On Friday afternoon, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing announced that Kyle Larson would be the heir apparent to the No. 42 seat for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition in 2014, replacing Juan Pablo Montoya. Is this a good move? Is Larson ready to make the move to Sprint Cup? After all, he’s still in his rookie season of NASCAR Nationwide Series competition.
I’m not questioning Larson’s talent and abilities. I acknowledge that the young driver is extremely talented. He may even be one of the most talented drivers to come down the pike in quite some time. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s ready for Sprint Cup Series competition, at least not on a full-time basis.
I’m not questioning some lack in ability from Montoya, either. I also acknowledge that he, too, is a great talent. But I can acknowledge that a change with the No. 42 was needed. While Montoya excelled in the racing series he competed in prior to NASCAR, since moving from open wheel to stock cars, he hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. This is his seventh full-time season of Sprint Cup racing. So far, he has two-career wins on road courses, and those are his only wins. He still hasn’t won on an oval, and all but two races on the 36-race schedule are ovals.
So, I can understand that at least some change needed to be made, whether it be driver, crew chief and/or other personnel. But that doesn’t mean that Larson was the best choice. Again, I’m not questioning the kid’s talent, but I’m not so sure he’s ready.
Sometimes a young driver, despite all the talent in the world, just isn’t quite ready for that next career step. And a move made too early can be a detriment to said driver. The team can generally recover, but sometimes that driver never does. Fortunately, sometimes he does, though.
Case in point — Joey Logano. I firmly believe that Logano was moved up to Sprint Cup too soon when Tony Stewart made the move to team ownership over at Stewart-Haas Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing moved Logano up to the Sprint Cup ranks to fill Stewart’s seat in the No. 20. Later, team owner Joe Gibbs admitted that he though Logano was moved up the ladder too soon. At JGR, Logano struggled, but at least he does seem to be getting his footing back this season since joining Penske Racing.
Some drivers aren’t so lucky and their careers goes south — and quickly. Remember Casey Atwood? If you do, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. If not, well then, there’s my point.
Larson, himself, doesn’t even seem certain that he’s ready, and that could mean trouble. During the press conference at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday afternoon to announce him as next year’s driver of the No. 42, Larson said, “I think I can do it.”
That wasn’t “I can do it,” or, “I know I can do it,” it was, “I THINK I can do it.” Even Larson doesn’t sound so certain.
I think Chip Ganassi has a geat mind when it comes to team ownership — in IndyCar. I have to admit, when it comes to some personnel choices he’s made regarding his NASCAR teams, I’ve kind of wondered about him a little bit, not just when it came to drivers but also with crew chief personnel-related decisions.
I truly hope I’m wrong when it comes to this Larson announcement. I do hope Larson proves me wrong next year and shows that he was, indeed, ready to make the move. I really don’t like to see drivers suffer the fate of Atwood and, seemingly, get excommunicated from the racing universe.
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