Auto-racing is a sport that separates itself from others in more ways than one. A primary reason why it is so outside of the box in comparison to every other sport is that there is virtually no way of practicing or improving one’s skills. A basketball player can put up a thousand shots, a football player can run a thousand routes, a baseball player can go to the batting cages for a thousand hours. A racecar driver can do nothing besides wait for the next race. A phrase long associated with racing has been, “You either have it or you don’t.” In racing, it has long been wondered about what makes somebody better than the next person, and it has long been attributed to intrinsic ability that one is either born with or not. However, the racing world has come face to face with a phenomenon in the past couple of years that has completely opposed these philosophies, and that phenomenon’s name is Kyle Larson. No human being since the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan has dominated professional levels of a sport like Kyle Larson has the past few years. After a season with 42 wins in 82 races and an average finish of 3.2 in divisions that most people that have a clue about racing consider the most competitive and talent-filled in the world, a question has rose from the depths of confusion from racers and fans alike…
Why is Kyle Larson so good?
What does he do so differently than the next top driver on the track that simply makes him so much better than the rest of the racecar drivers in the world? The answer lies in the analysis of his skill, his experience, and most of all, his spirit.
Obviously, Larson’s raw talent and immense ability behind the wheel is a primary contributor into him perhaps being the greatest driver ever. To watch him is to watch unbelievable precision and an out of this world level of intelligence symbiotically working together to produce a perfect balance of fearlessness and consistency. Larson is not the least scared on the track, there are plenty of drivers that seem to exhibit less fear than him. Larson is not the smoothest on the track, he has said himself that long time teammate and friend, Christopher Bell, is a smoother racecar driver than him. Nevertheless, “Yung Money” has combined both archetypes of driving styles to design his own as if his talent is his own painting. With a stroke of red paint, his aggression is encapsulated. With a stroke of blue paint, his patience is created. The California native’s skill is a purple masterpiece, while everybody else seems to either be red or blue. Larson is able to call upon this skill whenever he chooses, knowing the exact points when to be stomping on the throttle and when to be easing his way off of the turn. A fan in the bleachers will never be able to find Larson following the same line as the person in front of him. The legendary Larson is never playing defense on the racetrack; he is constantly in attack-mode and on the search for any ounce of grip he can find to chase down the racer in front of him. This is a reflection and one of many examples of his attentiveness and intelligence, as he simply knows what to do with the momentum that he finds on the track. A moment is never wasted with Larson, he dedicates every thousandth of a second on the racetrack to either pursuing or analyzing the surface of the track. Take it from somebody who has went door to door with the phenom on several occasions. World of Outlaws winner and Pennsylvania Posse member Ryan Smith says, “Kyle is always one step ahead. He sees the moisture on the track before anybody else can, that’s his greatest advantage. It’s not about him not making mistakes, it’s how much better he is at responding to his mistakes and the track conditions.” Larson’s skill may be the 8th wonder of the world, even to his contemporaries.
Mastering anything takes an extreme extent of experience, and Kyle Larson certainly has that in his repertoire as well. It cannot be denied that he races more than just about anyone. With the freedom of not choosing to commit to a series, Larson was racing nearly every day of the week last year. The World of Outlaws series ran about 65 races last year, the USAC midgets only run about 40 races per year, while the All-Star Sprint Car series consists of a 50-race schedule. Larson mostly dabbled in all three of these series, totaling up to 82 races he competed in by the end of the year. When a driver is racing almost every night, it is that much harder to get them out of their groove. On top of that, when Larson isn’t behind the wheel of an actual car, he’s behind the wheel of a virtual one. Larson is an avid iRacing driver as well, and advocates for the virtual simulation racing as something that has amplified his talent to what it is today. Yung Money’s entire life revolves around driving some sort of racecars, he quite literally spends every moment of the day indulging in the racing universe in some way shape or form. This has allowed him to become a maestro and savant of anything racing related, his opportunities to be versatile and race so often in so many different types of racecars has been an insurmountable component to his masterful talent. With practice makes perfect, and Larson definitely has a lot more “practice” than most of the drivers he competes against. Given his vast schedule, the 28-year-old superstar has little to nothing to lose as well. If something happens on Friday, Larson has the opportunity to bounce back within a day, and is therefore always on the offense in every race he competes in. While it’s safe to say that he is in his prime, all racing competitors are in huge trouble if he isn’t yet.
Let’s take it a step deeper now. The reasons why Kyle Larson dominates at such a high level can only be pondered upon, and while he is a generally quiet character, I believe that his spirit is the true separation between him and most other drivers. In racing, fans will rarely see self-awareness from their favorite drivers. It is beyond common for a racer to blame any sort of shortcoming on the car, the track, or another driver. In Larson’s case, there is zero evidence of him blaming anything on anybody other than himself. The level of self-awareness he displays is unheard of, and with every post-race interview this becomes more and more evident. He is harder on himself than anybody could ever be, and has built his psychology to not be satisfied with anything other than complete and total domination. Another dimension of Larson’s spirit that I’ve noticed is his ability to recall nearly every turn of a race, his mind is very analytical and allows for him to be more methodical and conscious than other drivers. His memory seems to be close to photographic, as he can explain his thought process from every moment of the race. Most other drivers are mostly mindless and consumed in the adrenaline of speed and chaos, yet to Larson, he makes it sound like he just finished playing a game of chess. Similar to how LeBron James can give the audience a play by play of an entire game, Larson is aware enough on the track to choose what he’s doing at every moment. He is always driving the car, the car or track is never in control of him. Larson’s genuine love for the sport is evident, and his nature as a analytical man full of self-awareness and accountability combined with an undying pursuit to improve with every lap he completes is beyond all else what separates him from the next guy on the racetrack. The other drivers claim they live with these mindsets, Kyle Larson actually does. When attempting to solve the great equation of why he is so incredible, look no further than his insight into his spirit.
So… Why is Kyle Larson so good?
The recipe for his talent is the mixture of his powerful spirit and the skills he has manifested through his passion, intelligence, and experience. Kyle Larson is hands down the greatest driver in the world, and maybe in the history of auto-racing. Watch out for him this year as he takes his talents back to NASCAR behind the wheel of the #5 Hendrick Motorsports machine! If you are not interested in racing at all, I promise he will be the man that makes you interested.
If you do not believe me, see for yourself: