NASCAR's Kyle Larson not putting too much pressure on himself

Talented Kyle Larson, 21, is driven to succeed and wants to run in the Indy 500, too.
John Raoux/AP

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Upon further review, Kyle Larson's time at the Rolex 24 at Daytona wasn't the flop he thought it was when he first climbed out of the car.

Larson made his sports car debut last weekend driving the Chip Ganassi Racing "star car" and was disappointed following his initial stint behind the wheel. He got a speeding penalty pulling off pit road, and the stop-and-go penalty put the car a lap down. He also flat-spotted the tires and struggled in traffic.

But the 21-year-old Larson got a second stint in the car that went much smoother, and he said Tuesday that conversations with team personnel made him understand he was being too hard on himself.

"Here's a kid who never drove sports cars, never been to the race before, when he got out of the car after his first stint, he felt he wasn't aggressive enough," said Ganassi team manager Max Jones. "Well, if he was aggressive, he would have torn the fenders off of it and that's not what we need."

Jones said Larson got valuable experience and will eventually "be like Scott Dixon because he's not the kind of guy who makes the same mistakes over and over."

When put in that perspective, Larson was able to understand the bigger picture. It was only his fourth career road course race - the previous three came last season in the Nationwide Series, with a career-best finish of seventh at Road America.

"Nobody has really said I did as bad a job as I thought I did - I just didn't do as good the job I'd hoped I was going to do," Larson said. When I feel like the car is good enough and I don't do the best job I can is when I get down on myself. I don't try to set too high of expectations. I don't put pressure on myself."

It's not an issue crew chief Chris Heroy thinks he will have to manage as Larson moves into the No. 42 Chevrolet this season to replace Juan Pablo Montoya in the Sprint Cup Series.

"The kid has got an innate confidence that I don't think can be rattled," Heroy said. "I think it's enough confidence that he can admit a fault, which is a nice trait in a driver, but he's not going to break himself down. "

There's no denying Larson talks a good game - he revealed Tuesday he's asked team owner Ganassi to let him race the Indianapolis 500. Although he got no response on his request to run the double - NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 is the same day - Larson doesn't want to let go of his wish.

With his sprint car background, the Indy 500 was always his ultimate destination.

"After I accomplish some things, maybe he'll have that conversation," Larson said. "Right now, I'm just concentrating on the NASCAR side. Maybe once I am doing a good job I'll ask him again - hopefully, someday he'll like me enough to say yes."

Ganassi eyes development program for Sage Karam

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Chip Ganassi Racing wants to build a driver development program around Sage Karam and is close to putting together a second full-time entry in the Tudor United SportsCar Championship that could pair the Indy Lights champion with Marino Franchitti.

Franchitti and Karam were both part of Ganassi's two-car program in last weekend's Rolex 24 at Daytona. Ganassi team President Steve Lauletta said Tuesday the organization would like to keep Franchitti and Karam in a car if sponsorship can be found.

"There are other guys we are talking to, but it would be great to keep the momentum going from this weekend if we could," Lauletta said.

There's plenty of time for Ganassi to put together a deal because the next TUSC event - the 12 Hours of Sebring - isn't until March 15. But Lauletta said the program is taking shape.

"We're close," he said. "It's not at zero, we're getting really close to making it happen."

Franchitti, a two-time class winner at Sebring, is the younger brother of recently retired Ganassi driver Dario Franchitti. He said last weekend he has nothing else lined up yet for this upcoming season and hoped a strong showing at Daytona would lead to more work.

Part of the lineup that included Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Kyle Larson, the car was running second early Sunday when it developed a flat tire that took them out of contention.

The inclusion of Indy Lights champion Karam in Ganassi's plans is part of the team's desire to place the 18-year-old in a development program that could also include IndyCar races. The team invested in Larson the last two years and has promoted the 21-year-old to NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series this season to replace Juan Pablo Montoya.

"We'd like to do a development program with him like we did with Kyle, it just depends if we can find the support," Lauletta said. "We think having him drive a lot would be a good thing for him. Keeping him in the sports car - I think he proved he did a really nice job last weekend - and then try to do some things with him on the IndyCar side would be the ultimate goal."

It's too late to run Karam a full IndyCar season, Lauletta said, and Ganassi's lineup is already full at four cars. The Indianapolis 500 is a possibility.

Karam is owed a $1 million stipend from IndyCar for winning last year's Lights title that can only be used toward his 2014 program. Lauletta said the organization is still trying to get a full understanding on how the money can be applied, and it so far appears it will only be paid out if Karam secures a ride for a full season.

Karam said during the 24 Hours he's open to racing anything.

"That's the cool thing about this team, is that they have a car pretty much in every series that you can take your career in any path you want to," he said. "I'm a race-car driver. I would drive a lawnmower if I needed to."

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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