I will not be surprised if this column is one of several regarding Kyle Larson in this issue of Sprint Car & Midget. He is simply dominating the headlines in short track racing and definitely making a statement to his former colleagues in NASCAR.
What Kyle is doing in 2020, in my opinion, is solidifying himself as a once in a generation talent who’s equal will not soon be seen.
First, he started the year out by winning one of the biggest races of the year, the Chili Bowl. Once he placed his Golden Driller on the mantle, he went about his normal job in NASCAR. The pandemic then rocked the globe, bringing motorsports to a screeching halt.
Kyle then found himself in a controversy that caused him to lose his seat in the No. 42 Cup car. Without missing a beat, Larson and his family pulled themselves together and headed out on the road for a true outlaw schedule of open-wheel dirt races.
Since then, he has managed to produce a win percentage of over 50 percent and, at the time of this writing, has been in the top six 95 percent of the time.
Naysayers, though now few and far between, still try to downplay his talent. One of their claims is that “he is always in the best cars.” Well, the last time I checked, and barring monetary compensation, teams and car owners try to put the best drivers possible in their cars. Naturally, the best drivers always wind up in the best cars.
Paul Silva’s No. 57 is the vehicle in which Larson has had a majority of his success in 2020. While Paul is certainly considered an upper-echelon crew chief, he is also the car owner and has a much tighter budget than much of the competition. His equipment is of great quality but, besides hard work and knowledge, Paul doesn’t have anything that you couldn’t go out and buy yourself.
One thing that is very impressive is that they have had virtually no mechanical failures in their 50-plus starts together so far this year. Adding to this feat is the fact that Silva doesn’t have a crew of workers on his payroll. He does most of the work himself and has a rotating roster of part-time crew members and volunteers.
Kyle has achieved many incredible feats throughout his career that people may have forgotten about. He swept all three USAC 4-Crown events at Eldora Speedway in his first-ever visit to the track. He won multiple Silver Crown events in his first handful of starts in the series. He recently won the Hoosier Hundred in a car he had not seen until the day of the race for a team that had not yet won a Silver Crown race themselves.
These achievements could be minimized by sceptics saying they are all in open-wheel cars, and he has a lot of experience in these kinds of cars. This theory was blown out of the water at the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event at Port Royal Speedway.
Kyle had never raced a dirt late model in his career and only had a few laps of practice at a test. Larson teamed up with, arguably the best crew chief on the circuit, Kevin Rumley, and raised eyebrows immediately. On his first night out, he was quickest in practice, qualified well, won his heat by a straightaway, and ran fifth against the best drivers in the country.
On the final night, after night two rained out, Larson led every lap of the 50-lap main event to score his first career dirt late model victory, worth $15,000, in only his second start and against the top names of the sport.
I consider it perhaps his most impressive feat to date, considering just how much different those cars drive compared to open-wheel cars or even NASCAR-style cars.
If anyone still has any doubt of the immensity of Larson’s talent, I suggest they talk to any current driver that has competed against him. Race car drivers almost have to have some level of ego to be successful. You have to go to a race track thinking that you are the best driver there that night.
With this in mind, it is extremely difficult for a driver to admit that someone else may have more natural talent than themselves.
However, I doubt you would find many current drivers that would dispute that Kyle Larson is the most talented driver in the sport right now.