SONOMA (AP) — Kyle Larson isn’t jumping from NASCAR into full-time dirt track racing any time soon.
Larson said Friday that he didn’t mean to minimize his commitment to NASCAR this week when he expressed his plans to race full-time in the World of Outlaws sprint car series “before I’m 40.”
Larson made the comment on Twitter while responding to a question from the World of Outlaws’ account, but it sparked immediate online criticism from NASCAR fans. While the 25-year-old Northern California native has made no secret of his love for dirt tracks and sprint cars, Larson insisted he is dedicated to excelling in NASCAR for Chip Ganassi Racing.
“I think maybe some people aren’t quite as open-minded, maybe,” Larson said. “It’s like they read it as if I said in two years from now, I wanted to do it. I mean, 15 years from now, that would put me 20 years in Cup, so that is a long time. I think Jeff Gordon spent about that much time in the sport, but I don’t know.
“Maybe I don’t do the best job in the world of talking about how much I love NASCAR as much as I do sprint cars, but I do. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love NASCAR racing.”
Larson has five career Cup victories in his fifth full season. While he hasn’t won this season for Ganassi, he has three second-place finishes.
Larson also seizes any opportunity to get dirty during breaks in the NASCAR season. With no Cup race last week, Larson participated in five nights of Ohio Sprint Speedweek, winning twice and missing a sixth race only due to rain.
“I enjoy sprint cars, and I feel like I talk about sprint cars a lot just to open people’s eyes to that style of racing because it’s a great form or racing, and so is NASCAR,” Larson said. “I just want fans to be fans of motorsports, not just NASCAR, and not just sprint cars. I would like to see everybody just enjoy all of racing. I think that is what I do. Maybe I don’t do a good job at it sometimes, but I enjoy racing all types of vehicles. Most fans get it, but some fans aren’t quite open-minded enough.”
Larson laughed off the Twitter kerfuffle, but fellow driver Denny Hamlin used an interview at Sonoma Raceway to outline his philosophy for dealing with online negativity.
“I’ve been very good this year about not replying to mean people, and you all should do the same,” Hamlin said. “I am making a (plea) right now to every driver, every team owner, every NASCAR executive and every media member, stop replying to people that make nonsense comments. They have 16 followers. Do not give them your 100,000 as their stage. No one will ever see their comment. Just brush it by.
“Talk about the positives. And I’m not a positive guy.”