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Larson Never Loses Urge to Get Down and Dirty on Short Tracks

NASCAR Cup Series star Kyle Larson has spent the early stages of the new year following his passion: dirt racing. He kicked off 2020 by racing in New Zealand, ringing in the new year Jan. 1 with a win at Huntly International Speedway.

This week, the 27-year-old locked himself into the A-Feature for the 34th annual Chili Bowl Nationals on Saturday night, Jan. 18 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by winning the A-Main on Tuesday night, Jan. 14.

Larson, ever the accomplished dirt racer, is looking for his first career win at the prestigious dirt race. Incoming Cup Series rookie Christopher Bell has won the race the last three years. Larson is also driving in his own equipment at the Chili Bowl for the first time.

While Larson has started his year in high gear with dirt racing nearly every night, don’t expect it to stop once the NASCAR Cup Series season takes the green flag with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 16. Larson’s Cup Series team owner, Chip Ganassi, has given Larson the green light to run dirt if it doesn’t conflict with his Cup Series duties.

Larson insists that racing is his passion, and he loves being at the racetrack – no matter the series.

“I know people probably think because I still go back and race dirt cars that I do it because I don’t love NASCAR and I got to get away to do something fun, but I have fun every single weekend,” he said of his Cup Series career.

Larson said the differences between NASCAR and dirt racing make switching between the two disciplines worthwhile and fun. With longer race distances, pit stops and more, he said driving the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet in NASCAR has unique fun.

“If I wasn’t having fun, I wouldn’t be doing this,” he said. “I would have gotten out of this a long time ago. I enjoy the travel, I enjoy the race cars, I enjoy the rule changes, I enjoy the competition and the lifestyle. I enjoy everything about NASCAR.”

For Larson, the addition of a busy dirt-racing schedule helps him hone his craft and keeps him busy. Several dirt racing qualities, such as car control and changing grooves, can be applied to the stock car series.

Because of that, dirt racing has become a proving ground for the top levels of NASCAR, with drivers like himself, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart and more getting their start on local dirt tracks across the country.

Larson said returning to his roots helps him stay fresh. He added that it also helps him keep his confidence, especially when he was in a 75-race NASCAR Cup Series winless streak that he broke in September at Dover International Speedway.

“I’ve never actually been on a 70-race losing streak,” he said. “I think it’s nice that I go race other stuff and win, because I know I can do it and I still have the confidence in myself that I can do it. If I was not racing other stuff and not winning, maybe I’d be more stressed out when I got into stock cars and putting more pressure on myself to win and making even more mistakes.

“Desperation to win is a lot worse than racing in sprint cars and midgets and still having that confidence that I know I can win.”

With a passion for dirt racing comes intense planning for what races he wants to run each year. Amid the planning for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season and dirt racing trips to New Zealand, Tulsa and elsewhere throughout the country, Larson said he will be back at the Driven2SaveLives BC39 Powered by NOS Energy Drink USAC Midget race July 1-2 at The Dirt Track at IMS.

“I had a blast doing that last year,” he said. “I don’t plan on missing that ever again. I think the racing has been so good.”

In the 2019 event, Larson won the Stoops Pursuit on night one of the two-night event in epic fashion. He prevailed in a thrilling, late-race battle to emerge from a last-lap, last-corner fracas that saw the final three cars crash. Larson completed a 360-degree spin, turned himself in the right direction, gassed it and crossed the finish line first.

Fans looking to see history can watch Larson battle for his first “Golden Driller” Chili Bowl trophy on Saturday. Opening ceremonies start at 7 p.m., with all action televised on MAVTV.

Fans also can purchase tickets to the third annual Driven2SaveLives BC39 Powered by NOS Energy Drink now and save at The Driven2SaveLives BC39 kickstarts an epic July Fourth weekend at IMS, which features an exciting, revamped schedule that includes the NASCAR Xfinity Series on the IMS road course for the first time on Saturday, July 4 and the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line on Sunday, July 5.

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