TEENAGER Kyle Larson grew up watching American sprintcar drivers Paul McMahan, Daryn Pittman and Tim Shaffer from behind the barrier.
But the Californian wonder kid will race beside them in the Lucas Oil Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic this weekend and should provide genuine competition for the established stars.
Larson charges into Premier Speedway with some of the best form of all entrants tomorrow.
The 19-year-old won 21 feature races last year and is determined to continue his stellar run at Allansford.
“I’d like to win it,” he told The Standard yesterday.
“I think I’ve got a good shot. There’s a lot of people from all over going and I’ve heard the track’s really fun.
“It pays all right too.”
Larson’s Australian visit is just his second venture outside his native country. The first was to New Zealand last month to race speedcars.
Premier Speedway general manager David Mills employed Facebook to invite Larson to Australia and after some research and consultation with crew chief Wayne Priddy, the emerging talent accepted.
He is driving a Brett Milburn-prepared car.
However, Larson’s debut on Australian soil did not go according to plan on Wednesday night at Avalon, which was won by Robbie Farr.
“It was horrible,” Larson laughed. “I wrecked in qualifying, which screwed the whole night up.
“I went back out for the heats but I thought the motor was going to blow up to I pulled out.”
Larson diagnosed the problem as a magneto box failure.
But the youngster can also blame his unfortunate introduction on jetlag.
The American arrived in Melbourne at lunchtime on Wednesday and was whisked straight from the airport to the racetrack.
Larson’s need for speed is obvious in his racing record last year. He entered 93 races, including World of Outlaws’ Gold Cup Race of Champions, in which he became the youngest winner in its 58 editions.
The teenager admitted he was a little homesick.
“This is my job, my life,” he said. “I’m an aggressive driver when I need to be. There’s a lot of good Americans here and I watched these guys as I was growing up.
“I just want to do well here and then I want to go home.”