Kyle Larson will be busy in 2024, and he wouldn’t have it any other way

Kyle Larson will be busy in 2024, and he wouldn’t have it any other way

TAMPA – Kyle Larson knows 2024 potentially could define his racing legacy.

Not only will he vie for his second NASCAR Cup Series title, he also will compete in the Indianapolis 500 hoping to run 1,100 miles in a day with the biggest event in motorsports combined with NASCAR’s 600-mile Cup race at Charlotte.

Adding to it is more than just his usual mix of sprint-car and dirt late-model races. He co-owns High Limit Racing, which purchased the All-Star Circuit of Champions from Tony Stewart. What started as a company that promoted a dozen midweek high-paying races has now turned into a 59-race nationwide schedule.

If that makes the 31-year-old highly accomplished stock-car, sprint-car and dirt late model driver nervous, it sure doesn’t seem like it.

When asked if he ever thought he should not compete in the High Limit opener Monday night and instead just oversee and watch his employees operate the race, he gave the interviewer a curious look.

“No,” he said about just watching. “I’m a racer. I don’t wear a headset. I’m a driver.”

When asked Monday night at the High Limit opener on whether he has started any specific fitness training for the Indy-Charlotte double, he quipped: “What do you mean? I’m ripped, man.”

Larson has typically carried himself with an unassuming persona. At the High Limit race, when he got to the track, he signed the waiver absolving the series of liability. It was a little bit funny to see, considering he is part owner of the series. But that’s what racers do when they get to the track. They sign the waiver.

It’s because he can do the Indy 500-Coke 600 double and people believe he can win both races that he is in this position in the first place. Brad Sweet, his brother-in-law, co-owns the series with him and is an accomplished sprint-car racer having won five consecutive titles in (now their somewhat rival) World of Outlaws sprint car series.

Just having Larson involved gives the series instant credibility. Larson is under no obligation to run only High Limit events but will do as many as he can reasonably fit into his schedule.

And he’ll do it to compete, not to oversee his investment.

“I don’t know if you know Kyle — there’s no stress,” Sweet said. “Kyle is all about when and where he can race. This is more opportunities,so he’s happy. … Kyle was put on this Earth to drive a race car.”

Kyle Larson on co-owning a national sprint-car series and doing the Indy 500 & Coke 600

When he isn’t driving a race car, he does get briefed and is involved in decisions involving the series.

“Kyle knows about everything we’re doing between his business manager, myself and all of our staff with High Limit, but he’s not necessarily in the day-to-day operations,” Sweet said. “He wouldn’t know all the logistics that went into this event.

“He just knows that he’s supporting it if he can, and that helps us. He wants to help the series grow, the sport grow. So whatever he can do schedule-allowance-wise is what he’s going to do.”

Throughout the late afternoon and early evening before rain fell Monday at the quarter-mile dirt track in the Tampa area, fans with a variety of Larson t-shirts from various racing disciplines came by for autographs.

“Kyle is very unique because he draws multiple audiences to one place,” Sweet said. “He’ll help the people that are here to see the Daytona 500 get to see a dirt race. Late model fans will come to see him.

“It brings so much for us as a series and for sprint-car racing to come [here] on a Monday and Tuesday and we’ll have massive crowds. He’s a major part of that.”

When Sweet and Larson jumped into the deep end of owning a full series, Larson asked several people their thoughts. 

“I was hoping somebody was going to say, ‘Absolutely do not do it,'” Larson said. “But everybody knows where my passion is at in dirt sprint-car racing and trying to grow the sport and knowing the position that I feel like I’m at now my career, not only financially but just on the broader how big my name has become in at least American auto racing, sprint car, NASCAR and now, hopefully even globally.

“Nobody ever really said, ‘Do not do it.’ … That gives you confidence that you can take a big step like this and to make a risky decision.”

Kyle Larson gets prepared for some laps in the High Limit Racing opening night at East Bay Raceway

Sweet and Larson have visions to elevate the sport of sprint-car racing. Larson’s roots are in that discipline and he said he has seen growth of dirt racing in recent years, and their hope is to grow it more. He hopes two sprint-car series (World of Outlaws and High Limit) can have a healthy co-existence, but those watching from the outside wonder if drivers choosing one series over the other will lead toward an unhealthy rivalry. Sweet has visions of growing their series internationally.

“I want everybody to be able to make a better living doing this because right now, it’s mostly just a hobby sport,” Larson said. “Nobody’s making money. Maybe Brad Sweet’s team the last few years in the Outlaws is clearing a little bit. But aside from that, nobody’s probably really making much money.

“I would love for that. I just want to get it more nationally known … because it’s one of, if not the coolest, forms of auto racing in the world.”

Larson doesn’t view owning the series as a distraction. He doesn’t view the Indy 500 prep as a distraction.

“I think from the outside looking in, it probably looks busier and maybe more stressful, I guess at times, but my life to me anyways, feels like it stays pretty chaotic,” Larson said. “So I don’t foresee any of these extra couple of things that I’m doing this year being a distraction.

“I’m excited about High Limit. I feel like it’s going to do well this year. And then the Indy 500 will be a lot of fun, too. And that’s only a couple of weeks [in May].

Larson in many ways is living a charmed life. In a span of nine days, he raced a Hendrick Cup car in the exhibition Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, he tested the Arrow McLaren IndyCar at Phoenix Raceway and then jumped into the sprint car to race at East Bay.

“I guess I don’t think about it being different or crazy or cool or whatever just because I feel like, aside the IndyCar, I do do this [much racing],” Larson said. “It’s like a normal week for me if anything.

“I’m super fortunate to have those opportunities. There’s not many people in the world that have gotten to race and be in many different types of cars in a week as I have. It’s definitely really cool and something down the road that I’ll appreciate more than I probably do right now.”

The biggest challenge for Larson could be the logistics of Indianapolis practice and qualifying over a span of two weeks while NASCAR races at the all-star event in North Wilkesboro (N.C.) and then Charlotte. 

Larson said from what he’s been told about the schedules, it is possible that if he advances to the final round of qualifying for the Indy 500 to be among the 12 fastest drivers aiming for the pole, he might not be able to participate in that portion in order to get to North Wilkesboro. He might have to settle to start 12th.

As far as his fitness, while he did quip about being ripped, he did say the test at Phoenix did aggravate some occasional nagging soreness in his neck.

“I didn’t notice my neck being sore in the car at all, but the next day, I was bad,” he said. “My neck has been bothering me since September or so of last year. I need to get it worked on it a little bit — I don’t need surgery or anything like that.

“It just kind of irritates me. Being in the IndyCar, it was really irritated after Phoenix.”

Larson admits the IndyCar is still “pretty foreign” with all the buttons and paddles on the steering wheel. He has now had a couple of IndyCar tests and will get at least one more before May.

His finish in the Indy 500 would already add to a resume that includes one Cup title, 23 Cup wins, two Knoxville Nationals sprint-car tiles and two Chili Bowl midget national crowns. 

“This season, there’s a lot opportunity to maybe take my legacy to the next level in a way with the series — hopefully that runs really well this year, and we start building on that,” Larson said. “[And] the Indy 500 stuff, if you could have a good run there, and then, NASCAR as well, if you can win a lot more races and hopefully cap off the year with another championship.

“It’s just hard. Everything is ultra-competitive. You can’t predict anything. You can’t be too confident. But either way, I’m excited for the opportunity to compete in all these events and at the same time try and grow sprint car racing, which is something I’m very passionate about.”

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.

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