clear
Wednesday September 2nd, 2015 12:27AM

Kyle Larson didn't arrive at Fontana; he was already there

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Related Articles
FONTANA, Calif. - Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick both realized how special the moment was.

Busch, who typically is disgusted when he runs second, seemed happy with third.

Harvick, another hard-nosed racer with a first-or-bust mentality, took his runner-up finish in stride.

Busch and Harvick, whose uneasy relationship on and off the track has been riddled with rancor, seemed downright comfortable as they sat side-by-side at the dais in the media center at Auto Club Speedway, deferring to each other with unfeigned politeness.

To their credit, neither driver wanted to sully a moment that was indeed ... special.

Minutes earlier, Busch and Harvick had climbed from their cars after a NASCAR Nationwide Series race that featured breathtaking, unrelenting action during the closing laps, as Busch, Harvick and race winner Kyle Larson battled in close quarters for the victory.

That's right-race winner Kyle Larson, who scored his first NNS win in Saturday's TreatMyClot.com 300. All three drivers had given their utmost, and Larson had earned the victory, fairly, cleanly and with the exercise of extraordinary talent.

Accordingly, Busch and Harvick gave Larson his due after the race, in what amounted to a fitting welcome to the fraternity.

A day later, in Sunday's Auto Club 400, Larson came within .214 seconds of doing in his ninth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start what his predecessor in the No. 42 Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, Juan Pablo Montoya, hadn't accomplished in seven full seasons-a Sprint Cup victory on an oval track.

It took all of Busch's guile and consummate skill to keep Larson behind him, to prevent a 21-year-old Cup rookie from sweeping the NASCAR weekend in his native California.

Larson's head-turning performance, however, should have surprised exactly no one. If you didn't see this coming, or if you thought Larson was promoted to the Sprint Cup Series too quickly, you just haven't been paying attention.

Tony Stewart, who has a keen eye for talent at every level and form of motorsports, has been answering the same question for three years, some variation of "Who's the best young talent with the brightest future in NASCAR racing?"

The first name out of Stewart's mouth has always been "Kyle Larson."

There was no second name.

For those whose familiarity with the speed sports begins and ends with NASCAR stock car racing, terms like "Chili Bowl," "Knoxville Nationals," and "Kings Royal," are steeped in mystery. Casual fans don't know what these races are, much less where they are.

But these, and races like them, are the subterranean showcases where Larson honed his skills in the open-wheel ranks, and where veteran drivers like Stewart were quick to identify his exceptional talent.

Legend has it that Larson attended his first race when he was a week old. It's no legend, though, that in 2011 Larson became the second driver in history to win all three USAC races (Midgets, Silver Crown and Sprint Cars) in the 4-Crown Nationals at Stewart's Eldora Speedway--on the same night. That's fact.

And that underlines the determination Larson brings to the Sprint Cup Series, where he expects to win a race and qualify for the Chase this year. A graduate of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program, Larson's quiet confidence is neither egocentric nor over-inflated. It's simply that his own expectations mirror those of others.

Joey Logano, whose arrival at the Cup level as a teenager was accompanied by the same sort of fanfare that has greeted Larson, had to grow into the expectations that preceded him, much as child eventually fills out a shirt too big in the shoulders.

To his credit, Logano has parlayed some hard knocks and a change of scene into a solid career as a Sprint Cup contender.

Larson is already there. Whether they realized it or not, fans who watched the kid with the Eddie Munster haircut flash across the finish line on Saturday or Sunday got a vivid glimpse of the future from a driver who seems destined to make an indelible impression on the sport.

The next time Larson beats them-and he will-Harvick and Busch likely won't be so charitable.

But by then, as a full-fledged member of the fraternity, Larson likely won't care.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
2014 Top 10: Looking back at the top sports stories of the year
It was another year for the record books in 2014, mostly for the right reasons -- state championships, new challenges and new stars taking their turn to shine. But there were also plenty of big stories that reminded us that sports -- like life -- isn
11:55PM ( 8 months ago )
NASCAR K&N Pro Series schedules set for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - NASCAR announced recently the 2015 schedules for its top developmental regional touring series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
2:00PM ( 8 months ago )
Lanierland boys final: Johnson makes history with win over Red Elephants <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Ever the aggressor on the court, Johnson
8:55AM ( 8 months ago )
Sports
Pits will be tight as Chili Bowl entry count hits 316
TULSA, OK - The 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals presented by General Tire is on track to be a record smashing event, with the entry count climbing over the 300 mark for the first time to 316 entries confirming 303 drivers for the indoor spectacular happening Tuesday, January 13 through Saturday, January 17 at the Tulsa Expo Center in Tulsa, OK.
9:59AM ( 8 months ago )
Falcons fire Mike Smith after 2nd straight losing season
Mike Smith's status as the winningest coach in Falcons history wasn't enough to save his job. Owner Arthur Blank said he fired Smith on Monday because in his "heart of hearts" he didn't believe Smith could take the Falcons to the Super Bowl.
7:58PM ( 8 months ago )
New promoters in place for 2015 at Senoia Raceway
SENOIA, GA - Lease papers have been signed and a team of new promoters is in place for the upcoming stock car racing season at Senoia Raceway in Senoia, GA.
6:00AM ( 8 months ago )
Professional Sports
Garbo, Jr. to compete in NASCAR K&N East with Whelen sponsorship
CHARLOTTE, NC--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- When Marsh Racing and longtime team sponsor Whelen Engineering Company, Inc. got the opportunity to put together a race team for 2015, they looked closely at the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
12:00PM ( 8 months ago )
Former NASCAR racer pleads guilty in high-speed chase
ST. GEORGE, UT (AP)
12:51PM ( 8 months ago )
Chili Bowl entry list again nearing record 300 mark
TULSA, OK - For the past couple years, the entry list for the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals has flirted with the 300 mark. Once again, the number of teams registering for the indoor Midget event is nearing the three century mark with 285 entries received for the 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.
11:59AM ( 8 months ago )
NASCAR News
Kurt Buschs ex seeks no-contact order at hearing
DOVER, DE (AP)
12:27PM ( 8 months ago )
Sprint to end NASCAR sponsorship after 2016 season
CHARLOTTE, NC (AP)
2:54PM ( 8 months ago )
Sprint Unlimited field features Chase drivers for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - Coming off an exciting 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup finale, NASCAR announced Monday all 16 Chase drivers will be eligible to compete in the 2015 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.
12:00PM ( 8 months ago )
Sprint Cup
Falcons head into region opener with unexpected QB battle
There was NO quarterback controversy for Flowery Branch coming into this season.
8:00PM ( 19 hours from now )
Softball: Buford fends off North Hall challenge, 9-8
Buford softball is still the gold standard in Region 8-AAAA -- and Class AAAA for that matter -- but the Lady Wolves could feel the collective breath of North Hall on their neck on Tuesday.
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:16AM ( 10 hours from now )
No. 9 Georgia players not fazed by Lambert winning QB job
The big quarterback decision has been made. That clears the way for No. 9 Georgia to sharpen its focus on the season.
10:57AM ( 10 hours from now )
Jake Matthews, Brooks Reed to miss Falcons' preseason finale
Coach Dan Quinn is hoping the Atlanta Falcons' list of injuries doesn't get any longer...
10:55AM ( 10 hours from now )
Piedmont women's soccer team opens season win dominating fashion
It didn't take long for the Piedmont College women's soccer team to find its groove offensively, as the Lady Lions opened 2015 with a bang on Tuesday, knocking off Agnes Scott College 7-0 in Decatur.
By AccessWDUN Staff
12:09AM ( 18 minutes ago )