- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 26, 2013

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Kyle Larson won’t have a second thought about getting back in a race car following his frightening crash at Daytona International Speedway.

More than two dozen fans were injured Saturday when Larson’s car sailed into the fence on the final lap of the Nationwide Series race and debris _ including a tire _ flew into the grandstands. Larson was uninjured, but many fans wondered if the severity of the accident would shake the nerves of the 20-year-old NASCAR rookie.

Not a chance.

“I’ve been in some really bad wrecks, I’m sure I’ll have more throughout my career,” Larson told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I know crashing is part of the risk we take being race car drivers. It happens. I’m not emotionally (upset), that wreck doesn’t make me nervous.”

Larson, a development driver for Chip Ganassi Racing who has been praised as the next big superstar by the likes of Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne, will be back in the Nationwide car this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. He is also scheduled to run a USAC race Friday night at Canyon Speedway Park.

After pulling out of a non-winged race Saturday night in Ocala, Fla., after the wreck at Daytona _ “I wanted to be respectful to the fans who were still in the hospital. I didn’t think it would be right to go have fun while they were hurting,” he said _ Larson is eager to get back in the car.

The Daytona wreck, after all, wasn’t even the worst of his career. Although it looked awful, and the front-end of Larson’s car was sheared off, his engine was wedged in a hole in the fence _ Larson believes his accident in a midget car at Eldora Speedway last September was worse: His car flipped after hitting the wall and was hit broadside by another car.

“Off the top of my head, that wreck at Eldora hurt more and was just as scary. I almost had a car come in my cockpit,” Larson said.

Still, last Saturday’s wreck, in Larson’s debut Nationwide Series race, was the first time his car has ripped a fence and disintegrated so badly. He said he only thought his car had gone upside down, and he wasn’t aware he’d hit the fence until he saw the wreckage.

“It happened so fast, I kind of thought I’d gone upside down so I was not expecting to see half my car gone,” Larson said. “I wasn’t expecting to see my engine caught up in the fence. So I was definitely in some shock when I got out of the car and saw it torn apart. I’ve never had an accident like that where I’d got caught up in the fence, so that was a little different. Kind of a freak deal.”

Among the issues NASCAR is researching from Saturday’s crash is why Larson’s car disintegrated the way it did when it hit the fence.

Seven people with crash-related injuries remained hospitalized in Daytona Beach in stable condition, Halifax Health spokesman Byron Cogdell said Tuesday morning. Also Tuesday, an Orlando law firm said three fans injured in the accident have retained its services.

Larson, meanwhile, is a little disappointed the Nationwide accident and an incident with C.E. Falk III in the “Battle at the Beach” race are the two lasting memories of his Daytona debut.

Larson opened Speedweeks with a second-place finish in the ARCA race, his first ever event at Daytona. But the buzz around him turned negative two days later when he spun Falk on the final lap to win the Whelen All-American Series Late Model race.

Larson was criticized for the move on Twitter by several top-name Sprint Cup Series drivers, and fans also lashed out at the young driver. He said Tuesday he has mixed feelings about the backlash.

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