When NASCAR Drive for Diversity graduate Kyle Larson, of Elk Grove, Calif., returns to his home state for Saturday’s Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway, he will have a lot of people paying attention to his on-track performance.
After racing down and challenging Kyle Busch in the closing laps of last Saturday’s Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 300 at Bristol, Larson impressed many throughout the NASCAR Nationwide Series garage. His side-by-side racing showed how much the 20-year-old had learned in the past month.
In the opening race of last month’s inaugural UNOH Battle at the Beach, Larson turned race leader C.E. Falk into the infield on the final turn of the last lap to seize the victory. Although he did what was necessary to win, the move drew the ire of some fans and those inside the garage.
In last Saturday’s race, Larson was again aggressive on the track, but instead of punting the leader into the infield wall, and possibly out of the race, he chose good, clean racing. It’s a sign that he’s already learned that knocking people from the lead or race is not always the best way to get to the front.
Through the first four races of the 2013 season, Larson has proven that he’s more than capable of winning his fair share of those last-lap duels without unnecessary contact. He finished the first two races in 13th place. At Las Vegas, he had to head to the garage prematurely after an accident left him 18 laps shy of the checkered flag.
With the series off to California, Larson sits ninth in the NASCAR Nationwide standings, 49 points behind leader Sam Hornish Jr. In the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, Larson is second behind Alex Bowman, who is eighth in the standings (-47) after two top-10 finishes.
“I’ve done a lot of traveling over the past couple years, so it will be nice to come back to California and Auto Club Speedway,” Larson said. “It’s always nice to come home and race in your home state.”