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Published September 19, 2015
Upon further review, Kyle Larson's time at the Rolex 24 at Daytona wasn't the flop he thought it was when he first climbed out of the car.
Larson made his sports car debut last weekend driving the Chip Ganassi Racing "star car" and was disappointed following his initial stint behind the wheel. He got a speeding penalty pulling off pit road, and the stop-and-go penalty put the car a lap down. He also flat-spotted the tires and struggled in traffic.
But the 21-year-old Larson got a second stint in the car that went much smoother, and he said Tuesday that conversations with team personnel made him understand he was being too hard on himself.
"Here's a kid who never drove sports cars, never been to the race before, when he got out of the car after his first stint, he felt he wasn't aggressive enough," said Ganassi team manager Max Jones. "Well, if he was aggressive, he would have torn the fenders off of it and that's not what we need."
Jones said Larson got valuable experience and will eventually "be like Scott Dixon because he's not the kind of guy who makes the same mistakes over and over."
When put in that perspective, Larson was able to understand the bigger picture. It was only his fourth career road course race — the previous three came last season in the Nationwide Series, with a career-best finish of seventh at Road America.
"Nobody has really said I did as bad a job as I thought I did — I just didn't do as good the job I'd hoped I was going to do," Larson said. When I feel like the car is good enough and I don't do the best job I can is when I get down on myself. I don't try to set too high of expectations. I don't put pressure on myself."
It's not an issue crew chief Chris Heroy thinks he will have to manage as Larson moves into the No. 42 Chevrolet this season to replace Juan Pablo Montoya in the Sprint Cup Series.
"The kid has got an innate confidence that I don't think can be rattled," Heroy said. "I think it's enough confidence that he can admit a fault, which is a nice trait in a driver, but he's not going to break himself down. "
There's no denying Larson talks a good game — he revealed Tuesday he's asked team owner Ganassi to let him race the Indianapolis 500. Although he got no response on his request to run the double — NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 is the same day — Larson doesn't want to let go of his wish.
With his sprint car background, the Indy 500 was always his ultimate destination.
"After I accomplish some things, maybe he'll have that conversation," Larson said. "Right now, I'm just concentrating on the NASCAR side. Maybe once I am doing a good job I'll ask him again — hopefully, someday he'll like me enough to say yes."