2024 Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora Speedway

Kyle Larson's Dirt Late Model Plans On Hold (For Now)

Kyle Larson's Dirt Late Model Plans On Hold (For Now)

Kyle Larson says he's taking a break from Dirt Late Model racing for the time being.

Jun 5, 2024 by Kyle McFadden

Even with the busiest month of his racing career behind him, don’t expect Kyle Larson to compete in Dirt Late Model events anytime soon.

The 31-year-old doesn’t have any Dirt Late Model races planned the remainder of this season as Larson recently “told (car owner) Kevin (Rumley) I needed to kind of take a break from the Late Model stuff for right now and kind of back down my races.”

Don’t take that as Larson being done with Dirt Late Model racing altogether, though, or Rumley not wanting to work around what’s expected to be the 2021 NASCAR Cup champion’s prolonged absence from his No. 6 Longhorn Chassis.

Simply put, the 2024 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year’s schedule just doesn’t lend itself to commitments beyond NASCAR Cup duties with Hendrick Motorsports, his heightened role as an ambassador of sprint car racing now co-owning Kubota High Limit Racing, and wanting to spend more time with wife Katelyn as well as his three children who aren’t getting any younger.

“I wouldn’t say I’m retired from Late Model racing,” Larson told DirtonDirt.com after winning Saturday’s High Limit feature at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway. “I could get the itch and go race next week. But I don’t plan on it.”

Rumley, who’s tabbed Hudson O’Neal to race for him at Eldora Speedway’s Dirt Late Model Dream and perhaps other special events moving forward, added that “a car is ready for Kyle anytime he wants to come race it.”

Outside April 26’s Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series race at Georgetown (Del.) Speedway, the Elk Grove, Calif., superstar who last month made his Indy 500 debut — an 18th-place finish where he led laps and had a top-five run going for him until a costly lap-130 pit road speed penalty — only had two Dirt Late Model events remaining on his tentative 2024 schedule.

The first had been Gordy Gundaker’s inaugural Summer Cup at Tri-City Speedway outside St. Louis, Mo., this past weekend that was in conjunction with NASCAR’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill. And the second had been Oct. 1’s Lucas Oil Series doubleheader with High Limit Racing at Ohio’s Atomic Speedway.

Could he still race in October at Atomic Speedway or any other event that might make sense? Larson won’t indefinitely rule it out, just like his status as a Dirt Late Model racer that now hangs in question. But again, after coming off the busiest month of his life — May, with an array of action including at Indianapolis Motor Speedway — he’s doing what he can to lighten his workload.

“I didn’t have any races scheduled anyways. Like, anything after Georgetown that’s for sure for sure,” Larson said. “I had Tri-City this (past) weekend and then Atomic later in the year. I just told Kevin I needed to kind of take a break from the Late Model stuff for right now.

“I was getting kind of burned out from leaving all the time and not getting to be at home. Probably a lot of it was getting ready for the month of May. I had a little too much going on than I wanted to. Once I send a schedule when the year starts, I like to commit to it. When you’re in the middle of it, you’re like, ‘Man, I wish I could back out sometimes.’

“Yeah, we only had a few left. I wanted to give him a heads-up, like, ‘Hey, this is what I’m thinking.’ He can go ahead and put somebody else in it.”

Larson backing down his Dirt Late Model races has nothing to do with the predicament he found himself in when crummy weather threw his attempt at The Double — the ambitious attempt to race all 1,110 miles of the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., on the same day — off course.

NASCAR on Tuesday announced that Larson would be playoff eligible despite not being able to start May 26’s rain-shortened Coke 600, a race Larson jetted from the rain-delayed Indy 500 to Charlotte only to never turn a lap when rain hit his second track of the day. NASCAR’s rules require drivers to start all 36 races to be playoff eligible unless granted a waiver.

Despite missing a race, Larson holds onto second in the standings as he now goes after his second career Cup title. Regarding Larson’s short-track schedule, he’s not even sure he can compete in sprint car racing's Knoxville Nationals because of Cup Series logistics at Richmond (Va.) Raceway that weekend of Aug. 7-10.

Larson’s made plenty of time for Dirt Late Models since he forayed into the discipline August 2020 at Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway, racing more than 70 times over three full years and two partial seasons, which is about what touring Dirt Late Model regulars average in a single season.

His 11 victories, 24 total podium finishes, 38 top-fives and 53 top-10s over 73 feature starts are noteworthy, too. Larson has as many victories as Mike Marlar (11) and more than Jonathan Davenport (nine), Chris Madden (eight), Brandon Overton (seven), Brandon Sheppard (six) and Tim McCreadie (two) over their last 73 feature starts.

“I’ve enjoyed racing Late Models,” Larson said. “It was a lot of fun in the beginning, trying to figure it out and have some success. We had a lot of fun at the races. I really enjoyed the community — the Late Model community a lot — and the pit area after the races and stuff. I still pay attention to it, too.”

Larson, an avid reader of DirtonDirt.com, doesn’t take his Dirt Late Model success lightly. He’s said time and time again how it’s perhaps the toughest form of racing he’s ever had to adapt to.

“It’s tough for sure, from competition-wise and talent,” Larson said. “I think the cars, it’s easy to be good one night and terrible the next night. So I think that’s what makes it really competitive. And tough. So, yeah, it’s tough.”

His first 20 races in the discipline definitely set expectations high as he won his second night out Aug. 29, 2020 on the Lucas Oil Series at Port Royal Speedway, won by 15 seconds at Florida’s All-Tech Raceway while notching first wins on the World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series and FloRacing Night in America, and capturing 2021’s Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury (Ill.) Speedway.

But then Larson went 17 races between Late Model victories — from August 2021’s WoO race at Sharon Speedway in Hartford, Ohio, through April 2022’s FloRacing Series race at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway — and stretches like those reminded him how tough the discipline truly is. Since then, he hasn’t gone more than 11 races between Late Model victories.

Last Friday at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, Larson snapped a 10-race sprint car losing streak, his longest in five seasons.

“When you run good, it’s fun,” Larson said. “When you don’t run good, it’s not fun. Just like when I haven’t been running good in the sprint car, it’s not much fun either. It’s all the same to me. It just seems harder to get your car right in Late Models.”

He managed to win his fair share of Dirt Late Model races since his torrid start, like last April’s event he promoted at Tennessee’s Volunteer Speedway (highlights that ended up on SportsCenter the following day) and Jan. 14’s Wild West Shootout finale at Vado (N.M.) Raceway Park, his lone podium finish of 2024.

Larson’t noticed that the Dirt Late Model competition has really ramped up in recent years, implying that in order to truly be competitive, racing in discipline regularly — and not just every now and again — is imperative.

“I think I’ve always been a little bit behind the 8-ball because I don’t do it enough,” Larson said. “And it is the most different driving car I’ve been in. It’s kind of hard for me to get in a rhythm and hard for probably Kevin to get into a routine of changes and stuff on the car throughout the night with me because I don’t race nightly. Yeah, it’s just tough getting your car good every night.”

All told, Larson’s Dirt Late Model future remains foggy.

“I could get in the car two months from now. It could be never,” Larson said. “I don’t have any plans.”