For a driver on his first tour of duty in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Kyle Larson is about as relaxed and cool as they come.
A dust-up with star Tony Stewart last week at the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway didn't rattle the rookie as he finished eighth despite a busted bumper.
“Yes, that's Tony being Tony,” Larson told USA Today after the race. “I don't know, he was just trying to teach me a lesson I'm guessing. Oh, well, that's two weeks in a row.”
He persevered in Michigan despite getting hit for speeding in the pits, smiling his way to that top-10 finish.
Now this week, he's taking his No. 42 car out on a road course for the first time in his young career at Sonoma Raceway. Growing up in nearby Elk Grove, the 21-year-old will be racing in front of plenty of family and friends, something he's embracing.
The baby-faced kid without a speck of facial hair is enjoying the week and doesn't feel any pressure, as he sat calmly at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 media luncheon at McCormick and Keleto's Seafood Restaurant at Ghirardelli Square.
He currently sits 10th in the points and he'll try to become the 10th driver in 10 years to win in front of plenty of family and friends at the road course this upcoming Sunday.
“Having a lot of people here that know me, friends and family, I feel less pressure,” Larson said. “It's just nice to come home. It's really cool to be home and actually go to my old house, see my old dog. It's just relaxing.”
Larson will get a taste of the Sonoma road course today, where he'll go through the qualifying round. He says he's learned a lot about the raceway by watching numerous races at the track on television, studied video and has taken plenty of notes by watching through cameras that have been placed in drivers' cars over the years.
“Physically and mentally road courses are tough,” Larson said. “Sonoma is a lot different than other road courses, and I'm sure we're going to learn and experience this track.”
Larson — who took after his father and developed a love for racing at the age of 4 — has had three top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes, including a second-place finish at the Auto Club 400 in Fontana.
His dad built him a go-kart at the age of 4 and by the age of 7, he was racing competitively.
“Growing up, I must have went to 80 races a year with my dad,” Larson said. “I developed a love for it and I loved it.”
Larson, who has two victories in the Nationwide Series this season, will have a busy weekend, but one he'd look forward to for some time.
As he mentioned, “he's just happy to be home.”