Kyle Larson on NASCAR return: ‘If opportunity was there, I’d love a shot’

Kyle Larson NASCAR return
Michael Fry/All Star Circuit of Champions
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Kyle Larson remains interested in a NASCAR comeback, though he said he hasn’t explored the options for a return to stock cars.

“Well, I’ve been so busy just racing pretty much every day of the week that I haven’t even had time to work on anything, but I would love an opportunity if it came,” he said during a recent interview with MRN Winged Nation (that was posted Tuesday to YouTube) about his impressive tear through dirt racing this summer. “But at the same time, I’m also having a ton of fun right now.”

Larson has focused solely on dirt racing since being indefinitely suspended by NASCAR and losing his ride at Chip Ganassi Racing for using a racial slur during an iRacing event in April.

Since the beginning of June, he has 20 victories in 34 starts with a worst finish of sixth while barnstorming through Pennsylvania, Ohio and several other states to race in various sprint car series and some USAC midget events. Before taking last weekend off, he finished second in a three-way battle with World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car champions Donny Schatz and Brad Sweet that snapped a six-race winning streak.

While the success has kept him preoccupied, it also hasn’t led to any concrete offers to return in NASCAR.

“There’s a lot to weigh and stuff, and there’s nothing that’s come up, either, so I haven’t had to make too many tough decisions or anything like that,” said Larson, who will turn 28 Friday. “But definitely if the opportunity was there, I’d love to give it a shot to get back and prove to the NASCAR world that I am a great race car driver, and I know if I got the right opportunity, I could win a lot of races like I am right now.”

Other hurdles would exist for Larson to return to NASCAR. The first would be reinstatement for a driver who was considered the top impending free agent for the 2021 season prior to his suspension. Though he completed sensitivity training to begin racing the World of Outlaws in May after his apology for the incident, Larson would need to satisfy NASCAR requirements to become eligible to return (a NASCAR spokesman confirmed Tuesday to NBC Sports that Larson remains on suspension).

He also would need corporate sponsorship after several companies (including McDonald’s, Chevrolet and Credit One) disassociated with Larson because of his suspension.

“I understand kind of how the world is right now, and with the mistake I made, that it’s going to be really tough to get another opportunity” in NASCAR, he said. “But even if that opportunity comes, it’s more than just about racing a race car at this point. We’ll see, but I would definitely love the opportunity.”

After racing in NASCAR’s premier series for the past six years, this summer has been much different for Larson, who stayed with his family at the Kampgrounds of America in Jonestown, Pennsylvania, while racing around the state during its annual Speedweek for sprint cars. Larson was crowned the 2020 champion and said his wife, Katelyn, was “extremely busy selling T-shirts” at his merchandise stand (notable because Larson said three years ago the business was more lucrative in sprint cars than NASCAR).

Kyle Larson celebrates after an All Star Circuit of Champions victory at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania (Chad Warner/ASCOC).

“It’s been awesome … Pennsylvania race fans are the most dedicated I’ve ever come across,” Larson said. “Getting to spend a few weeks here now, it’s been really cool. I kind of feel like they’ve taken me in a little bit. Getting to see a lot of Pennsylvania fans wearing my stuff each night has been really cool. Seeing the crowd cheer for me and get excited for Katelyn to shotgun her beers (her winning tradition when Larson wins), it’s all been really fun. I’ve grown to love Pennsylvania for sure.”

After being contractually limited to 25 dirt track races annually the last few seasons with Ganassi, Larson said the constant reps were primarily the key to his success in team owner Paul Silva’s No. 57 car.

“I think just us being able to race a lot more and on a more consistent level has really helped our team get faster,” he said. “We’ve always been good with the 57, but only racing 20 to 25 times, I feel like we’ve gotten behind. Now we’ve been able to race more than anybody in the country, and I think it’s helped us get our car working a lot better than other people.

“Paul Silva is the smartest person I’ve ever been around, and if you give him opportunities night after night to get his car better, it’s pretty dangerous. Just been a pleasure to get to race for him, and then I think of the same point of me getting to race a lot more in a sprint car, and really just 100% focused on this has helped me just become more comfortable again. I feel like my mind is just really sharp when I’m on the racetrack and so far we’ve just been able to make good decisions out there and help get us to the lead.”

Texas starting lineup: Felix Rosenqvist back on pole; Scott Dixon qualifies second

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FORT WORTH, Texas — For the second consecutive year, Felix Rosenqvist will lead the NTT IndyCar Series starting lineup to the green flag at Texas Motor Speedway.

The Arrow McLaren driver is hoping the third time will be the charm at the 1.5-mile oval, where he has run extremely well but has only a career-best 12th in five starts.

“We’ve always been good here, but this is a whole different confidence level compared to last year,” Rosenqvist told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “Let’s try to wrap it up (Sunday).”

In 2020, Rosenqvist was competing for a podium when he crashed with 10 laps remaining at Texas.

QUALIFYING RESULTS: Click here for speeds from Saturday’s time trials

INDYCAR AT TEXASSchedule, start times, how to watch on NBC, Peacock

Last year, he started first on an oval for the first time in his career but finished 21st because of a broken halfshaft.

“It’s definitely one of my favorite tracks, and naturally, I’ve always been OK here,” Rosenqvist said. “It was the first oval that made sense to me. Every year I’m building on that. But looking at the results, they don’t represent the speed I normally have.

“I don’t want to jinx anything, but I hope tomorrow is going to go a bit better and some luck our way would be nice. It’s been feeling super good. Arrow McLaren has been mega every session, so just keep it rolling.”

Arrow McLaren qualified all three of its Chevrolets in the top five, building on a second for Pato O’Ward and fourth for Alexander Rossi in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The March 5 season opener was a disappointing start for Rosenqvist who was squeezed into the wall by Scott Dixon on the first lap.

Dixon, a five-time winner at Texas, will start second Sunday, followed by Rossi and Josef Newgarden. O’Ward will start fifth alongside Takuma Sato, who will start on the outside of the third row in his Chip Ganassi Racing debut.

During nearly four hours of practice and qualifying (including a special high-line session), Saturday’s lone incident involved Conor Daly.

The Ed Carpenter Racing driver spun three times but stayed off the wall and in the frontstretch grass. Aside from a front wing change and new tires, there was no damage to his No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet during the incident midway through the 30-minute session in which drivers were limited to the high line.

“I hadn’t really had a moment before, but it snapped really aggressively,” Daly told NBC Sports after final practice. “Not ideal, but I do know my way around correcting a spin it seems like. I drove NASCAR last weekend and that seemed to help a little bit. I drove in the dirt a lot in USAC Midgets and seemed to be able to save something but not ideal or what we wanted to have happen.”

Daly will start 25th of 28 cars alongside teammate Rinus VeeKay in Row 13. Carpenter qualified 18th.

“Our three of our cars were clearly looking for something. Mechanical grip is for sure what we need. Qualifying we actually expected to be a lot better, but we found an issue there. We’ll see what happens. This race can change a lot. I’m confident in the team to hopefully figure some things out for tomorrow.”

Here’s the IndyCar starting lineup for Sunday’s PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway (qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine and speed):


ROW 1

1. (6) Felix Rosenqvist, Dallara-Chevy, 220.264 mph
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 219.972

ROW 2

3. (7) Alexander Rossi, Dallara-Chevy, 219.960
4. (2) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Chevy, 219.801

ROW 3

5. (5) Pato O’Ward, Dallara-Chevy, 219.619
6. (11) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 219.508

ROW 4

7. (10) Alex Palou, Dallara-Honda, 219.480
8. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 219.355

ROW 5

9. (18) David Malukas, Dallara-Honda, 219.256
10. (26) Colton Herta, Dallara-Honda, 219.184

ROW 6

11. (28) Romain Grosjean, Dallara-Honda, 219.165
12. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Dallara-Honda, 219.146

ROW 7 

13. (55) Benjamin Pedersen, Dallara-Chevy, 219.100
14. (14) Santino Ferrucci, Dallara-Chevy, 218.892

ROW 8

15. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Dallara-Chevy, 218.765
16. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Dallara-Honda, 218.698

ROW 9

17. (77) Callum Ilott, Dallara-Chevy, 218.427
18. (33) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 218.375

ROW 10

19. (78) Agustin Canapino, Dallara-Chevy, 218.367
20. (27) Kyle Kirkwood, Dallara-Honda, 218.227

ROW 11

21. (06) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 218.196
22. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 218.103

ROW 12

23. (51) Sting Ray Robb, Dallara-Honda, 217.676
24. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 217.611

ROW 13

25. (20) Conor Daly, Dallara-Chevy, 217.457
26. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Dallara-Chevy, 216.880

ROW 14

27. (45) Christian Lundgaard, Dallara-Honda, 216.210
28. (30) Jack Harvey, Dallara-Honda, 216.103