Kyle Larson says dirt goal was ‘show the world I made it to Cup on talent’

Kyle Larson victory crash
Trent Gower/World of Outlaws

Kyle Larson had something to prove this season in dirt racing, but even he didn’t believe he would be able to fulfill his motivation so well.

“Once I got let go from my NASCAR ride and knew that I was going to need to run a lot of dirt stuff, my goal was to show the world I made it to Cup on talent, and I deserved to be there,” he said on the latest episode from the World of Outlaws’ “Open Red” podcast. “That was what I wanted to prove to everyone. And I feel like I’ve been able to do that, and it’s gone way better than I thought it would.”

In a 35-minute conversation that was released Tuesday, Larson dissected the magical run he has enjoyed in dirt racing since his indefinite suspension from NASCAR.

He has more than 30 victories this year in sprint cars, midgets and most recently in his second career start in a dirt late model – which Larson said was “probably one of the most satisfying wins of my career.”

It also was among the more unexpected – though Larson also has surprised himself in car owner and crew chief Paul Silva’s No. 57.

“I felt like I could win a lot,” he said. “Typically, in years I’ve (raced) Cup but also run 25 dirt shows, I can win a quarter of the races.

“But I never thought I’d win over 50% of my races. Definitely wasn’t expecting to do as good as we’ve done this year. But as good as Paul Silva is and getting to race a lot more with him. And then myself getting more laps and getting into more of a rhythm of dirt racing.

“It really, really benefited the both of us. I think that’s why I’ve been able to win a lot this year, just getting that repetition of me inside the cockpit and him getting to dial in the race car has really helped in our success. It’s definitely gone way better than any of us expected. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Kyle Larson celebrated with family and team after the first night of The One and Only at Knoxville Raceway (Trent Gower/World of Outlaws).

Part of his enjoyment has come from traveling with his wife, Katelyn, and children Owen and Audrey, who have become a jovial presence in his victory lane celebrations.

“Having my family there definitely makes winning different than before,” Larson told Open Red. “Just getting to see my kids have a lot of fun in victory lane and run around. Just seeing the excitement on their faces is probably the coolest part. That’s been probably the highlight of this year. Winning races but also getting to do it with my family and traveling up and down the road. And just making memories that we’re never going to forget as a family.

During the podcast, Larson discussed his increased affection and respect for Pennsylvania’s sprint car fans, a corner-by-corner dissection of he won his Aug. 22 duel with Logan Schuchart and the dynamics of his working relationship with Silva.

Larson also laments missing an opportunity to run the Knoxville Nationals and Kings Royal because of the pandemic but adds “the world’s going through a lot now. All us competitors and fans should be thankful we’re able to race still and compete for pretty good money. … I’m sure next year, all those events will go above and beyond.”

And will Larson return to race them in 2021?

“I don’t know what I’m going to be doing next year yet,” he said. “I haven’t really thought too far ahead of what I’m doing right now. That’s try to win every race I’m entered in and try to cap off what’s already been a really good season.”

You can listen to the Open Red podcast by clicking on the embed above or downloading where you get podcasts.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.