Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – DOVER, DE – Dirt racing has been called Kyle Larson’s “golf game”—a passionate pursuit away from the high visibility of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing.
Recently, though, Larson’s “golf game” has been his actual golf game, with his competitive instincts inspiring an avid interest in the sport.
On Wednesday at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., Larson competed in his first PGA Tour pro-am, partnered with pro Russell Henley and two other amateurs, and the experience was a revelation to the pole winner for Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway (2 p.m. on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
“I was extremely nervous,” Larson said on Friday after putting his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet on the pole. “Way more nervous than I can remember being for anything else. I mean five days before the event, every time I thought about it I would get my heart rate up. I was super nervous on the first tee box and was able to hit it right down the fairway.
“So after that I calmed down quite a bit and actually hit the ball really good for me. I’m like an 18 handicap, so I hit the ball really good. I didn’t put very well, so I shot a 91, so that was just a stroke or two off my handicap. I was happy with it and definitely one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever been a part of.”
Though he has taken up golf only recently, Larson is driven to get better at the game.
“As each week passes by I become more obsessed with it,” Larson said. “You go in my motorhome or at home, and my TV is always set on the golf channel. I golf probably two or three times a week now. Just trying to get better.
“I’ve only been playing for about two years, and it’s not any fun being the worst one out of the group of friends you play with. The last six months or so I’ve gotten better than some people that we play with, which is nice. I still have a lot of room to improve and I feel like I’m improving. Just got to keep working at it.”
AUSTIN DILLON OPTIMISTIC AS SUMMER RACES APPROACH
You could call Austin Dillon and the members of the No. 3 Richard Childress racing team the “Boys of Summer.”
Not that they had an uneventful winter—far from it. Dillon won the season-opening Daytona 500, all but assuring him a place in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff.
Since then, however, the No. 3 team has faced its share of challenges, generally from a lack of speed. The bottom line, however, is that Dillon has finished on the lead lap in only two of the nine races after the Daytona 500 and has fallen to 17 in the series standings.
But Dillon expects his fortunes to change in the upcoming stretch of races. In three weeks he’ll be racing at Charlotte, where he picked up his first career victory in last year’s Coca-Cola 600.
“This next group of tracks are some of my favorite tracks,” Dillon said. “You’ve got Charlotte, Kansas, Dover, and we always seem to gain points during the summer time. If you look back at my stats, my summers are really good as far as being consistent—and, truthfully, we have been decent all year long.
“We haven’t had the speed, and there are reasons for the speed not being there, I feel like. As far as Chevy as a whole right now, we’re working to find the speed. But the execution, I’m not disappointed with the execution of our races, just disappointed with the next group of cars we need to catch. If you walk through the garage you can see the trailers where the speed is, because we park in order.”
Dillon got a birds-eye view of Dover on Saturday, serving as a guest analyst during the FS1 broadcast of the NASCAR Xfinity race at the Monster Mile.
Ford drivers led both Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practices on Saturday, with Joey Logano topping the first session at 157.494 mph and Aric Almirola setting the fastest lap ion Happy Hour at 158.277 mph…
Two different Fords paced the field in consecutive 10-lap average, with Brad Keselowski fastest in the first Saturday practice at 156.399 mph and Clint Bowyer best in final practice at 155.880 mph. Bowyer ran 65 laps in happy Hour, tops for the session.