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.