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Kyle Larson Focused On Winning At WWTR

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson is solely focused on the job at hand for Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway (WWTR). (Photo: Josh James | The Podium Finish)

MADISON, Ill. — A new month means Kyle Larson‘s focus turns to his primary ride in the NASCAR Cup Series. Likewise, his focus is on getting the job done for Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway (WWTR).

Mother Nature put a damper on his valiant H1100 double duty efforts to complete the 108th Indianapolis 500 and 2024 Coca-Cola 600 last Sunday. Rain delayed the start of the internationally renowned race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the point he could not start his No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Charlotte.

“Cliff [Daniels, crew chief] gave me a good, nice phone call and all that,” he explained. “I wasn’t as sad about the way that the INDYCAR race turned out. I was just sad that I didn’t get a chance to get into the car and get going.

“And I felt like I was, in my heart and in my mind, I thought that I was letting these guys down because I didn’t get to talk to them before the race. So I thought, that if I was in their shoes, I would be… I didn’t know what they were thinking.”

The phone call with Daniels provided some relief for the anguished Larson, especially with how badly he wanted to make the double happen and battle for the 600-mile race win at Charlotte.

“I didn’t want them to think that I chose something else over, over them,” Laron clarified. “After talking to Cliff, everybody was in great spirits and all that and proud that I was at Indy representing their team. So yeah, that all made me feel better. I just didn’t really know. So I felt just, depressed for it that night, too.”

In sports, it is not atypical to see the star athlete and head coach meshing well. Such is the case with Larson and Daniels and their strong dynamics.

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson and crew chief Cliff Daniels are typically in sync as seen here at World Wide Technology Raceway. (Photo: Josh James | The Podium Finish)

“During the races, yeah, I mean, it’s great,” Larson said. “And even off the track, too. It’s great. So, yeah, he’s obviously a great leader, great crew chief, but he’s also a great friend. So yeah, we have a awesome relationship. And we’re glad to have him both on the box, but also, you know, as a friend.”

Presently, Larson is awaiting for a Playoff waiver to be granted for missing last Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. For the meantime, he dropped from the points lead to third in the standings, trailing Denny Hamlin by six markers.

Now, Larson is focused on Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 at the 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway. Considering his decent track record with a 12th place finish in 2022 and fourth last year, one would surmise he would feel optimistic about his chances with an average finish of 8.0.

Then again, Larson was brutally honest although he offered a glimpse into the hard work to improve his distinct Chevrolet’s pace and performance. Posting the 24th fastest time and 25th fastest in a 10-lap consecutive average in Saturday’s practice session, Larson qualified 13th for the 15th round of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season.

“It’s not a new track, but we’ve struggled pretty bad here the last two years,” Larson said. “My car feels better in practice, but I think everybody else has gotten a lot better, too. So we’re still not very competitive on on the lap time, but my car balance feels better. So hopefully, that means something for the race.”

Motorsports fans are quite as enthusiastic as those supporting the major four stick and ball sports across the country. It is not lost upon Larson’s sights that racing in the St. Louis market is huge to him and NASCAR.

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson qualified 13th for Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway. (Photo: Josh James | The Podium Finish)

“Yeah, I enjoy this area,” he said. “There’s a lot of race fans in the Midwest. So yeah, I mean, the crowd last year and the year before was was amazing. So yeah, I hope to to see a good crowd again.”

Even with the back and forth commuting and challenges thrown Larson’s way in the past year, he wants to give the double an earnest try if Mother Nature complies.

“No, I mean I would like to do it again just because I can’t imagine the weather could get any worse or screw up the plans any worse,” Larson said. “So, no, I mean, I think if I was to do again, it would go smoother.”

Save for a pit road speeding penalty assessed in last Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, Larson proved himself well by running inside the top 10. His on and off the track efforts last month was enough to garner Rookie of the Year honors following the 2024 Indianapolis 500.

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson hopes to be in the mix for the 240-lap race at World Wide Technology Raceway. (Photo: Josh James | The Podium Finish)

Naturally, Larson was in awe of the drivers he battled in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” From his raw, candid insights, to overall dedication to being a contender in his first NTT INDYCAR Series start, there were glimpses of excitement for one of the world’s most prestigious races.

“Yeah, all that was cool getting to race and the restarts were a lot of fun, he explained. “My car balance wasn’t. It’s hard for anybody to pass there once you get going. I just didn’t have the car balance [to] be aggressive once we got going. So I knew I needed to take advantage of the restarts, and those were a lot of fun.

“Yeah, I mean, when you’re out there, you’re trying to block Scott Dixon in your mirror or passing guys who’ve been doing it a long time. Like, it was pretty neat, you know? I mean, it’s good to share the racetrack with all those guys was something I’ll cherish.”

No matter how the questions were posed to Larson about the impending decision on his Playoff waiver, one thing is certain. He will still go flat out and battle for wins and the championship.

“I would not do anything different,” he stated with conviction. “I would try and win a championship.”

Editor’s Notes

Harry Loomis contributed to this article onsite from World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois.

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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