LINCOLN, Calif. – The continued success and fame of Kyle Larson is absolutely phenomenal. To nearly win the Knoxville Nationals and then win a NASCAR Cup Series race the next day shows versatility and skill like nobody else has before.
Meeting Larson and his family for the first time in the Cottage Grove Speedway bleachers when he was 6, his parents, Mike and Janet Larson spoke of starting in beginner box karts that following winter. A whirlwind career in outlaw karts led to eventually racing a winged 360 sprint at age 14 on the red clay of Placerville Speedway.
That night did not go particularly well, leading to my obviously uneducated thinking that maybe he was not ready for sprint cars. A win later that season proved that thought very wrong, and each step along Larson’s career has been met with only one result, success.
California has provided plenty of racing talent for the rest of the country to enjoy. The state still is home to some young and very talented drivers, and it will not be long before someone like 15-year-old Michael Kofoid showcases his talent elsewhere. Kofoid won a Trophy Cup main last year at age 14 and last weekend won the prestigious Johnny Key Classic at Ocean Speedway.
Whether Kofoid, Gio Scelzi, Kaleb Henry, or any other from the Golden State’s current crop of teenage drivers will climb a similar career ladder as Larson is impossible to know. But one driver may have a head start on the rest.
Eleven-year-old Garth Kasiner looks like Kyle Larson.
Several years ago, sitting in the Kings Speedway bleachers, a man sitting adjacent was there with his son. Maybe 7 or 8 at the time, the boy looked remarkably like Larson did at that age. It was Kasiner and his father, Joe, enjoying a night of racing away from their micro sprint schedule.
Kasiner also started in beginner box karts shortly before his 5th birthday. Living just west of Lemoore, his local track was adjacent to Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, Calif., where he won the main his first ever race night.
One night going home from a kart race they stopped at Lemoore Raceway and watched the micro sprint show. Now age 5, Kasiner felt he could do that and the 10-race kart career was replaced with a Briggs and Stratton powered junior sprint.
He raced four times before the season ended then three more full seasons, accumulating around 70 wins in a junior sprint. In 2015 Kasiner won track titles at Lemoore and Plaza Park as well as the King of California crown.
Late 2015 he moved up to restricted micro sprints and is now in his second full season in that class, leading points at three tracks plus winning this year’s restricted title in Speedweek. He has 19 wins in restricted to make the overall total 89 main event trophies.
Later this season he will move to super 600 micro sprint racing with a debut in a winged 360 sprint some time in the future. The car is being built now and his first race could be in Oklahoma in an ASCS show at age 13 or 14.
Joe Kasiner farms 2,500 acres of cotton, garbanzo beans, and seed alfalfa and also has a trucking company with 11 trucks hauling cattle, compost, and gypsum. The trucking company started in 2005 while his farming has downsized from the once 9000 acres effort. California’s water shortage played a part in that. The Kasiner family owns a home in Oklahoma and another 3,500 acres of soybeans and corn are raised in that state.
Kasiner is in 6th grade at Island Elementary School in Lemoore. With support from his parents, Joe and Justine, there is potential for a long and successful racing career.