Motorsport: NASCAR star has high praise for Auckland

By Dale Budge

Kyle Larson celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400. Photo / Getty Images
Kyle Larson celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400. Photo / Getty Images

He barely got to do any laps thanks to the inclement Auckland weather but NASCAR star Kyle Larson has given Springs Speedway a massive plaudit during his fleeting visit this week.

Larson, the 2014 NASCAR Rookie of the Year, managed to complete a couple of qualifying laps in a midget on Tuesday night before rain washed out the 50-lap feature event. He had to be on a plane back to the United States yesterday for a prior commitment so wasn't able to run in last night's rescheduled event.

Before he left though Larson labeled the Auckland venue as one of the best he has raced at in his already decorated career.

"Coming to Western Springs is right up there with the most fun you can have as a racer," the 24-year-old told herald.co.nz. "The atmosphere here is unmatched really aside from Knoxville Nationals (Sprintcar's premier event) and Chili Bowl (the leading midget event) - the crowd just really gets into it here. The place is packed especially for Boxing Day night and the 50-lapper.

"They do a good job with the big screen and all the interviews in the pit area and stuff like that - it makes it feel like an event.

"A lot of the races throughout the States just kind of feel like another race rather than an event."

Larson was clearly disappointed that he didn't get to race in Auckland especially after skipping an event in Sydney to ensure he made to New Zealand in time.

"It stinks that I didn't get to race but it is still fun getting to come to Auckland and cruise around the city and check it out.

"I still enjoyed my time here.

"I have to go home to Charlotte to do a photo shoot. From there I got to Chili Bowl.

"I was supposed to run on January 1 in Sydney but that got postponed and it just would have been pressed for time to get here if I changed my flight. I had to miss [Monday] night's race there and then got rained out here anyway."

Larson has been to New Zealand on two previous occasions and hasn't ruled out returning next season if the timing works.

"I was here in the 2011-12 season and the 2012-13 season. I had a lot of fun the two years I came here.

"It is hard to predict my schedule a year from now. I would love to come back.

"If I could plan it right I would like to do Australia and New Zealand again. It is fun to race at both places."

The NASCAR season is extremely busy with races scheduled almost every weekend from the beginning of February to the end of November.

While some drivers enjoy time away from the sport in their off-season Larson relishes the time to get more seat time. He has a lot of experience driving speedway cars and uses the NASCAR off-season to have a little fun.

"The last couple of years I have raced during my off-season. I usually race Turkey Night (annual event in Southern California), Yuma in Arizona (a sprintcar race) and Chili Bowl. This year they didn't have Yuma going on so that is why I came down to Australia.

"I was only going to do Australia but then I found out the 50-lapper was on January 3 here so I wanted to come for that.

"[The speedway racing] is more for fun. Anytime you are in a car you are keeping your mind and body in race condition which helps for when the season starts in NASCAR.

"I do it for fun but I know it helps me too."

Larson won't have long to wait before the NASCAR season begins again - he has pre-season testing coming up and the season begins in only a few weeks.

"I test later this month at Phoenix. I think a week and a half after that we are off to Daytona so not much more of an off-season left.

"For a couple of the weeks after the season and then after Chili Bowl I will have another little break.

"Once the season gets going we only have two off weekends from the beginning of February to the end of November. There is not much relaxation once the season gets going."

Hectic maybe but that is just how Larson likes it. He says before his NASCAR career began he was probably racing even more although the mileage at NASCAR events is significantly more than at other forms of racing.

"I'm probably in a car just as much if not more with practice, qualifying and the race. I try to run some sprintcar stuff where I can through the season.

"I'm in a car a lot so I stay busy. Anytime I have free time on the couch I'm usually bored."

- NZ Herald

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