Kyle Larson is not a quitter. But after his dismal debut in last year’s Rolex 24, the reigning NASCAR rookie of the year was prepared to skip this year’s running of the Rolex.
But one look at the newest addition to his jewelry collection on his left wrist proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Larson was right in giving himself and the Rolex 24 another try.
He and Sprint Cup teammate Jamie McMurray were part of the winning team in last weekend’s annual running of the Rolex at Daytona International Speedway.
“To get the opportunity to run the Rolex 24 for (team owner Chip Ganassi) was something I looked forward to last year,” Larson said during Thursday’s final day of the annual NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, N.C. “And then, after how I felt I ran last year, I hated the race.
“I didn’t really want to come back and run it again this year. I’m so happy I did, so happy I did. I’m having the time of my life right now, a lot of cool things going on. The Rolex 24 is the latest cool thing that’s happened.”
It’s hard to say what meant more to Larson, being a part of the winning team or the Rolex watch he was given.
“Right now it’s 1:17,” Larson, 22, said, one of several times he was caught looking, admiring and smiling at the new watch on his left wrist during the news conference.
Time is of the essence for Larson, who is entering his second full-time season on the Sprint Cup circuit. He nearly won in Cup last year several times, and he is bound and determined to earn his inaugural win this year.
“Hopefully, 2015 goes a lot better than last year did for me,” said Larson, who barely missed qualifying for the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup and ultimately finished 17th in the final standings. “I’d like to get a couple wins and definitely make the Chase, and go for the championship. I think we can do that.”
Larson isn’t the only one thinking that. Team minority owner Felix Sabates made a rather bold prediction when he spoke to the assembled media.
“I’ve never guaranteed anybody anything in all the years I’ve been in racing,” Sabates said. “But I’ll guarantee you both of these guys (Larson and McMurray) will be in the Chase.”
Majority team owner Chip Ganassi isn’t one to usually gloat, either, but he echoed Sabates.
“Obviously, Kyle Larson’s development is nothing short of amazing,” Ganassi said. “I want to thank all the people who told us we were bringing him along too fast last year. Thank you for that. It was great to see him win the rookie of the year. We’re very proud of that and look for many more bigger and better things out of him in 2015.”
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