cheer, I nominate him.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

More from this issue of the Tom Talks newsletter:

  Comments