CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kyle Larson grew up a fan of Jeff Gordon, once sat in Gordon’s office as Gordon discussed the young driver’s future, but he will not be the racer to replace the four-time champion.
Although some questioned if Larson could be the driver to take over the No. 24 ride, that honor will go to Chase Elliott next season, Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday.
Larson said he’s not disappointed.
“I’m happy where I’m at,’’ Larson said during the NASCAR Sprint Cup media tour. “That’s cool for Chase. He’ll definitely be a front-runner right off the bat.
Larson says he looks to do with the No. 42 what Gordon did for the No. 24 – a car number that had never won a Cup race before Gordon took over that number.
“A lot of people have told me that the 24 then was what the 42 is now where they weren’t the biggest team in NASCAR and Jeff kind of took that and made it into what it is,’’ said Larson, who is looking for his first Cup victory and narrowly missed make the Chase last year as a rookie. “I like that possibility to be the guy to make Chip Ganassi Racing a championship team year in and year out. I look forward to hopefully spending a long time with Chip and win a lot of races.’’
Although Gordon was Larson’s favorite driver years ago, Larson said he never dreamed of driving the No. 24 car.
“When I was a kid, Jeff Gordon was invincible and I probably thought he was going to race the rest of his life,’’ Larson said.
Instead, this will be Gordon’s final full season in Cup.
Next year, when Larson races against that car, Elliott will be driving it.
It could be the beginning of quite a rivalry.
“A rivalry in a good way, a competitive way,” Larson said. “When I think of a rivalry, I think of two drivers who butt heads. Me and Chase are friends and he’s really, really good. I hope we have a rivalry in a competitive way, that means we’re both up front, competing for wins.’’