Kyle Larson was introduced as the new driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Friday afternoon at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Larson is competing in his first full season in the Nationwide Series and has impressed many during this season.
At age 21 Larson has many accolades already in his young career. He has a Camping World Truck Series victory (earlier this year at Rockingham), two-time SPEED performer nominee (2011 & 2012), the 2012 K&N Series champion and Rookie of the Year, and was a graduate of the NASCAR Drive For Diversity Program and the NASCAR Next Program.
At the press conference owner Ganassi was gushing about his new driver. “Certainly we believe that Kyle is the future of the sport. He’s a unique talent. Let me be very clear, this was a racing decision. We felt that Kyle was the best short-term and long-term fit for the team and for Target…Kyle was our first choice. We did not offer any deals to any other drivers.”
What’s amazing is the association with Ganassi and Target goes back 24 years. If you do the math, three years before Larson was born. “While our team has been partnered with Target for 24 years, when we decided to make the change, we wanted to make sure we found the right driver, someone that would represent their brand as well as have a chance to win races,” Ganassi continued.
Larson was grinning ear to ear during the press conference. “I’m really excited, excited to be a part of the Target brand. Everybody knows the Target logo when they see it. It’s a pretty iconic car. I think I can do okay. Like you said, there’s going to be some growing pains, I’m sure. I think I’ll learn a lot and I’ll grow as a driver and mature as a person.”
To aid in his development the plan is to have Larson run Nationwide races in conjunction with the Sprint Cup season. Early reports have it being with Turner Scott Motorsports, whom Larson drives for now, and would only be the companion races. Larson would also cut back on his sprint car racing outside of his NASCAR racing.
“Racing both Nationwide and Cup next year that takes up about your whole weekend. I know I won’t be able to race as much Sprint car stuff. I’m cool with it. Getting more experience in stock cars is a little bit better than racing Sprint cars. That just shows where my focus is at being in the NASCAR stuff. If I could still race 10 Sprint car races next year, I’d be totally fine with that,” said Larson.
The overall feel of the press conference is that Ganassi and his team have done their homework and are ok learning and growing with Larson next year. I was hesitant at first, but I agree. I’d rather have Larson’s potential while maybe running in the back of the pack, then a recycled driver’s realized potential of running in the back of the pack.