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Larson-Kwasniewski: Ganassi’s Dynasty of the Future?

Larson-Kwasniewski: Ganassi’s Dynasty of the Future?

by March 12, 2014 0 comments

Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images

LAS VEGAS  — After spending over a decade trying to construct a future dynasty of the sport, Chip Ganassi Racing may have just completed a winning combination by signing K&N Pro Series standout Dylan Kwasniewski.

The announcement was made during a press conference at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday in which Ganassi and team co-owner, Felix Sabates, revealed their newest signing.

“Obviously, Dylan is a raw talent at this age, but we think he has all the pieces to excel,” Ganassi stated. “I think it’s important to have a pipeline, and he’s the next driver in that pipeline.”

Kwasniewski is the first ever driver to win both the K&N Pro Series West and Pro Series East titles in 2012 and 2013, respectively; an impressive accomplishment.  What’s even more impressive is that he’s only 18-years-old.

Kwasniewski, current driver of the No. 31 Rockstar Energy Camaro in the Nationwide Series, is looking to join fellow racing wunderkind Kyle Larson in the Sprint Cup Series in the near future. Ganassi, however, is not looking to push the 18-year-old into the premier series on a full-time basis too early.

Chip Ganassi Racing have compiled a rather lengthy list of rookie Sprint Cup drivers they have debuted since the new millennium prior to this season. From those with traditional stock car backgrounds like David Stremme, Jamie McMurray, Jason Leffler, and Reed Sorenson to open-wheel racers Dario Franchitti, Casey Mears, and Juan Pablo Montoya; the team owner has shown time and time again that he’s not scared of putting his money behind fresh talent.

Of the drivers listed above, only McMurray and Montoya have gone on to win races in Ganassi equipment; which isn’t a slight towards the other drivers at all. After all, it’s not easy to hop right into a Sprint Cup car and produce strong results immediately, if ever.

Franchitti, for example, was the defending IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 champion before making the jump to Cup in 2008; a move that resulted in ten career races with no finishes inside the top-20. Franchitti hadn’t lost his racing luster though as he returned to IndyCar for Ganassi the following year and would go on to win a record three series titles in a row.

Both Larson and Kwasniewski possess the unique ability to adapt quickly to new race cars, a quality that CGR’s previous rookies have not shown as well throughout their stock car careers.

To get to where he is at today, Larson flew up the stock car ladder. In his first ever season in a stock car, Larson won the K&N Pro Seres East championship in 2012, graduating to the Nationwide Series as a result. Larson immediately hit the ground running in his rookie season in the Nationwide car as he amassed nine top-fives and 17 top-10s en route to an eighth place finish in the championship standings.

Three starts into his first full Sprint Cup season, Larson is beginning to rebound after a 38th place finish in his first Daytona 500, finishing 20th at Phoenix and 19th in Las Vegas. Larson is knocking on the door of the top-20 in points as he now finds himself in 22nd place in the championship standings.

Kwasniewski’s rapid rise to the Nationwide Series was built on the strength of those back-to-back K&N Pro Series championships on the nation’s short tracks. An impressive fourth place result in his ARCA Series debut at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway showed that he could hang with other drivers on the intermediate tracks as well.

Three starts into his Nationwide Series career, Kwasniewski is beginning to make waves in the series after an eighth-place finish in his debut at Daytona. Like Larson’s early season in the Sprint Cup Series, Kwasniewski’s had some rocky results as well such as finishing 24th at Las Vegas after backing his No. 31 Camaro into the wall. He currently finds himself eighth in the championship standings.

While it would be a tall ask to expect both drivers to start winning week after week as soon as possible – depending on how consistent each driver is this year we should be able to tell just how strong this pairing may turn out to be in the future. If the results are there by the end of this year, we just might be looking at the makings of the next Sprint Cup super-team in half a decade.

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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