Kyle Larson victory crash
Trent Gower/World of Outlaws

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

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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.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.