Kyle Larson won 2014 Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in the No. 42 Chevrolet for Target Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. He will file a Blog every other week on IMS.com starting next week, chronicling his second year in Sprint Cup. In this introductory piece, he talks about passing the time at Daytona during Speedweeks, the qualifying weekend and what lies ahead leading up to the Daytona 500.
I enjoy Speedweeks because I get to come down here a little bit early. Last Wednesday, I went to Volusia Speedway to watch the sprint cars race. Thursday we had media day, which is kind of our kickoff to the season even though we’re not in a race car – it’s the first time we’re in our new firesuits, showing off our helmets, talking about the upcoming season. After media day, I went back out to Volusia to watch our sprint car team (Larson Marks Racing) run. Friday we finally got on track at Daytona for our first Sprint Unlimited practice, and then as soon as that was done I headed to Volusia again to watch the sprint cars.
Saturday night was fun to get out there and get our first race of the year in. That race wasn’t for points either, so you can go out and be really aggressive. I was able to learn a lot because most of the time when I have run superspeedways, it was for points and I’m trying to be careful not to screw up my points. But in the Unlimited, you didn’t have to worry about anything other than just going out there and driving your butt off. So that was fun.
Sunday was qualifying and that didn’t go very well for our team. Our plan would have worked because the guys I was supposed to draft with were all in the top 10. I just lost them in the draft as we headed out. After qualifying I got to go over to New Smyrna Speedway to watch my best friend, Rico Abreu, make his K&N East Series debut and try to help him out a little bit. Monday started our two days off from the track and I spent a day at Disney World with my family. It was my son Owen’s first trip. My parents were there to fill-in as babysitters so me and my girlfriend (Katelyn Sweet) could try and ride some rides. We didn’t realize it was a holiday so it was extremely packed and we only got to go on one ride – Tower of Terror. We ended up just going through Epcot, which was fun because I got to go hang out with Rico and my parents, and Owen.
Tuesday we didn’t do anything, just hung around the racetrack. It was a rainy day in Daytona, so nice to stay inside and relax. We cooked some tri-tip for dinner, which is kind of a West Coast thing. I know a lot of people in the Midwest and East Coast don’t know what tri-tip is, it’s a cut of meat that’s really, really good with a ton of flavor. We marinated it in Soy Vey teriyaki marinade. I don’t really cook, but luckily our bus driver’s a pretty good cook, so he helped out.
We still have one more race before the field is set for the 500, and that’s the Budweiser Duels. For the Duel, because I’m not 100 percent locked into the 500 yet, I’ve got to be a little bit careful to not get into a wreck. But the Duels race is a good chance to improve your position and improve your pit stall section for the Daytona 500, so I’ve got to be safe but work my way to the front. The Duels, most times I think, are pretty calm for a while but then at the end of the race everybody thinks they can get up to the front and win. It’s not the big race and really doesn’t affect your chances of winning the 500, but it’s still a race and all us drivers want to win. So, we all do some crazy things at the end, which can cause a big wreck.
Even though this will be my fourth Sprint Cup race at a superspeedway, I don’t feel really comfortable yet on this type of track. I’m not nervous out there, I just have to learn how to get runs on people and pass and make my way forward. I felt like I learned a lot in the Sprint Unlimited race. Last year, I didn’t really race on superspeedways, I’d just go out there and try to stay out of the messes, get to the bottom lane and just play it safe. In the Unlimited, I was trying to figure out how to work drafting and get runs on people and was able to learn quite a bit, I thought.
On Sunday, anybody’s got a shot to win. I hope we can get a win, but it’s hard to really say how we’re going to do. So much can happen at Daytona that’s completely out of your control. If I could come away with a top-10, I’d be thrilled. Last year, we finished almost last and put ourselves in this huge hole to start the season where we pretty much had to fight all season long to climb back up the standings. It would be nice to come away with a solid finish, and not be relaxed, but be less stressed about where we’re sitting in the points this time last season.
Until next time,