Kyle Larson is calm and collected for his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut

CONCORD, NC - OCTOBER 11: Kyle Larson, driver of the #32 Target Chevrolet, walks on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dollar General 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 11, 2013 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CONCORD, NC - OCTOBER 11:  Kyle Larson, driver of the #32 Target Chevrolet, walks on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dollar General 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 11, 2013 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CONCORD, NC – OCTOBER 11: Kyle Larson, driver of the #32 Target Chevrolet, walks on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dollar General 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 11, 2013 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

CONCORD, N.C.—Nerves? What nerves?

If Kyle Larson is feeling a case of the butterflies before his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut, he’s not showing it.

The widely heralded open-wheel phenom will drive Phoenix Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet—prepared by his Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team—in Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

But Larson, 21, is maintaining an even strain throughout his first experience at the highest level of stock car racing. He didn’t even develop a case of nerves before his first qualifying run in a Cup car on Thursday night.

Larson, who races fulltime in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, claimed the 21st starting position, a creditable performance for his first time in the heat of Sprint Cup competition.

“I wasn’t as nervous as I normally get, even for Nationwide qualifying,” Larson told the NASCAR Wire Service over lunch at Charlotte. “I don’t know why. I was pretty relaxed, maybe too relaxed—that’s why I qualified 21st. (Actually), I’m not disappointed in that at all. I was actually kind of happy with that.”

Before the 90-minute practice session that preceded qualifying, Larson let himself enjoy the magnitude of the moment, but that was it.

“We were rolling through the garage to go out for the practice session,” he said. “I thought about it a little bit. I thought that was a pretty cool feeling.”

Will the stress level be higher when Larson takes the green flag on Saturday?

“I don’t think so,” Larson said. “I usually have less butterflies for the race than I do qualifying normally, and I didn’t have any (Thursday) during qualifying, so hopefully I’m extra relaxed.”

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.