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Kyle Larson: CARS Tour Debut at Caraway 'Much More Fun Than I Was Expecting'

The NASCAR Cup Series champion finished seventh in his CARS Tour debut at Caraway Speedway, driving the No. 5 for JR Motorsports.

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hero image for Kyle Larson: CARS Tour Debut at Caraway 'Much More Fun Than I Was Expecting'

Kyle Larson is no stranger to competing in mid-week extracurriculars between his Sunday commitments to Hendrick Motorsports. This week, the desire to race took him away from the dirt and out to Caraway Speedway.

The Elk Grove, California-native joined a stacked field of drivers competing in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour event on Wednesday, making his series debut as a teammate to series points leader Carson Kvapil at JR Motorsports.

Even though his finish in Wednesday’s 125-lap feature didn’t exactly match that of his immaculate record on the dirt, the 30-year-old driver still recorded a respectable seventh place result, while battling it out with several series regulars like Bobby McCarty, Mason Diaz, and Brandon Pierce.

All of that coming from a driver who will not hesitate to inform you that he isn’t good, and has always struggled with short track racing, overall. But, as Larson has shown in his eight years in the Cup Series, an elite talent’s struggles, don’t necessarily lead to poor results.

“I enjoyed it,” Larson said about his experience in Wednesday’s CARS Tour event. “It was honestly much more fun than I was expecting. The cars were much quicker than what I remembered them being. Obviously would have liked to have done a little but better, but I’m not a short track racer.”

Of note, Larson’s two victories in the NASCAR Cup Series this year have come on a pair of tracks that measure less than one mile in length, Richmond and Martinsville. The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion has also scored victories at Bristol, Dover, and Phoenix.

“For a stock car race, this style of racing has always been difficult for me,” Larson continued. “I think it showed racing with a bunch of guys who do it or a living. Before the race I was like, probably [if I can] get to eighth that would be good, and we were able to get to eighth, so I’m happy with it, and had a good time.”

So, if Larson doesn’t consider himself to be a stellar short track racer, how did this deal come about in the first place? If you were thinking Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – owner of JR Motorsports and one of the CARS Late Model Tour’s biggest advocates – then you would be 100-percent correct.

“Just Dale [Earnhardt, Jr.] asking me to come help this event and have some fun,” said Larson. So, huge thank you to him because I would have never thought to race this stuff, just because I don’t know anybody in this racing besides, I guess Dale Jr. and I thought that was his and Josh [Berry’s] car, I didn’t think that I’d ever run it. So, when he brought it up, I said yes, right away.”

Departing from Caraway Speedway on Wednesday, Larson will now turn his focus to this weekend’s inaugural Chicago Street Race for the NASCAR Cup Series, which the four-time road course winner says won’t be a major chore.

“I jump from extreme to extreme almost every day of the week, so it’s not hard for me to switch my mindset and get ready for that, but I’ve never raced a street course, so there will be a lot of learning in the little practice we get. Hopefully, our car is fast and hopefully I’m up to speed.”

So, is a return to the CARS Late Model Tour in the cards for Kyle Larson? It’s seemingly a tossup.

“I mean who knows. This obviously worked out because it was mid-week and close to home, so that makes things a lot easier. I don’t know, I’ve never even looked at a Late Model schedule before, so I don’t even know what else is out there.”

Image Courtesy of Will Bellamy, Racing America

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