KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Kyle Larson has been given the go-ahead from car owner Chip Ganassi to return to Knoxville Raceway Saturday night and compete in the 57th annual 5-hour Energy Knoxville Nationals championship A-Main.
Larson was originally not scheduled to be able to return to the half-mile dirt oval on Saturday, due to restrictions in his contract requiring a day off from racing before he competes in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
The 25-year-old native of Elk Grove, Calif. outlined those restrictions during the post-race press conference Wednesday following his preliminary night feature win, in which he led all 25 laps.
“In the contract with Chip, I can race – I have to have a day off before I am on track for Cup – and Saturday we are on track at Michigan practicing and we race on Sunday. … [Chip] understands how important this race is, and he may allow me to come (back) here.”
That allowance was first revealed by the Motor Racing Network as Friday morning’s first Cup practice kicked off, and later confirmed by Ganassi himself on Twitter.
“I’ve been hearing all of (the fans) over the last few days,” Ganassi said. “My Twitter account’s been blowing up. … I’ve been hearing all the comments. So we’re going to let him race!”
“We know the guy’s an amazing talent. We know he can win at Knoxville. We want him to win Sunday at Michigan too.”
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) August 11, 2017
Larson responded in turn after the official announcement, giving a nod to his fans after a massive social media campaign with the #LetKyleRace went viral on Facebook and Twitter from the early hours of Thursday morning all the way into Friday.
“First off, I want to thank all the fans for their support over the last couple of years,” Larson said via a video posted to his Twitter account. “Obviously, winning the NASCAR (Cup Series) championship is my main focus and my main goal, but I’m also extremely happy that Chip is allowing me to go back to Knoxville on Saturday and giving me the chance to try and win the Knoxville Nationals championship as well.”
“It’s the Daytona 500 of sprint car racing. To have the opportunity to go back and potentially win there is very, very special to me.”
Post-race Wednesday night, Larson spoke candidly about what he feels his chances are of winning Saturday’s championship feature, almost oozing confidence about his Paul Silva-prepared No. 57 mount.
“(The Knoxville Nationals) is a huge event for me, personally, and like I said, I don’t feel like I’ve ever been this good in a sprint car … especially with Paul’s car,” Larson said. “Winning the races we have in just 14 starts this year is pretty amazing. … This is a huge, huge event and I feel like I’ve got a good shot (to win) this year.”
And with Chip Ganassi’s blessing, he’ll officially have that chance when Saturday night’s 50-lap A-Main gets the green flag.
Larson will start ninth on the grid after earning 469 of a possible 500 points during his qualifying program Wednesday, rolling off alongside the car he co-owns, the No. 2 Larson Marks Racing entry of Shane Stewart.
In addition to Larson, Christopher Bell will also be flying to Knoxville from Michigan for Saturday’s championship night festivities. Bell is locked into the B-Main and will start sixth in that race at the wheel of the No. 14B for Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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