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Cup Rookie Larson In No Mood To Take Vacation

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 18 2014

Kyle Larson is racing right through the bye weekend. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

JOLIET, Ill. – This is a rare off-weekend for the Sprint Cup Series. But that didn’t stop Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson, full-time drivers in NASCAR’s top series, from showing up in Chicago on Friday to participate in Saturday night’s Nationwide Series EnjoyIllinois.com 300.

As they met the media at Chicagoland Speedway early Friday afternoon, Larson was asked why he and Kahne chose to race when they could be off vacationing instead.

“Well, I flew to Chicago with Kasey,” Larson said. “And I told him about a story I read earlier this week. It said we either love racing or we have no social life (chuckles).

“I’m actually excited about this race. I wasn’t doing anything this weekend; I just wanted to race. So I thought coming here was a good idea.”

Larson’s run on Saturday night will begin a busy stretch of NASCAR races for the Cup rookie. He’s also scheduled to run the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway on Wednesday before pulling double-duty at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next weekend.

Larson said the primary reason he’s running the second annual truck race at Eldora is to make amends for last year’s event that he dominated, only to lose in the closing laps to eventual winner Austin Dillon.

“Last year, I felt like I was favored to win that race, but I gave that one away,” Larson said.

“I love dirt racing. I learned a lot from last year’s race. I’m eager to get back up there.”

Regan Smith, who hopes to extend his Nationwide Series points lead during Saturday night’s 200 lap race at Chicagoland Speedway, admitted on Friday that he and his No. 7 JR Motorsports team already have an eye on the big prize that awaits the winner on NASCAR’s junior circuit next weekend.

For just the third time in Nationwide Series history, the drivers, teams and cars from that circuit will compete at what is arguably the most-famous race track in the world, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

While it’s hard to determine where Indy ranks on the “grand stage” scale, Smith knows only a select few drivers have had the opportunity to kiss the famous bricks located at the start-finish line of the 2.5-mile facility.

“It’s obviously an important race. It’s the Brickyard,” Smith said. “As far as the pecking order, you certainly rank Daytona, Darlington, Indianapolis and places like that in the same area of each other.

“To each driver, a track has its own importance. Daytona is the mecca for me. To pick one over another is difficult.

“But you want to go (to Indy) and win and showcase your sponsor. It’d be a lie to say the teams don’t put a little extra emphasis on that race.”

The efforts of 27-year-old Nationwide Series driver Ryan Sieg hasn’t gone unnoticed by veteran competitor Elliott Sadler.

Sieg turned heads earlier this month when he finished third in his No. 39 Chevrolet after pushing Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 to victory.

But Sieg isn’t a one-hit wonder. In a series dominated by Cup drivers and teams, Sieg, a Georgia native, has produced solid finishes with little funding for a team owned by his father, Rod Sieg.

“I think he’s done a great job,” Sadler said. “I think if he keeps plugging away, I think some doors will open for him.

“This is a tough sport. All the things have to be at the top level to compete each and every weekend. So for these guys to get in here with the type of equipment they’re in and make some noise, it’s impressive.

“Ryan is a great racer. You never see him driving in over his head or doing something he shouldn’t on the track. He drives within his means, which shows a lot of maturity for his age.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 18 2014
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