NASCAR President Encourages Kyle Larson's Love for Dirt-Track Racing

Steve Phelps loves Kyle Larson's passion for racing on dirt and sees it as a positive for NASCAR's popularity.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA 400 - Practice
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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson loves dirt-track racing, and he races on dirt in his free time, whenever the NASCAR schedule allows him to do so. NASCAR fans haven’t been receptive when Larson laments about the dirt. New NASCAR President Steve Phelps, however, thinks Larson’s enthusiasm for dirt racing is a good thing. He believes Larson is bridging a gap between different forms of auto racing.

“We want Kyle Larson to talk about NASCAR racing and dirt racing and things that are his passion,” Phelps said during a press conference at NASCAR’s Charlotte, North Carolina office Wednesday. "We think he can bring his fan base from other forms of racing that he’s doing to us. And we can take our fans and bring them down to that racing as well, so we all get stronger by doing something.”

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Steve Phelps is new NASCAR President

Steve Phelps speaks at a NASCAR Motorsports Marketing Forum in Las Vegas in December 2013

Fans’ criticism of Larson’s love of dirt-track racing seemed to begin in January when the driver said during an interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that winning the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, would mean more to him than winning the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s marquee event. Larson caused a similar stir in June when he revealed plans to be racing full-time in the World of Outlaws winged sprint-car series by the time he’s 40.

“I think some people aren’t quite as open-minded, maybe,” Larson said. "It’s like they read it as if I said in two years from now I wanted to do it. I mean, 15 years from now that would put me 20 years in Cup, so that’s a long time. I think Jeff Gordon spent about that much time in the sport, but I don’t know; maybe I don’t do the best job in the world of talking about how much I love NASCAR as much as I do sprint cars, but I do. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love NASCAR racing.”

Phelps also is a proponent of racing open-mindedness, and suggested racing series help each other through cross promotion when events are in the same area on the same weekend.

“I totally agree that’s something we need to do, that will be part of the event promotion we’re looking at with our racetracks is if you look at the dirt event in Las Vegas, it was very successful,” Phelps said. “Kevin Harvick and I have had this conversation; he’s a champion for that whether it’s Bakersfield, or just in general what’s happening from short-track racing. What I would say is we need to reach out to home tracks. We need to reach out to World of Outlaws and other forms of motorsports because we can help each other. If someone is a fan of racing, we believe they can be a fan of all racing.”

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Kevin Harvick a winner at Kansas

Kevin Harvick celebates a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at Kansas Speedway on May 12, 2018.

Earlier this year, Kevin Harvick, the 2014 NASCAR premier series champion, said NASCAR needed to be more supportive of grassroots racing.

“I think that needs to be a part of our initiative,” Harvick said of his fellow NASCAR Cup Series drivers being encouraged to race at the grassroots level instead of spending so much time making personal appearances. "A guy like Chase Elliott would love to go run Late Model races at any track in the country, instead of going to do an appearance. That’s what pushes his buttons.”