Kyle Larson is heralded as one of NASCAR's next superstars and halfway through the Sprint Cup regular season he hasn't disappointed. In his rookie year he has recorded five top-10s in 13 races, including a runner-up finish at Auto Club Speedway.
But as talented as Larson has proven to be, one thing he is not yet adept at is shifting gears -- a necessity at Pocono Raceway, the site of this weekend's race.
Due to its unique triangle configuration featuring long straightaways and sweeping turns, the 2.5-mile track requires drivers to change gears multiple times per lap -- much like a road course.
"It seems like I'm probably the worst shifter of all time in a stock car,'' Larson said Friday via Motor Racing Network. "It's kind of embarrassing missing a lot of shifts.
"That's my biggest worry going into this weekend, making sure I don't miss any shifts. My timing is just off. I think I try to rush things too quick, and I start missing shifts.''
To help Larson with one of his weaknesses, Chip Ganassi Racing has mandated a strategy to improve his shifting skills. Instead of driving his automatic street vehicle, Larson has been given a manual-speed Chevrolet Camaro to wheel around the Charlotte area.
You would think being given a black Camaro to drive would be a treat. Not so for Larson, who views it as an "embarrassment." It has actually made the 21-year feel like a teenager again.
"I feel like one of those 16-year-old kids who just got their license, revving it up and listening to the engine pop,'' Larson said per MRN. "I can't wait to get through all the tracks that we have to shift at a lot and get back into an automatic.''
After Pocono, Larson will attend the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Phoenix Tuesday and Wednesday. There, Larson will further work on his road course skills in anticipation of the June 22 race at Sonoma Raceway.