At just one week old, Kyle Larson made his first trip to the racetrack. A few short years later, he had already set his sights on making trips not just to, but around the racetrack, and has been driving the circuit ever since.
Often among the youngest of his peers to reach a milestone, whether it be his ascent to NASCAR, becoming a dad, owning a home or developing as an entrepreneur, Kyle’s journeys are fast-paced.
Positioned at the top of his sport, Kyle’s passion for the dirt drove him back to the tracks where he grew up, but this time around as a team owner. The shy kid with a dream from northern California can proudly serve as a role model for others chasing down their own dreams in a variety of ways. Coming full circle, Kyle is not just living his dream, he’s living the American Dream, as well.
As a new and young dad, there are many things Kyle wants to share with his son. Kyle and Owen are sure to quickly bond as he teaches him the trades of being a man, like how to change a tire, wire an outlet, or tune his engine. And while Kyle already possesses strong traits that are primed for fatherhood, there are many others he’s working to master before passing along to Owen.
Wherever life takes him, whatever adventures he’ll encounter along the way, Kyle will evolve in ways that even he won’t expect. But in the end, he’ll always come back around to his roots as the kid with a dream, doing what he loves.
Art Eddy: Take me back to your first NASCAR race. What were some of your memories from that race?
Kyle Larson: I ran my first Sprint Cup Race in Charlotte in 2013. It was really cool. It was really fast. I actually got up to I think twelfth at one point which was pretty good. I was running around there for a while. I ended up blowing my engine. The finish wasn’t great, but to gain that experience and to line up for the first time next to Jeff Gordon and guys like that I thought was pretty cool.
KL: My own personal ritual comes off if I have a good race the week before. I try to copy the same meal or same underwear or whatever that I had the week before. (Both laugh.) I have been so inconsistent lately that it has been hard to find the right ritual or whatever you want to call it. I am still trying to work on that. I would say I am pretty superstitious. I just got to hit on the right thing.
AE: When I went to my first NASCAR race over that the Brickyard in Indy I gained more respect for the sport. For those outside of the sport what is the biggest misconception people have about your profession?
KL: I guess that it is not physically demanding. I think when a lot of stick and ball sports fans tune into a NASCAR race for the few minutes that they do and they see the in car camera it doesn’t look like we are working that hard. They don’t realize that a lot of the time it is a 150 plus degrees inside the cockpit. We are losing about ten pounds of body weight a race. The cars have 750 horsepower. You are slipping and sliding around. A lot of the times it is hard to see that from the TV. To get a better idea of it I guess you have to get a bit more up close and personal with it.
AE: Switching to fatherhood now, what are some of the core values you looked to instill in your son as he grows up?
KL: Being humble and having respect for everyone. I feel like my parents raised me that way. I treat people the right way most of the time. That is what I hope for him when he grows up. We can teach him the right things about being a great person. Always being humble like I said and just respecting anyone who might be around you. So those two key traits are what I hope he grows up with and takes in.
AE: What was going through your mind when you first found out you were going to be a father?
KL: It was a little scary at first. (Both laugh.) After a week I was super excited. I couldn’t wait the eight and half more months. It was fun going through the whole process of finding out the gender. Once you find that out you get to do all the fun shopping. Getting the crib and painting the room, bed sheets, clothes, and all of that stuff was fun. Every part of it leading up to the day he was born was awesome. It is definitely something that I will never forget.
KL: It is a little tough. Luckily with our sport it is almost like bring your kid to work day every day. It is cool. We are lucky to fly with the team. The team charters a plane to the race track. He gets to fly with us there every week. I have a motorhome at the race track which is basically my second house. I get to see him mostly every day. Sometimes I have to fly out in the middle of the week and go do an appearance or something. I miss out on a day or two with him.
It is fun to have him at the race track. They have playgrounds and activities for the drivers, crew chiefs, and owner’s kids to do during the race weekend. It makes it a lot of fun. The kids are always outside playing together.
AE: What advice do you have for new dads out there?
KL: Don’t get too worked up. It is not as hard as everyone tells you it is. I think that everyone warns you when you are a soon to be dad that it is so tough. Waking up every few hours is terrible. It is hard to go back to sleep. It may be for some. For me it wasn’t hard. I almost feel like I slept better. I would wake up every few hours rather than going to bed at my normal hour and be awake.
At six in the morning he is wide awake. The beginning was actually easy. Not easy, but I guess I kind of expected it to be a lot harder than it was. When you go into it with high expectations or low expectations or whatever you want to call it, it wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be.
Life of Dad Quick Five
AE: What is your favorite family movie?
KL: In the morning we will turn on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. He is not really into the kid stuff. He loves racing. Surprise. (Both laugh.) We might pull up some racing videos on YouTube. He watches a lot of racing on my cell phone.
KL: Not yet. He has got so much energy that he wants to play. He doesn’t focus when it comes to dancing. When we are in the car and some Pop or Rap music comes on and a beat will come on and he will bob his head. I don’t know if he has a certain song or genre.
AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.
KL: When he gets a little bit older I would love to go camping. Those were my favorite vacations. Going in a tent and camping out and playing at the lake. That would be my perfect vacation. I can’t wait until he gets a year or two older.
AE: At what age did you know that you were going to be a race car driver?
KL: Like for real I guess I was probably 12 or 13 years old. That was when I decided that I was at least going to try and pursue becoming a race car driver. I didn’t know if it was going to work out or not, but I would say pretty early on I knew that racing was what I wanted to do. I never knew if it would work out or not, but thankfully it did and I didn’t have to get a real job.
AE: For someone who hasn’t been to a NASCAR race in person, what is the number one track they should see first?
KL: Definitely Bristol. Bristol is our shortest race track. It is a half mile. Super bank, high speeds, close racing the whole time, and there is lots of action. Later in the year they have a night race there. That is really cool. You get to see the sparks and it seems like drama always happens during a night race. The Bristol night race would be the one to go to if you haven’t been to a NASCAR race before.