The finish of Sunday’s Camping World Truck Series race at Rockingham Speedway was ironic in the fact that Joey Logano, a driver who not that long ago was the kid of the moment, was battling for the win with a driver who now is the kid of the moment.
It was Logano versus Kyle Larson, a 20-year-old whose future appears so bright he may already own a sunglass factory. And it was Sprint Cup “veteran” against the Newest Big Thing. And it was an edge-of-your-seat green-white-checkered finish.
And Larson won it, perhaps underlining the things to come from this talented Californian.
Noteworthy about Larson’s reaction to the win – he said he was happy to “finally” take a NASCAR national series race. “Finally,” at 20 years old. He also got a boost from outrunning a Sprint Cup regular.
“I think it's good that we're able to race with Sprint Cup guys that have a ton of experience,” Larson said. “It's only better for us young guys that are trying to gain experience and stuff like that. We can learn a ton off racing with those guys. It makes it better for our resume or our career or whatever when we go out there and beat them or race hard with them. So, I like racing with them.
“I'm glad that with the Nationwide Series that we get to race with so many of them. I think it helps me learn a lot.”
Larson, who has shown remarkable ability in virtually every form of oval-track racing, already owns eight victories this year, including a pair in New Zealand, a controversial victory in the Battle at the Beach at Daytona Beach and a World of Outlaws win.
Sunday’s victory was a key one, however, because it made Larson, a graduate of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, the first driver from that group to win a race in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide or Truck series. The DfD program has been slow to develop potential star drivers, but Larson’s recent runs could launch him on the way to being the first.
The secret to Larson’s continued success might be keeping him grounded and patient.
“I always try to stay humble,” he said. “Not get too carried away or get too cocky or anything like that, because I know these opportunities don't come very often, and you can lose them in the blink of an eye. So, just stay humble and just understand that it's tough.
“I've just always been pretty humble. I don't know. My parents have taught me to stay grounded and stuff like that. I think it's been good for me and good for my career so far.”
As Larson moves along, there will be comparisons to Logano, who is still trying to find a foundation at the Sprint Cup level.
“He came up really fast and kind of struggled the first couple years he ran Cup,” Larson said of Logano. “It's hard. It seems like I've kind of taken a quick route to where I'm at now like he did. So, hopefully it goes well for me. But I think Joey's done a great job the past couple of years, and he's been doing really, really good this year.”
The Nationwide Series, where Larson is a regular, is off this weekend, but Larson, decidedly, is not. He plans to run in World of Outlaw events in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 31 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.