Kyle Larson is not a driver who gets sentimental very often.
Larson is California cool, and when he does get emotional, or #BluntLarson as social media labels him more often than not, it’s about something concerning the racing or a decision NASCAR has made. Ahead of the Bristol dirt race, Larson had a few such takes when he said NASCAR officials have a way of overcomplicating things by using a drone and reiterated that the sport shouldn’t be on dirt. Then he dropped an F-bomb in his care center interview about Ryan Preece.
Honesty and straightforwardness are more of Larson’s style. But on Sunday evening, after winning at Martinsville Speedway for the first time, the rarely seen sentimental side of Larson came out in his winner’s press conference.
It started when Larson was asked where he was going to put the grandfather clock. Martinsville’s rich history of awarding a clock to its race winners is unique and highly regarded, and it’s not uncommon to hear a race winner immediately share where they plan on putting their new possession.
Larson doesn’t know just yet, but he too had already thought about it before leaving the racetrack. Owen, Larson’s son, wants it in his bedroom. But Larson doesn’t want him to break it. Plus, the clock does work, including chiming at the appropriate times, and Larson knows that will eventually annoy Owen.
But another reason Larson isn’t sure is that “that’s probably one of my most prized trophies.”
The half-mile Martinsville Speedway, known as paperclip, has not been kind to Larson in his NASCAR career. In his 16 previous starts going into Sunday, Larson had three top-five finishes. It’s a racetrack that, whenever there is a test available, Larson is signed up for because of how much he’s struggled at the track. He’s also put in tons of time away from the track on the simulator and iRacing trying to figure it out.
Sunday’s win was an accomplishment of something Larson didn’t see possible.
“I was teared up the whole last lap,” Larson said. “I heard Cliff was teared up, too. So that feels really, really special because he’s so strong and emotionally strong. To hear that means a lot.
“This win here today means a lot for everybody and to Hendrick Motorsports as well with everything this track and trip means to them.”
This is one of the reasons why Larson isn’t going to let the clock become just another trophy.
“I’m not into clocks or anything like that, so being that it’s a clock doesn’t add any significance to me,” Larson said. “But I think every time you look at it, it’ll remind me of the 10 years of struggling I’ve had here and then to accomplish the win that we now have and the work.
“This was probably the first weekend I’ve shown up here with a positive attitude, honestly. I’ve left here just mad. I’ve hated this place. I’ve wished it would flood. I’ve wished a lot of bad things on this place. And it’s not going anywhere. I wish it was like that (pointing to a picture on the wall). Maybe dirt.
“I think just because it’s a tough track, that’s why it means a lot.”
One would think that winning is what matters. It’s the goal of every race car, and with winning comes glory and championship points. The trophy, to some, might be an afterthought or bonus.
Not to Larson. while the grandfather clock is often mentioned and very well known as the prize for winning at Martinsville, Larson is a driver who is always curious about what the winning trophy is going to look like.
“Oh yeah. Definitely. For sure,” Larson said. “Typically, they have the trophies somewhere throughout the weekend, so you get to see it before you race, and the majority of NASCAR trophies are really cool. So, you know when you win, you’re going to get something cool.
“But even like sprint car races, rarely are there trophies that look cool. But when there is, not that you put any more pressure on yourself to win, but when you do win, you’re like, ‘All right, that’s pretty cool,’ and get to take that home.
“Thankfully, NASCAR races do have all pretty cool trophies.”
And one special clock that Larson finally gets to figure out where to put and be reminded of his accomplishment with every chime.