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Kyle Larson to drive in NASCAR's premier circuit

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES

Highly touted California racer, 21, apparently is joining Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and will compete in the Sprint Cup Series next year.

August 28, 2013|By Jim Peltz
  • NASCAR driver Kyle Larson, from Elk Grove, Calif., will join the Sprint Cup Series next year with the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team.
NASCAR driver Kyle Larson, from Elk Grove, Calif., will join the Sprint… (Tom Pennington / Getty Images )

Kyle Larson is about to achieve his goal of becoming a driver in NASCAR's premier Sprint Cup Series.

The 21-year-old racing prodigy from Elk Grove, Calif., will join Jamie McMurray next year on the two-car team of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, persons familiar with the situation who were not authorized to speak publicly said Wednesday.

Larson is expected to step into the No. 42 Chevrolet and replace veteran Juan Pablo Montoya.

The team this month declined to re-sign Montoya, 37, a former Indianapolis 500 winner and Formula One driver who found little success in NASCAR.

Montoya, in his seventh year in stock-car racing, is 21st in the Cup standings and has reached NASCAR's Chase for the Cup title playoff only once, in 2009.

EGR, led by veteran team owner Chip Ganassi, declined to comment about Larson. But the team has scheduled a news conference Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, site of the next Cup race, where Larson's ride is expected to be announced.

Larson, a Japanese American, is in his rookie year in NASCAR's second-level Nationwide Series. He's eighth in the Nationwide point standings and, although he hasn't won a Nationwide race, has 13 top-10 finishes in 23 races.

It's only his second year driving stock cars, and before that Larson excelled at racing midget cars, sprints and other open-wheel cars on dirt and paved tracks.

In 2011, he won races in the World of Outlaws sprint-car series, in all three U.S. Auto Club national divisions and in the American Sprint Car Series.

(Sprint cars are powerful open-wheel race cars whose name is unrelated to NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, which reflects the telecommunications company's series sponsorship.)

He has drawn high praise from such NASCAR champions as Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, who last year called Larson "absolutely phenomenal." Larson also defeated Stewart and others in a qualifying race at the Chili Bowl Nationals midget-car race this year.

Larson's grandparents on his mother's side were among the thousands of Japanese Americans sent to an internment camp in Tulelake, Calif., during World War II.

james.peltz@latimes.com

Twitter: @PeltzLATimes

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