BRISTOL, Tenn. — He may only be 28 years old, but NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson has already crafted a deep résumé when it comes to sprint car racing.
Twenty World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series victories in only 94 feature starts, as well as 24 All Star Circuit of Champions triumphs and additional wins with ASCS, USAC and in Central Pennsylvania have made Larson one of the most feared drivers in the country.
Among that pile of victories are a Gold Cup Race of Champions, a Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup and last year’s $50,000-to-win Capitani Classic at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway, which replaced the Knoxville Nationals during a year ravaged by the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
But multiple marquee sprint car wins still elude Larson’s grasp. He wants to win the Kings Royal at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway, the National Open at Pennsylvania’s Williams Grove Speedway and the Knoxville Nationals.
Larson has time on his side in those pursuits. He’s only 28 years old and could easily race for another decade in NASCAR before even thinking about going full time again on the sprint car trail — as he did last season while rehabilitating his public image, barnstorming to 46 dirt-track wins in the process.
However, Larson’s quest to hoist one of the iconic sword trophies given to all Bristol Motor Speedway winners — particularly in World of Outlaws competition — may have to be accomplished quickly.
Sure, Larson will have future shots to attain Bristol glory in NASCAR competition, but as his brother-in-law, two-time World of Outlaws champion Brad Sweet, noted this week, “It’s been 20 years since sprint cars have raced at Bristol Motor Speedway and it could be another 20 years [before it happens again].”
The likelihood is that the Bristol Throwdown will, at the very least, be duplicated in 2022. NASCAR has already confirmed its dirt weekend will be back for a second edition next spring.
But for now, the chance to become a Bristol World of Outlaws winner is extremely limited. Going into the weekend, only Sammy Swindell, Donny Schatz and Mark Kinser have done so.
Larson would love nothing more than to become the fourth — or possibly fifth — driver on that list.
“It would mean a lot,” Larson said of potentially winning this weekend at Bristol. “They’ve only done this race a couple of times. They’ve only had a few dirt races now at Bristol and not many people can say they’ve won here. I want to be one of them.
“It’s a unique event and you always want to win the unique ones, the special ones, for sure,” he added. “This is one of them and it’s a track with so much history. I’d love to win there.”
There’s no question Larson is one of the pre-race favorites to be in the mix.
The Elk Grove, Calif., native has Bristol dirt experience on his side. He raced in the Bristol Dirt Nationals in a late model, as well as in both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Cup Series events, at the dirt-covered high banks over the past month.
Larson also built a mammoth reputation with the Paul Silva-owned No. 57 last season, winning a whopping 32 times in 410 sprint car competition across 69 starts from coast to coast.
Larson won his season debut in a 410 sprint car last Friday with the All Stars at Williams Grove and his second and third 410 sprint car starts for this year will come with the Outlaws at Bristol.
Despite that recent success, however, Larson isn’t expecting winning at Bristol to be easy.
“I think it’s way different because last year I was racing [on dirt] almost every day of the week, and we built a huge notebook and I was fresh as a driver,” Larson said. “Now, this is only my second race back in a sprint car since November, so there’s some rust there. The Outlaws are just so much more aggressive than the All Stars with double-file restarts and such.
“It’s the little things you have to perfect to be good with the World of Outlaws.”
If there’s one Outlaw regular Larson badly wants to beat this weekend, it’s Sweet.
“I’m really competitive with Brad,” Larson said. “He’s my brother-in-law, so I want to beat him more than anyone, probably. I’m sure the same goes [with him] for me.
“Brad’s the best there is right now, with the best team, too.”
That said, Larson also nodded to the depth of field within the current Outlaw roster as a reason why both Friday and Saturday’s programs will be difficult to win.
“The World of Outlaws are just extremely competitive [as a series],” Larson said. “You can look down the field and kind of pick apart the guys that are good on half miles. For example, Carson Macedo and (Jason Johnson Racing) are really, really strong.
“David Gravel is always a great qualifier and that’s the key to success, especially on half-mile tracks. Logan Schuchart, Jacob Allen and Sheldon (Haudenschild) have been killing [lately]. It’s all good.”
That doesn’t mean that the rest of the field isn’t aiming to beat Larson, however. He’s set the standard to this point and he’ll look to write a new standard during the Bristol Throwdown.