Every year, a new crop of rookies try to ingratiate themselves into their new squad. Whether it’s an incoming freshman trying to earn playing time on the varsity football team or a rookie pitcher trying to make a big league ball club in spring training, rookies compete against veteran players everyday.
However, in racing, the integration of rookies might be more noticeable than other sport because they are showcased on an island, broadcast for the entire world to see.
Most rookies struggle in their inaugural season, especially as the level of competition increases. But even though most rookies suffer through their first campaigns, in rare instances, some newcomers excel at every level.
Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing, is one of those rare drivers that is finding success in his inaugural campaign. Larson is currently 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings with three top-five finishes to his credit during the first half of the season.
For Larson to make the NASCAR’s post-season — The Chase — he would, in all likelihood, need to record a victory at some point during the season. With NASCAR visiting Daytona Super Speedway for its annual Fourth of July event under the lights, Larson knows he has a chance to record his first victory of the season if he can avoid the “big one:” the major wreck that inevitably always happens at Daytona. The “big one” is has much of a tradition has the annual fourth of July race itself.
” … I think going into Daytona, everybody has a good chance of winning,” Larson said. “We’re really confident, but at the same time it’s a track where things can go really badly. Just kind of setting goals as every other week, try to finish the race and get a top 10 and see if we can put ourselves in position to get a win at the end, that would be great.
“The biggest goal is to try and stay out of the big one because it’s going to happen. I’m sure there will be one or two of them throughout the race. Try to stay out of trouble. But yeah, it’s been nice being — running as well as we have, and if we could get a win sometime before the Chase, that would be great.”
Larson’s main competition for Rookie of the Year honors his Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Dillon is currently 18th in points, 19 markers behind Larson.
” … Austin Dillon has won a championship and Rookie of the Year in the trucks and the Nationwide Series, so if I could beat him to win the Rookie of the Year award at the end of the year, that would be great, just because I’ve only got a couple years of stock car experience right now,” Larson said.
“It’s definitely one of our main goals, and so far we’ve been doing well, staying ahead of him. Had a couple bad races the last couple weekends, but we’ll rebound from that and hopefully get back going.”
Larson has put himself in a good position over the first half of the season. The first major hurdle for the rookies and the rest of the field will take place Saturday at 7:30 p.m. as the second half of the NASCAR schedule gets underway.
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 298, or on Twitter @crslone.