SONOMA -- The only experiences Kyle Larson had at Sonoma Raceway before this week included driving go-carts and attending a handful of NASCAR and NHRA events. He had never driven a stock car on the 1.99-mile track.

Right now, no one can tell. In an eventful Saturday for the 21-year-old, he won NASCAR's K&N Pro Series West race, leading all 66 laps, and qualified third for the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

"I'm not shocked at all," driver and teammate Jamie McMurray said after winning the pole for Sunday's NASCAR's Sprint Cup race. "Kyle has done a really good job at every track we have been to this year."

It's been a magical rookie season for Larson, heralded by some as the most complete driver to enter the Cup series since Jeff Gordon in 1990. He is eighth in the standings with seven top-10 finishes in the first 15 races and has a legitimate chance to advance to the season-ending Chase for the Cup.

"I thought we'd be fighting to get a top 15 finish every week, and it seems like we're in the top 10 for the most part every race," said Larson, who took over the No. 42 car previously driven by Juan Pablo Montoya for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

Larson began driving Outlaw Karts at tracks in Chico and Red Bluff when he was 7 years old. After a few years, he began racing sprint cars all over Northern California, later moving to the Midwest and East Coast when he was 14 to compete against drivers two and three times his age.

In 2011, he won 22 races competing in the World of Outlaws series, all three U.S. Auto Club national divisions and the American Sprint Car Series. It didn't take long for some of NASCAR's biggest teams to take notice, and he was signed to a development deal by Ganassi.

As a member of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program, Larson, whose mother is Japanese-American, won NASCAR's K&N Pro Series East title in 2012 in his first full season in a stock car. He moved into the Nationwide Series and took eighth in the 2013 standings with nine top-five finishes.

"It helped me run a full season of K&N East and get some experience in stock cars," Larson said of the diversity program, "because I hadn't run any stock cars yet."

Last summer, it was announced that Larson would take over the 42 car from Montoya, becoming the first graduate of the Drive for Diversity to make the Cup series.

"He jumped into a nice ride that Montoya and Ganassi have raced for years, almost a Chase-level" car, said Kurt Busch, who began in the Cup Series in 2000 with Roush Racing when he was 21. "Hopefully he does well with it. As a rookie driver, he's done a good job of staying out of trouble."

Well, almost. Last week at Michigan after a restart, Tony Stewart moved to the outside to pass Larson. But Larson moved to block Stewart, and the two cars came together.

That prompted a middle-finger salute soon after from Stewart, who thought he had a car good enough to finish in the top five.

"I think he'll learn, just like we all learned when we were rookies, one way or the other," Stewart said Friday. "He'll either slow down enough and think about what he's doing or he'll be forced into a situation where he'll have time to think about it and there still will be cars on the racetrack."

Larson, speaking earlier this week about the incident, said: "In sprint car racing, blocking is a little more normal, I guess. A guy like Tony Stewart probably respects you more if you don't back down. Coming to a place like Sonoma, I'm sure we'll be around each other, and we'll see what happens."

After his first two days on the road course at Sonoma, there's already been plenty to see.

"I thought I'd be OK when I came here, I didn't think I'd be that good, and I still don't believe we're that good. We just qualified well," Larson said after winning the K&N Series race. " ... It was great, but we just have to finish the weekend off with a good finish tomorrow."

Follow Curtis Pashelka on Twitter at twitter.com/CurtisPashelka.

SUNDAY'S RACE
Toyota/Save mart 350
(Sprint Cup
series), at
Sonoma Raceway, noon, TNT

INSIDE
  • Jamie McMurray wins pole for Sprint Cup race. PAGE 5
  • Lineup.
    PAGE 5

    SPRINT CUP STANDINGS
    Driver Points Wins
    Jeff Gordon 537 1
    Jimmie Johnson 522 3
    Dale Earnhardt Jr. 514 2
    Matt Kenseth 513 0
    Brad Keselowski 490 1
    Carl Edwards 462 1
    Joey Logano 454 2
    Kyle Larson 454 0
    Kevin Harvick 447 2
    Kyle Busch 446 1