Earnhardt Ganassi Racing has tabbed Kyle Larson to drive its No. 42 Sprint Cup entry full time in 2014, the team confirmed Friday.
Larson is viewed by many as NASCAR's next great driver, and that's why it was not a surprise when EGR team principle Chip Ganassi selected him to replace Juan Pablo Montoya, who the organization opted not to re-sign. But at age 21 and in the midst of his first full season in the Nationwide Series, there are questions about whether Larson is being pushed before he's ready.
Those concerns, however, are not shared by Ganassi, who called Larson a "unique talent" and the "future of this sport." Ganassi was so convinced Larson was the right choice to succeed Montoya that he didn't offer the ride to any other driving despite some big names being readily available.
"I think Kyle is the kind of driver, when he sees an opportunity in front of him, he takes it," Ganassi said at Atlanta Motor Speedway. "If that means it's a win, hey, great. There's no pressure for him to win his first year out. I don't think there's any pressure like that.
"I mean, the kid's done very well in every step he's made in his career so far. I see no reason why this should be any different."
A year ago in his first full season of running stock cars, Larson won the K&N East Series championship, and in 23 Nationwide starts this year has accumulated 13 top-10s, including a pair of runner-ups at Daytona and Michigan.
And despite his lack of experience, Larson's not deterred about making the leap to NASCAR's top division.
"I feel like I'm ready," Larson said. "I think I can do it. I'd like to prove the people who don't think I'm ready for it wrong.
"There's going to be some growing pains, I'm sure. I think I'll learn a lot and I'll grow as a driver and mature as a person."