Kyle Larson is about to achieve his goal of becoming a driver in NASCAR’s premier Sprint Cup Series.
The 21-year-old racing prodigy from Elk Grove, Calif., will join Jamie McMurray next year on the two-car team of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, people familiar with the situation who were not authorized to speak publicly said Wednesday.
Larson is expected to step into the No. 42 Chevrolet and replace veteran Juan Pablo Montoya.
This month, the team declined to re-sign Montoya, 37, a former Indianapolis 500 winner and Formula One driver who found little success in NASCAR.
Montoya, in his seventh year in stock-car racing, is 21st in the Cup standings and has reached NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup title playoff only once, in 2009.
EGR, led by veteran team owner Chip Ganassi, declined to comment about Larson. But the team has scheduled a news conference Atlanta Motor Speedway, site of the next Cup race, on Friday, and Larson’s ride is expected to be announced.
Larson, a Japanese-American, is in his rookie year in NASCAR’s second-level Nationwide Series. He’s eighth in the Nationwide point standings and, although he hasn’t won a Nationwide race, has 13 top-10 finishes in 23 races.
It’s only his second year driving stock cars, and before that Larson excelled at racing midget cars, sprints and other open-wheel cars on dirt and paved tracks.
He has drawn high praise from such NASCAR champions as Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, who last year called Larson “absolutely phenomenal.”
Larson’s grandparents on his mother’s side were among the thousands of Japanese-Americans sent to an internment camp in Tulelake, Calif., during World War II.
Hometown: Elk Grove, Calif.
2012: Eighth in Nationwide standings; 13 top-10s in 23 races
FYI: Won races in all 3 U.S. Auto Club national divisions, the World of Outlaws & the Amrican Sprint Car Series in 2011. ... Beat Tony Stewart, among others, in qualifying race at the Chili Bowl Nationals midget-car race this year.