NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Kyle Larson is coming off his finest weekend in the sport after scoring his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory Saturday at Auto Club Speedway, and then answering it with a career best runner-up finish in Sunday's Auto Club 400 Sprint Cup race.
The driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates sits down with NASCAR.com each month to chronicle his season. Here's what the Californian had to say about his stellar homecoming weekend, his season to date and what it's like for the 21-year-old to his sponsor Target's new marketing project:
"I said to myself, 'I am not getting another one.' "
-- Kyle Larson, on his second-place finishes
Nice showing in front of your home-state fans:
KL: "It's been a really good weekend. I guess you couldn't ask for more."
Talk about the closing laps of the Cup race Sunday. You came from ninth on the final restart to finish a career best finish:
KL: "I was disappointed (restarting ninth) because the bottom had been getting jammed up (on restarts) once we got to Turn 1. I watched [the replay] on TV and it was pretty wild, we were four-wide there in Turn 1. We came out in fourth there, and then got to second coming off Turn 2 on the next lap and I thought I might have a shot at Kyle (Busch) depending on where he'd go into Turn 3, but he was good enough to keep it on the bottom and stay ahead of me.
"But we'll take a second. It was a long race and I definitely didn't expect to run second, so I'll take it and head back to North Carolina with a smile on my face."
Your first win in the Nationwide Series on Saturday was hard-fought and you prevailed among four Cup regulars after five previous runner-up finishes:
KL: "I feel amazing right now. Probably more excited than I thought we'd feel.
"After five second-place finishes, it feels good. But the way we got it done beating Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano was just awesome.
"I had never noticed a TV screen in the middle of (Turns) 1 and 2 before, but during that last caution I saw my face on it, and next to it, it said five second-place finishes in the Nationwide Series. So I said to myself, 'I am not getting another one.' Those guys were running hard with me and I thought, 'Man, we might run second again.' But we were able to stop that streak."
Several people from other teams made a point to stop by Victory Lane to congratulate you:
KL: "It means a lot to have those guys like Rick Hendrick, Kyle Busch and Chase (Elliott), who's done an amazing job this season, come up and congratulate me."
Do you feel racing full time in the Nationwide Series for Turner Scott Motorsports along with your full Sprint Cup schedule has benefited you:
KL: "Gaining more experience in stock cars helps all around. Nationwide helps the Cup side because it feels like slow motion and I learn a lot."
During the Las Vegas race weekend, your team Chip Ganassi Racing and your sponsor Target celebrated a 25-year partnership. That's a sponsor relationship older than you are. How does that stability help a young driver like yourself:
KL: "It definitely makes it really comfortable for me. Target's been with Chip 25 years and they probably aren't going anywhere either (smiling). That's good for the team and myself to know I have something solid for a long time."
Target executives have said they'd like to market you along the lines of other high wattage, action sports stars. Target Vice President of Marketing Dan Griffis said "Kyle's our guy" and that the company has big plans for you. That must be a huge vote of confidence.
KL: "That is really exciting for me and I think will get a different crowd to follow. I'm young and it will help NASCAR with the younger fans. That's cool. Action sports are exciting.
And would you ever be open to having your own line of clothing at Target like action sports star Shaun White?
KL: "That would be really cool if I did that, then I could wear T-shirts instead of polos (smiling).