Kyle Larson relishes in the fact that he's finally a Sprint Cup winner
Finally, Kyle Larson can say he is a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner.
Not a driver with potential.
Not someone who's fast but has bad luck.
Not someone who was 0-for-99 in NASCAR's top series.
Not any more.
Now, he is a winner.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Larson, who began his Cup career driving for Chip Ganassi in 2014, nearly won in just the fifth start of his rookie season at Auto Club Speedway in March of that year, one day after he won the XFINITY Series race at the 2-mile Southern California track.
He would go on to post two more runner-up finishes that fall at New Hampshire at Kansas, adding a third-place finish at Dover in 2015. But no victories, at least until Michigan, where he beat Chase Elliott on the final restart on Lap 192 to win a hugely popular and emotional victory.
And, oh by the way, he's now clinched his first appearance in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. As days go, they don't get a lot bigger.
Especially because of how long it took.
Larson cut his teeth in the dirt tracks of the West Coast and success came quickly in a variety of series. But like a lot of racers, he found out NASCAR was a lot tougher.
"This feels different because it's taken me a lot longer than it took me in any of the other stuff to get a win," said Larson. "Took me a couple months to win my first sprint car race, four days after my 15th birthday. Took me a few months to win when I got into USAC. Took me a few years to win a (World of Outlaws) race."
By comparison, a NASCAR victory took forever.
"This, after the way my rookie season started, coming close a few times, not getting it done, you can visualize the win that early in your career," said Larson. "It's going to happen. It's going to happen. But it just never happened."
But it made it that much sweeter when it finally did.
"This one's different just 'cause of how long we had to wait and how much harder I've had to work for it," said Larson. "Like I said, it's special because all the hard work's paid off."
And Larson's bosses, team owner Chip Ganassi and his partner Rob Kauffman appreciated it, too, since it had been 99 races since a Ganassi car had won a Sprint Cup race.
"Days like today, I was saying to Rob a few minutes ago, it clears a lot of things off your desk that have been percolating," said Ganassi. "Yeah, I mean, as long as there's a possibility (of winning), there's always a possibility. That's what we as racers hang on to. We hang on to every possibility because we know anything can happen. That's what's great about this sport."
"A million things can happen," Kauffman added. "Only one is good."
And for Ganassi, Kauffman and especially Larson, the thing that happened Sunday in the Irish Hills of Michigan was really, really good.