Kyle Larson will take over the wheel of the #42 Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing car from the start of 2014 once Juan Pablo Montoya's contract expires at the end of the current season, the team confirmed on Friday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"We believe that Kyle is the future of the sport," said team owner Chip Ganassi at the press conference. "He's a unique talent ... This was a racing decision. We felt that Kyle was the best short-term and long-term fit for the team and for [sponsors] Target."

In line with team policy Ganassi wouldn't reveal the length of Larson's contract to drive the #42 beyond stating that it was a multi-year deal. he added that the team had also just completed an extension to Jamie McMurray's contract to continue in the #1 car as Larson's team mate in 2014.

"Kyle was our first choice [to replace Montoya]," Ganassi continued. "We did not offer any deals to any other drivers. We talked to other drivers. We're thrilled to have Kyle. Nothing he has done makes us feel he cannot move to the Sprint Cup Series.

"We need to continue Kyle Larson's growth, and putting him in a Cup car was the very next step. We're sure there will be some growing pains but we're sure he's ready," Ganassi added. "My expectations and advice to him will be to keep the car on the track and run laps. As many of you already know, this kid is a special kid. We couldn't be more proud to have him here today announcing him as our driver for next year and beyond."

The 21-year-old Larson, who currently sits eighth in his first season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings with 13 top-tens and six top-fives in 23 starts, said that he was thrilled to be handed such a top opportunity so early in his career.

"It's definitely been quite a whirlwind," he agreed. "I was walking over here saying a year ago today I was making my second Truck start. It's been a really quick road. But I feel like I've done okay with it and learned quite a bit.

"I'm really excited, excited to be a part of the Target brand," he said. "It's a pretty iconic car. I think I can do okay. Like you said, there's going to be some growing pains, I'm sure. I think I'll learn a lot and I'll grow as a driver and mature as a person."

With Friday's announcement confirming what many had expected ever since Juan Pablo Montoya's contract with the team wasn't renewed earlier this month, there had been considerable discussion about whether it was too soon for Larson to be making the step up to Cup competition in such a high-profile seat in 2014, but Ganassi was confident that his new signing was ready.

"These younger guys that come along today, they seem to take a lot of these things in stride that we all as adults think they're big deals, scary things, whatever. These young drivers seem to take it like a fish to water," said the team owner. "He's shown a great ability to field anything that gets thrown at him, if you will. So I think that's what said it all for me."

"I feel like I am ready. I feel like I can go out there and contend. I raced with some Cup guys in the Nationwide Series this year and learned a lot from them - raced them hard, beat some of them," Larson agreed. "I think I can do it. I think Chip obviously thinks I can do it, so that's all that really matters to me.

"There's been people that are a lot younger than me that got their start in Cup. I think I'll do okay, like I said. I'll be all right.

"As long as I'm running top 15, I'm happy with that," added Larson, setting his own expectations for his forthcoming rookie season in Cup competition. "I don't know if the fans and media people think that's good enough. I think that's about where I'll set my goals for next year."

"There's no pressure for him to win his first year out. I don't think there's any pressure like that," insisted Ganassi. "I think Kyle is the kind of driver, when he sees an opportunity in front of him, he takes it. If that means it's a win, hey, great."

And certainly while some have their doubts, other experienced NASCAR drivers think Larson is ready and more than capable. "I think Kyle has definitely proven across the board that he can drive anything, anywhere, anytime," said Ryan Newman.

"There are a few drivers out there that can do that. And when I say a few, I mean there's 20 or 30 that are that good," Newman added. "In the end, we all know Kyle has a lot of talent."

Meanwhile, Ganassi wants his young star to get as much experience as quickly as possible, and that includes continuing to run as many Nationwide Series races in 2014 as possible alongside the Cup events.

"We're planning on Nationwide next year, as well, being in both series," revealed Ganassi. "Is he going to run every race? That might be a stretch. The idea is to do that. The idea is to run as many as he can. If he misses one or two, he may have to. Not just companion races, no.

"I think he's in a great team with Turner Scott Motorsports. Those guys have done a great job. I think it's kind of a plus that he's with a bona fide Nationwide team. It's not a Cup team there doing a Nationwide car. It's a bona fide Nationwide team."

With TSM co-owner Harry Scott Jr. in the process of acquiring the Phoenix Racing Cup team from James Finch, Ganassi is even hopeful that an opportunity might arise to put Larson in the #51 car for a few races before the end of the current season.

"I would think there's opportunity to get him in Cup races this year and we're going to take advantage of those opportunities," said Ganassi, although he made it plain that the #42 was still Montoya's for the rest of the current season. "It's never been my MO to push anybody out of any cars that are on our team. As you know, Juan has been a great asset to our team for many years. I'm not going to push him out or do anything like that."

This year, Larson had been running in a lot of extracurricular winged sprint car regional races on weekdays, sparking comparisons with Tony Stewart. Larson was even competing at the same event in Southern Iowa as Stewart when the three-time Cup champion broke his leg, ending his 2013 season. Larson insisted that he would still continue to race in such events in the future, but would scale back on the number.

"If I could still race ten sprint car races next year, I'd be totally fine with that," he said. "I run nearly 55 to 60 this year, that's a bit much. I'm ready to slow down a little bit. If I could still be part of sprint car racing, whether it be in ownership or having a small part in it, I would still enjoy it quite a bit and feel like I'm over there racing."

As for the deposed Montoya, Ganassi insisted that he still hoped something would work out to allow the former F1 star to continue racing in some capacity with the Ganassi organisation in 2014 and beyond after seven years together in NASCAR comes to an end in November.

"Juan has been a great asset to our team for many years. We've enjoyed a lot of success with him. He's not only a driver of our team, he's a great friend of mine," said Ganassi. "I think there are always opportunities in our team that seem to present themselves. You never know from time to time when those come along."

Ganassi confirmed that McMurray was remaining with the team, mentioning in an aside that EGR "just redid Jamie's contract" as the driver of the team's #1 car for 2014.


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