HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Kyle Larson says it took him about 10 minutes to get over his displeasure with Ryan Newman following last week’s final-lap incident at Phoenix International Raceway.
“No, I didn’t want to kick his butt,” said Larson, standing in front of his hauler and standing on the cusp of wrapping up his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year season.
“He called me on Tuesday and it was fine. I was upset for 10 minutes, then over it. I understood the situation and what was at stake for Ryan. I get over things pretty quickly.”
On the line was Newman’s ability to reach The Championship 4 and advance to Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on ESPN) with the chance to earn his first Sprint Cup title. By nudging Larson into the wall, Newman was able to move up one position and finish in 11th place, just enough to bump Jeff Gordon from the quest for the championship.
“I think there are a lot of people out here that would probably have done the same thing,” said Larson after Friday afternoon’s practice session.
Asked if he would have considered the same thing, Larson replied: “It’s hard to really say until you’re in that position. I got a ton of criticism a couple years ago – even probably worse – at a late model race.”
Larson said he hopes he’s not a driver to alter the course of Sunday’s championship by making contact with a contender.
“I don’t want to get into any of them,” he said. “I got into Ty (Dillon) a couple years ago when he was going for the Truck championship and I felt horrible after that, so I don’t want to go through that again. None of (the Championship 4) have won a championship. I know how much it means to them.”
Driving for Chip Ganassi Racing, Larson, with 17 top-10 finishes, has unofficially locked up Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors by virtue of being the top-finishing rookie in 25 of this season’s 35 Sprint Cup races. Austin Dillon has been the first rookie in the other 10.
“It feels awesome,” said Larson, just before claiming the Keystone Light Pole Award for Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (8 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1). “I think everybody kind of picked Austin Dillon as the favorite going into the year and I don’t blame them. He’s accomplished so much in his NASCAR career and dirt car career before that. I’ve only been in stock cars for a couple years. It’s nice to prove some of the doubters wrong.
“It’s (also) nice to see how many people who’ve won Rookie of the Year who’ve gone on to win Sprint Cup championships. We’ve challenged for a handful of wins. I think my patience has gotten better as the season went on. I think this season has been pretty successful, other than missing the Chase. I think we’ll get into the Chase next year.”