2024 Wild West Shootout

Kyle Larson Begins Busy 2024 Schedule At Wild West Shootout

Kyle Larson Begins Busy 2024 Schedule At Wild West Shootout

Kyle Larson is set to begin his busy 2024 schedule during the Wild West Shootout at Vado Speedway Park.

Jan 6, 2024 by Kyle McFadden

Nobody in recent memory is positioned for a more dynamic and influential year in American motorsports than Kyle Larson in 2024.

The Indianapolis 500. A High Limit Racing title defense (the midweek series, that is) while ushering the series to the national Sprint Car scene as its co-owner. Taking aim at another NASCAR Cup championship. Thrusting himself back into the cutthroat world of Dirt Late Models this week at Vado Speedway Park’s Wild West Shootout after six months away from the discipline. 

Whatever it is, Larson’s up for the challenge. And his toughest task thus far in 2024 has nothing to do with any of the lofty endeavors listed above. Fathering his finicky 1-year-old son, Cooper, has demanded perhaps more attention to detail than any of Larson’s most technical undertakings behind the wheel.

“He’s been our toughest baby,” Larson said with a lighthearted tone during Friday’s WWS practice night. “Of our kids, he’s been the toughest. The other two (Owen and Audrey), I remember them being able to sleep in their own rooms pretty early on and riding in the car seat was no problem. Traveling in the airplane? No problem. But Cooper, up until the last couple months, he’s been struggling.

“Honestly,” Larson added through a rising laugh, “I think we’ve spoiled him too much in the beginning. I think (wife) Katlyn spoiled him more than the others because this is, hopefully, our last child.”

In terms of not being able to sit still — spawning from a restlessness to push the limits — the proverbial apple doesn’t fall from the tree. Larson has assembled his most aggressive and off-the-wall schedule to date, one that’s especially crammed through May. That’s what happens with Larson making a serious bid to qualify and, if the insurmountable becomes surmountable, win the Indianapolis 500 with Arrow McLaren.

And that also indicates Larson the Dirt Late Model racer will be very limited, considering that all but one race in the discipline for him in 2023 came before June.


WATCH: Kyle Larson talks Dirt Late Model racing and more with FloRacing's Derek Kessinger.

“There will definitely be less Late Model races that I get to run this year just because my Sprint Car schedule is so busy … and May in Indy,” Larson said. “Like, my schedule is crazy this coming year. Yeah, unfortunately there’s less Late Model races this year, but I’ll still hit 15 of them, which is better than nothing I guess.”

Six of those estimated 15 races are over the next week at the Wild West Shootout, the miniseries where Larson posted an average finish of 3.2 last season. He hasn’t raced Kevin Rumley’s No. 6 since last June’s DNF in World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series action at Tri-City Speedway outside St. Louis.

The six-month hiatus is his longest since exploding into the discipline in August 2020. Larson did get in a test session last fall at the Dirt Track at Charlotte, but that’s obviously nothing compared to real competition. During Friday’s three-hour test session, Larson spent just as much time knocking down metaphoric cobwebs than anything else.

“There’s a lot of cobwebs,” Larson said. “Yeah, I helped test at Charlotte a couple months ago, and that was good. But Charlotte is so different, and a fairly easy track to get around. This place is much harder. Yeah, I’m definitely rusty. Hopefully I can get it figured out by some point tomorrow night.”

Rumley remarked that the Longhorn car with Larson at the wheel is a step ahead where it needs to be compared to this point last year. Larson agreed, particularly when the track slicked off during Friday’s practice session, a condition on which he “definitely felt different than I did last year” and in the beneficial kind of way.

“I felt like I could get squared up and exit the corner off of two a little bit better,” Larson said. “I think, running the cushion, our car has more grip. I think running the cushion is taking me a little to get used to. I’m not quite comfortable there yet because I get in the cushion and sometimes I get tight. That’s more areas that I have to learn and get better each time.”

Part of the learning curve and growing more fond of Vado’s rip-roaring pace is what keeps Larson coming back to the Wild West Shootout. He seems pretty satisfied with his pair of Golden Drillers from the Chili Bowl Nationals, the midget race in Tulsa, Okla., he earmarked as his personal Super Bowl for the longest time.

There hasn’t been necessarily a change in heart, but rather a shift in interest for Larson, who now says, “I want to accomplish something new,” when asked what has him racing at Vado for the second straight year. The other driving reason — no pun intended — is that Larson gets on-track time seven occasions over a 10-day span.

“It’s just good to get into race mode a little bit, get ready for the upcoming season and get me ready before we get to NASCAR, really,” Larson said. “That’s important, too. If I didn’t race anything, I wouldn’t feel prepared by the time we get to Los Angeles (for the Clash at the L.A. Coliseum). It’s good to race a little bit. Hopefully it goes good. Hopefully we can win at least one of these things. And have a good time.”

Kicking it back and easing into the hectic but very purposeful season is what Larson’s ultimately trying to walk out this week. While the Wild West Shootout abounds in competition, the stakes are low, and that’s a breath of fresh air for Larson. He’s anticipating one more test run in the IndyCar before the all-important and pressure-packed Month of May.

“It’d be nice to get some more laps and get re-acclimated to the car at a different track, which would be nice, too, to try and feel things,” Larson said. “And have time to work on things. Like the little stuff of pulling into the pit stall, exiting the pit stall, getting up to speed off of pit road … stuff like that that is what’s going to be important to me. They’re all important areas if you really want to have a good shot at winning. You have to be up to speed on those little details.”

Larson’s mind tends to lean toward forward-thinking. He did, however, find some time to unplug this winter from his usual craziness — a change of pace this year because of Cooper’s birth on New Year’s Eve last year.

The week after the NASCAR season ended, the Larson family and friends vacationed in Cabo San Lucas, a resort city in Mexico. Christmas was then spent in Scottsdale, Ariz., before New Year’s took them to a skiing trip in Breckenridge, Colo.

“It was really nice to not have to race last offseason,” Larson said. “When you get to that last month, you never know when the baby is going to come. I remember being excited about that and not really thinking about racing at all, which was nice. This year, honestly, I’ve been wanting to go race … a lot.”

Larson is, needless to say, positioned for just that this year. He doesn’t necessarily need a win at the Wild West Shootout. If he does, it would be a surprise to no one. Besides, the likes of Bobby Pierce and Mike Marlar firing on all cylinders might be too much to overthrow.

Either way he’s just glad to be back in the groove, where the rest will then take care of itself.

“I think that’s all I need for an offseason. Just one week of vacation and I’m ready to go racing again,” Larson said. “It was good to run the Midget stuff out west. I haven’t raced since then. The last four weeks or so, I’ve been wanting to go racing really bad.”