HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (talladegasuperspeedway.com) - When Kyle Larson, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship point leader, makes his way to Talladega Superspeedway for the GEICO 500 on May 7, he hopes to have a rocket ship of a race car to notch his first victory at NASCAR’s Most Competitive venue.
Tuesday, while in Huntsville, just a couple hours away from the biggest, baddest race track on the planet, Larson visited the United States Space & Rocket Center – the largest space museum in the world - to learn what it takes to pilot a space rocket and to talk about what he will have to do to touch down in Talladega’s Gatorade Victory Lane in just a few short weeks. As part of his visit, he got to see the most powerful engines in the world on the Saturn V Rocket.
“Yeah, I could use some of those rocket engines when we come back to Talladega in a few weeks,” said Larson, who also participated in the Aviation Challenge with a host of international kids (who were at the Rocket Center for the popular “Space Camp”). “It’s all about horsepower at Talladega. We came within less than a lap from winning the Daytona 500 earlier this year, so we feel like we continue to improve our speedway cars with speed, and I think we can challenge for the win at ‘Dega. We hope our car will be a ‘missile’ when we come back.”
Larson, whose No. 42 Chip Ganassi team has been simply out of this world with a win and three runner-up finishes in just six events in 2017 while rocketing to the top of the standings, seeks his first triumph at Talladega in the GEICO 500. His best finish in six starts at the 33-degree banked palace of speed came last October when he was sixth to winner Joey Logano.
“We were close last year at Talladega,” added Larson, a California native who is half Japanese and the only Asian American to compete full-time in NASCAR. “I can tell you that racing there is great for the fans watching from the stands. They just love it, and who wouldn’t with 40 cars in a dogfight at 200 mph, three and four wide. For us drivers, it is intense and intimidating. Off the track, it’s nothing but fun. I love the party in the infield. Talladega Blvd. is awesome for the fans with the "Big One on the Blvd" (a party on Friday night with NASCAR drivers riding on a parade float and overseeing fan competitions) and the Saturday Night Concert (headlined by Charlie Daniels Band). I love going there each night.”
Larson’s day at the USS&RC with the kids included teamwork skills while embarking on missions. They included climbing a 32-foot pamper pole to the top, then rotating 180 degrees & jumping out six feet and slapping a dangling rope in the air – all within less time (just over 47 seconds) than it takes to make a lap at Talladega’ 2.66-mile venue to top 200 mph. He also zoomed down on a zip line, then got inside the cockpit of a simulated F-18 jet before taking an incredibly fast ride inside “Centrifuge,” the only civilian-type of its kind (all rest in military), where he experienced close to 4-G’s (G-Forces) in a small cockpit. He also toured the facility and saw countless historical rockets and some of the most powerful engines in the world.
“The Space and Rocket Center was an absolute blast,” Larson admitted. “I had never been on a zip line before, and it was so fun. I got shot down in a simulated dog fight in the F-18, climbed faster than I ever have (on the pamper pole)….just lots of fun…Got to hang out with some kids from Australia and London, England. It’s one of the most fun events I have ever done. Experiencing 3-Gs going around and round in a tight situation isn’t something I don’t like very much, but I tried it. I didn’t last long, started feeling a little sick, but I did it, and it was all a blast.”
So far, this season in NASCAR, Larson’s Chevrolet has seemed like a spaceship on cruise control. His wish is it continues at Talladega with a smooth flight with a landing in the winner’s circle. If that happens, he can say, “Mission Complete.”
The task for Larson and the rest of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup stars takes place May 5-7, with practice sessions, Coors Light Qualifying and the GEICO 500 battle. It’s not just incredible racing that Talladega Superspeedway offers, but the overall weekend experience the track provides to fans. On Friday night, the infamous “Big One on the Blvd” takes place in the infield, featuring NASCAR’s biggest stars and one-of-a-kind fan competitions. The following night, The Charlie Daniels Band will headline the Saturday Night Infield Concert, which is free to anyone who has purchased a GEICO 500 ticket.
For general ticket information for the GEICO 500, Sparks Energy 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race (Saturday, May 6), or the General Tire 200 (Friday, May 5) ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards event, log on to www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 1-877-Go2-DEGA. Advanced pricing, which provides incredible savings, ends this Friday.
Kids 12-and-under receive free admission to all tower and grandstand seats on Friday and Saturday. For Sunday’s GEICO 500, kids receive $50 off all grandstand and tower prices.