As two former NASCAR legends who showcased ridiculous amounts of talent during their racing days and who have also learned how to cultivate talent as team owners, it’s only fitting that Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. discussed raw talent on this week’s episode of the Dale Jr. Download podcast.
“There’s guys that have raw talent, and then there’s taught talent,” Stewart said. “You can sit there you can watch videos, you can study, you can talk to people. Raw talent are guys that don’t have to think about what they do. They just get in and do it. It’s not taught.”
Stewart has raced in just about every motorsports league you can think of, so he’s seen raw talent on just about every level. Chip Ganassi Racing driver Kyle Larson also has a career outside of NASCAR, and if you ask the Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner, that has helped Larson develop into one of the most talented drivers in the sport today.
“I’m not picking them because they’re dirt track guys by any means. But you look at what Kyle does in a car — he overdrives everything he does, but he can still will make it work. I mean, there’s times he’s got that thing sideways and saves it, and it’s like, there’s not a lot of guys that could save it and push it that hard for that long and not make that mistake.
“And he still makes a mistake every now and then, but I’ve watched him when he was (in) open wheeled cars before he got (to the Cup Series), and he’s like playing video games and then he just puts his phone down, gets in the car and goes and races. He doesn’t think about what he does; he just gets in and does it.
“And there’s a handful of guys that fit in that kind of category. Robby Gordon was one that you and I both got to race with. Robby had a lot of raw talent. Now, it was rough around the edges raw talent, but you could put Robbie in anything and he could get 90, 95 percent of the way there like that. And there’s just not a lot of guys that can do that. And I think everybody has an amount of raw talent, but there’s just a handful of guys that I think are just truly pure, raw talented drivers.”
While Larson struggled with a winless 2018 NASCAR Cup Series season and finished 7th in the 2019 Daytona 500, only time will tell if that raw talent that Stewart is talking about will lead to domination down the road for the Elk Grove, California kid.