Kyle Larson is calm and collected for his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut

Nerves? What nerves?

If Kyle Larson is feeling a case of the butterflies before his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut, he’s not showing it.

The widely heralded open-wheel phenom will drive Phoenix Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet—prepared by his Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team—in Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

But Larson, 21, is maintaining an even strain throughout his first experience at the highest level of stock car racing. He didn’t even develop a case of nerves before his first qualifying run in a Cup car on Thursday night.

Larson, who races fulltime in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, claimed the 21st starting position, a creditable performance for his first time in the heat of Sprint Cup competition.

“I wasn’t as nervous as I normally get, even for Nationwide qualifying,” Larson told the NASCAR Wire Service over lunch at Charlotte. “I don’t know why. I was pretty relaxed, maybe too relaxed—that’s why I qualified 21st. (Actually), I’m not disappointed in that at all. I was actually kind of happy with that.”

Before the 90-minute practice session that preceded qualifying, Larson let himself enjoy the magnitude of the moment, but that was it.

“We were rolling through the garage to go out for the practice session,” he said. “I thought about it a little bit. I thought that was a pretty cool feeling.”

Will the stress level be higher when Larson takes the green flag on Saturday?

“I don’t think so,” Larson said. “I usually have less butterflies for the race than I do qualifying normally, and I didn’t have any (Thursday) during qualifying, so hopefully I’m extra relaxed.”

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Steven B. Wilson

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