Kyle Larson
"On a personal level just how close I’ve been to winning this race (Chili Bowl) maybe it’s meant more to me, but now that I’ve won the Chili Bowl, the Daytona 500 is going to be the next race that I want to win the most.” (Photo: Brendon Bauman / Speedsport)

Opinion: Larson’s Passion for Racing Should Never be in Doubt

Are you a racer…or are you not? That’s the question many should ask themselves. Whether it’s a Thunder Stock race on a local dirt track like Limaland or the sports biggest stage, the Daytona 500.

It’s all racing, and since the day Kyle Larson was born, he’s been a racer.

Dirt, Asphalt, two wheels or four, straight lines or corners, racing at its purest form is what most of us fell in love with.

Kyle Larson was wrongly criticized on social media following his Chili Bowl Midget Nationals victory, where the excited Larson got out of his race car and apologized to NASCAR and the sanctioning body before saying, "This is the biggest race I’ve ever won"

And that’s saying something, because Larson has won some very big races.

"I’ve obviously said in the past that the Chili Bowl is bigger than the Daytona 500, and it’s not." Larson said "The size of the fans and the purse in the Daytona 500, I’ve never raced in anything like it. On a personal level just how close I’ve been to winning this race (Chili Bowl) maybe it’s meant more to me, but now that I’ve won the Chili Bowl, the Daytona 500 is going to be the next race that I want to win the most."

By some fan’s estimation, one would say that a preliminary night victory at Knoxville would rank above the Chili Bowl, at least when it comes to pay, but that’s for a different story.

You see every driver has ‘that’ race. Kyle Larson has spent 13 of his 27 years on this planet trying to win the Chili Bowl. In fact, long before that he probably dreamed of it. But he also dreamed of being Jeff Gordon winning the Daytona 500, or Tony Stewart winning the Brickyard 400.

"It’s pretty unbelievable to finally get it done, I’ve been trying for a long time to win this, pretty much half of my entire life, and I’m still young." Larson said following his victory in Tulsa.

"It’s been a great run this off-season and hopefully we can turn this momentum into the NASCAR season."

Larson’s excitement for winning the Chili Bowl was probably only more enhanced by the fact that many unforeseen circumstances had taken it away from him in past years.

Every racer has their race. The one they circle every year, or a career defining bucket-list win that eats at them until achievement.

Cup Series driver Alex Bowman has dreamed of winning an event that doesn’t even exist anymore.

"I want to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Irwindale." Bowman said on Episode 76 of Rip The Fence. "I will always want to win that race, it mentally matters more than any other race to me.

"To me the Daytona 500 is more important than the Chili Bowl, but I also don’t take the Chili Bowl as seriously as Larson and (Christopher) Bell. I understand the way they feel and I understand the things Kyle says about the Chili Bowl, because if we were still racing Turkey Night at Irwindale I would be going to that race and saying the same thing, because it’s the race I grew up wanting to win."

Bowman, who also raced at the Chili Bowl and drives in the Cup Series for Hendrick Motorsports says Larson’s comments were misunderstood and gave a notion as to why Larson gets such a hard time.

"Because it’s 2020 and everyone wants to complain about everything. If he would have said it was just the Chili Bowl, someone would have complained about that." Bowman said.

Ryan Newman, who raced for Clauson Marshall Racing at this year’s Chili Bowl and drives for Roush Fenway Racing in the Cup Series, agrees.

"People are always going to take things wrong when you are passionate enough about something," Newman said Wednesday at a Roush Fenway Racing media event. "I feel like what he said was spot on for what it means to him. When you work 13 years to go win a race, that is special, that means a lot.

"I mean you look at his first race there, his ears thickened out, little kid barely looked like he was 13, he barely looks like he is 18 now. He’s 27, but half of his life he has documented working to win that race and when you achieve that it’s just special."

"And he is going to continue to try to win the Brickyard 400, Daytona 500, Southern 500, and he’s probably going to win one of them if not all three of them. People who don’t have a passion for our sport lose an understanding of how intimate it is for us when we do win. It’s not just another game, it is a race, it is a championship."

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.