“And winning the championship helped me get this Nationwide Series ride with Turner Scott Motorsports.’’
And if Larson were to emerge as the sport’s next generation star?
“It would be fantastic,’’ Jadotte said. “In many ways, he’s straight out of Central Casting.’’
Fresh-faced, forthright, and earnest, Larson appears to have a champion’s mettle.
“He’s an incredibly talented driver,” said Jadotte, “and you’ve heard that not only from Tony Stewart, but Jeff Gordon and others who’ve seen Kyle Larson perform and rave about his talent. He’s had success in every form of motorsports and he certainly hit the ground running in stock cars.
“Kyle Larson has the ability to succeed in whatever form of motorsports you put him in, but we’re excited to have him here in NASCAR.’’
Last September, after winning the K&N Pro Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway from the pole, Larson was whisked away to Ohio on Stewart’s private jet to race at the NASCAR star’s dirt track at Eldora Speedway, where two years ago Larson became only the second driver to win the 4-Crown Nationals sprint car, midget, and Silver Crown features.
Last year, however, Larson failed to duplicate his feat.
“I won the midget race, then in the sprint car race I wrecked really hard and ended up in the hospital,’’ Larson said. “So it was an up-and-down day for sure and one I’ll never forget.’’
He has followed a hectic racing schedule that closely resembles Stewart’s, and Larson likely will be the busiest driver at Daytona this year, running in the ARCA Series opener, the Nationwide opener, and the inaugural UNOH Battle at the Beach, which will stage qualifying heats and 150-lap features among NASCAR’s three premier short-track touring series: K&N Pro Series, Whelen Modified Tours, and the Late Model division of the Whelen All-American Series.
Ganassi is supportive of the schedule.
“He flies across the country and gets in an unfamiliar car and he wins races with it,’’ Ganassi said. “I mean, that’s pretty impressive.
“He’s got to make some solid steps now and I’m sure he will, but we’re happy he’s a part of our team and we’re happy to be a part of his.’’
The car owner’s only concern has been reining in the expectations.
“When you’re a car owner, your job is to manage everybody’s expectations,’’ Ganassi said. “We don’t want to get the cart in front of the horse, as they say. Let’s just get him through his first Nationwide race right now.’’
Still, Stewart’s bold prediction did not go unnoticed, especially after it went viral.
“It’s cool to read that stuff on Twitter about what he says about me,’’ said Larson. “Like I said before, I just try not to pay too much attention to it, because I don’t want to get a big head or feel too much pressure.”
But he is not unappreciative.
“It’s cool that he says it,’’ Larson said. “It’s only better for my career that I’ve got guys like Tony Stewart talking about me.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.