The stars are aligning: Could we see Kyle Larson return to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2021?
Kyle Larson and Tony Stewart are both avid dirt track racers. Damn good ones at that. And it’s possible we’ll see them pair up to take on the NASCAR Cup Series field.
Stewart-Haas Racing has four cars in the NASCAR Cup Series. The No 4 (Kevin Harvick), No. 10 (Aric Almirola), No. 14 (Clint Bowyer) and the No. 41 (Cole Custer).
Back in 2017, Stewart was asked why Larson wasn’t in one of those four seats. He confirmed interest in Larson.
“I would love to have him. You need to ask him that question,” Stewart said in 2017.
Larson remained loyal to Chip Ganassi. The team owner gave the kid a shot, when he didn’t have money to bring to the table. Despite offers from other teams over the years, Larson remained loyal to Chip Ganassi Racing. He planned to stick with them, for his entire career.
“As far as turning into a powerhouse, it depends a lot on hard work and all that. So, that’s all wishful thinking that hopefully it will turn into kind of like what Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports was when he first started,” Larson said in 2017.
So, I’m very thankful that Chip signed me a few years ago without any funding, because I had no funding, and moved me up the ladder quick. It all kind of worked out perfect with me and my situation. So, I’m very loyal to Chip. I love racing for him.”
“It’s been especially fun this year because we do have fast race cars. So, yeah, I would love to be with Chip the rest of my career. We’ve just got to continue to keep working hard and keep building fast race cars,” Larson concluded in 2017.
Kyle Larson entered the 2020 season in a contract year. He was one of the hottest drivers in the sport and every team owner already had their eyes on him. Per previous comments, he was likely to renew with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Then, Larson entered a hosted event on iRacing and it flipped his entire world upside down, overnight.
Larson was attempting to reach his personal spotter on a private channel. In those communications, he used the n-word. But, the audio wasn’t sent over the private channel. One wrong button later, all 60 other drivers and the thousands of fans watching the online race from home heard the word.
Within hours, Larson was trending on Twitter. The next day, he was suspended by both his team and NASCAR.
Soon after, sponsors began to drop right and left. Chip Ganassi was left no options but to find a new driver or a whole collection of new sponsors.
Larson was fired from his NASCAR Cup Series ride.
Off to the dirt track but interested in returning to NASCAR
He’s since gone dirt racing. And, he’s dominating while simultaneously reminding the racing world of why he made it to NASCAR in the first place.
In the month of June, Larson won eight straight dirt track races. He won the first three Indiana Midget Week events, in a row. A runner-up finish at Lincoln Speedway Park brought an end to both streaks.
He’s hotter than ever. And he still has interest in NASCAR…
“It’s been weird watching the NASCAR stuff on TV, but I also hope that I’ll still be able to have another opportunity to race in Cup someday,” Larson told Winged Nation back in May.
“So taking this time to watch and still study and stay relevant in my own mind. That way whenever an opportunity comes up, I’ll be ready to take full advantage of that opportunity and do a good job.”
Tony Stewart still has interest
To bring this full circle, Tony Stewart still has interest in the 27-year-old from California.
INDYCAR journalist Robin Miller was asked if Larson should give INDYCAR a try. He had this to say:
“I called A.J. several weeks ago and told him to hire Larson, but he seemed to think Tony Stewart was going to do it. I asked Stew a couple weeks ago and he said he’d like to, but nothing to report yet. Larson belongs in the Indy 500,” Robin Miller stated.
However, Larson is still suspended by NASCAR. He remains in an indefinite suspension holding pattern and he can’t return until officials lift that suspension.
Other requirements for returning to NASCAR and the World of Outlaws was to complete a sensitivity training class. Within weeks of the online incident, that class was completed.
It’s just a matter of time before Larson’s NASCAR suspension is lifted. And it sounds like he’ll find his way to Stewart Haas.
Kevin Harvick recently renewed his contract with Stewart-Haas Racing for several more years. Nobody new will be piloting the No. 4 at Stewart-Haas anytime soon.
Cole Custer’s contract also expires in 2020 but it’s highly unlikely for Custer to go anywhere as he’s been a long term development driver for the operation. Custer was signed on in 2020, making his full-time NASCAR Cup Series debut, replacing Daniel Suarez.
Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola will each see their contract expire at the end of the 2020 season. Each of those drivers singed 1-year contract extensions in 2019. Either or both of these seats could become available at Stewart-Haas Racing.
The stars could in fact align for 2021.