May 20, 2019 | By Lee Spencer

Larson looks to build on All-Star win

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Here’s a hypothetical question: If you won a million dollars, what would you want?           

Before the All-Star Race, Kyle Larson asked his son Owen just that. The four-year-old didn’t have an answer. Neither did his father after scoring the ‘W’ on Saturday night and collecting the $1million that goes to the victor.

After 58 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup races without a win, the trip to Victory Lane was compensation enough for Larson.

“A million dollars is cool, but just winning is more cool than a million bucks to me,” Larson said. “I think maybe we're just—us drivers, NASCAR drivers—are in a good place in our life. It pays well. So whatever.

“But just winning a big race, a prestigious event means more to me than the money. I'm all about trophies and big wins.”

Larson, 26, has endured feast or famine throughout his six full seasons in Cup. Prior to May, the driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet had endured a prolonged drought. Before consecutive top-10 finishes at Dover and Kansas, Larson had wrecked in three of the prior four races. His Talladega tumble on April 28 was one of the worst of his career. Larson also tumbled to 21st in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings after the crash.

In 12 starts in 2019, Larson has finished in the top 10 just four times and has led 143 laps between the races. After winning the Monster Energy Open to transfer to the feature, Larson led the final 13 laps en route to his first win in the event.

“Gosh, after the year we've had I would have not guessed that we'd get our first win at the All‑Star Race,” Larson said. “But I think the way that the format is and how crazy the race is, it kind of helps out us. We always seem to run good this weekend. So it just feels like a big relief to finally get a win. It's been a long time since I've been to Victory Lane in a stock car.

“After being close to winning this race a couple of years and allowing Joey (Logano, 2016) to get by, it feels really good to get some redemption.”

For Larson’s team, the boost could not have come at a better time. This weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 marks the halfway point of the regular season. After Sunday, 13 races remain to determine the Playoffs.

“We’ve struggled together here of late,” said Larson’s crew chief Chad Johnston. ‘We haven’t been able to contend for wins. We had some bad luck at the beginning of the year. We’re definitely a better team than we’ve been in points, but it’s pretty cool to come to Charlotte, win this and get locked into the All-Star Race for the next 10 years. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come and we’ve turned the corner. Looking forward to seeing what’s around the corner.”

Although Johnston could have used a points win with the team sitting 15th in the standings, this victory could serve as a turning point. And when it comes to the million dollar prize, the crew chief is much more pragmatic than his driver.

“A win is a win, doesn’t matter if it’s points are not,” Johnston added. “It’s a million frickin’ bucks, so it’s pretty big.”

For a team that has lost two major sponsors in the last two years with Target first pulling up stakes and then DC Solar dropping out at the last moment before the season started, the money can’t hurt. For Larson to know the team is capable of winning, that’s priceless.

“It's been such a rocky start and we haven't gotten any momentum at all up until the last couple weeks a little bit,” Larson said. “I hope this kind of helps it. This is a great time of year for me to get a win. Winning not only is important for me in NASCAR because it's what I make my living in, it's what I race for points and for a championship in, but this is the time of year when I start getting to race a bunch.”

Starting on Tuesday, Larson will run an Outlaw car at Millbridge Speedway. He’ll pull double duty this weekend when he joins the World of Outlaws in addition to his NASCAR responsibilities at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I'm going to be in a race car, I think, every day for the next probably almost seven or eight days,” Larson said. “So this is a good time of year for me to get some momentum and get into my sprint car season, my midget season as well as the NASCAR stuff on the weekend.

“Hopefully, this will turn it into where I can get some double-digit wins this season.”

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