Kyle Larson stays even in Rolex 24 debut
January 25, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
Sprint Cup Series rookie rebounds from shaky start to keep car in fifth place
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kyle Larson is well regarded for his ability to climb in all types of race cars and make them go fast. But even he thinks endurance sports car racing may take a little getting used to.
As he quickly learned, being fast is only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The 2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate climbed out of his No. 02 Ganassi Racing prototype Saturday night smiling, but shaking his head about his first-ever laps in a sports car. It was a full-on sensory experience.
"Traffic's pretty hairy, especially into (turn) one and the bus stop (chicane)," said Larson, observing the speed differential between his prototype and the production-based GT cars that comprise the 67-car Rolex 24 field.
"You have lots of grip and then someone goes off in the dirt right in front of you and all of a sudden you don't have grip anymore. There's so many lights out there, too. I saw fireworks going off. It's exciting for sure."
Maybe a little too exciting initially for Larson, who stalled the car as he tried to leave pit road and incurred a speeding penalty. But he settled in and kept the car in the same position on track as he received it -- fifth place overall.
"I'm not sure what happened," Larson said of his pit miscue. "I know I stalled it when I first tried to take off so I don't know if that turned the (speed) limiter off but apparently it wasn't on. That was kinda weird.
"I did get more comfortable, but my rhythm I thought felt slow; even when I felt like I was running good laps, I was slower than I was in practice."
While Larson was a little critical of himself, his co-driver, reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, had nothing but praise for the 21-year-old. Dixon smiled when talking about how much Larson has impressed him.
"He's a smart kid and very talented," Dixon said. "And you've got to remember, I don't know how many road courses he's done ever. I'm guessing it's in the single digits. He's adapted very quickly, he'll put on a great show. I'm looking forward to seeing his big future."
At one point, all three NASCAR drivers entered in the Rolex 24 were on track at the same time -- Larson, his Ganassi Rolex and NASCAR teammate Jamie McMurray, and Michael Shank Racing driver AJ Allmendinger.
McMurray's No. 01 Ganassi Ford was best among the NASCAR group, in second place overall to the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing prototype at the seven-hour mark.