When the announcement was made that Kyle Larson was going to move to the Sprint Cup Series full time in 2014, many were skeptical; admittedly, even I was, as it seemed like they were rushing him just like they did with Joey Logano back in 2009. Larson was great in limited action in the Nationwide Series (now the XFINITY Series) but many said he needed more time before moving up.
Chip Ganassi thought differently and decided promote Larson up immediately to the #42 Chevrolet, replacing Juan Montoya.
“The Phenom” finished 17th in points and won Rookie of the Year by a landslide, although the biggest award he received from his rookie season was respect from some of the stars in the series. When you’ve got drivers like Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch saying that they are impressed and that this kid is the real deal, well that’s as good as any win in many youngsters’ eyes.
The Sophomore Slump
While Larson didn’t come away with a victory in his rookie season, he did come very close with three 2nd-place finishes. He impressed many with his talent and the fact that he races clean. Now he’s going into his second full season and facing the possible sophomore slump.
Some may say the sophomore slump isn’t real, but ask any driver if it’s real and many will tell you it is–depending on the success of their first year. For guys like Larson, who had a great rookie campaign, their second season is usually a shadow of what their first season was. Now, not all get the sophomore slump, but most who come out as strong as Larson did fall into a mediocre season their second year out. It can’t really be explained, it just happens.
Exception to the Rule
Kyle Larson can break the sophomore slump for a few reasons. During the last couple months of the 2014 season, he was constantly mentioned by fantasy experts as a driver who could possibly sneak up and win on a week-to-week basis. You can’t say that about many people in this sport. That trip to victory lane eluded him in his rookie season so entering 2015 he will be even hungrier to get it.
Another reason is that he’s not a hot-headed kid thriving on the attention of his success. Larson is very mature for his age–even humble with his accomplishments–and I think that’s going to keep him on his path of continued success. He’s just not your average kid moving up in the sport; Tony Stewart was right, Kyle Larson is the real deal.
No matter how you look at it, this kid that took everyone by surprise in his rookie season is going to keep on impressing throughout his years in racing. Will he hit that dreaded sophomore slump? Maybe, but I think he just might be one of the lucky ones that avoids it, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him visit victory lane in 2015.