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‘Inches away from anything’: Kyle Larson explains his love of the high lane

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FORT WORTH, Texas – Kyle Larson swears perception isn’t reality.

“I don’t get into the wall every race,” Larson said last Saturday, causing a ripple of laughter in Texas Motor Speedway’s media center.

In the closing laps of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, with Brad Keselowski less than a second behind him, Larson took his No. 42 up high and zipped around the track right next to the wall.

And yes, he brushed said wall. But like the 2015 Xfinity finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Larson went on to win.

Larson, who has won twice in the Xfinity Series this year and earned first Sprint Cup victory, admits he thought his chance of winning ended after he made contact with the wall.

“I looked up in the mirror and (thought) ‘All right, here (Keselowski) comes. He’s probably going to get a big run and clear me into (Turn) 3 and take my line away,'” Larson said. “I was able to have a big enough gap on him from when I did hit the wall that he wasn’t able to get too close to me. It took me a corner, probably a lap to make sure I was all good.”

Larson’s Xfinity crew chief, Mike Shiplett, knows his driver’s tendency to run the highest of grooves for laps on end goes against conventional wisdom.

“We’ve made a point in practice to run on the bottom a little bit more, but he still went up there,” Shiplett said. “You cringe when he goes up there because you know he’s inches away from anything. With a bumpy race track, it’s a little bit harder, it’s easier to lose the car. On a smoother track, it’s not that big of a deal.”

Larson’s rim-riding ways originated in his sprint car days and he’s transitioned them into the Xfinity and Sprint Cup cars, with varying levels of success. Though it’s more likely to be successful when he’s piloting a Xfinity car.

“They’re really easy to run up by the wall,” Larson said. “It seems like I can go a lot faster than most people up there. I can enter higher, I can enter faster.”

Larson acknowledges there’s “more risk” in racing right next to the wall. But in a situation like Saturday’s, with Keselowski within striking distance, Larson considers the reward worth it, even if his car takes a little beating.

“I can go I feel a half-second faster a lap when I run the top,” Larson said. “That’s why I do it. It’s a lot harder in the Cup car. Xfinity cars you can actually hit the wall and like I said, go faster the next lap. Cup cars, you can barely touch the wall and you can ruin your race. I don’t seem to run the top as much in the Cup series, because the risk is a lot bigger.”

Larson doesn’t run for points in the Xfinity Series as he does in Cup. That’s why Larson has been working this season to improve his racing in the conventional driving line.

“(I’ve) been trying hard this year to get better on the bottom, but (I’m) still able to run the top as good as I have in the past,” Larson said. “Been trying to become a better all around driver and move around. But today, didn’t have to. I was fast on top.”

Even though Shiplett cringes when his driver goes higher than everyone else, he’s confident in Larson’s talent.

“He knows what he’s doing and he gets the job done,” Shiplett said.

Kyle Larson fastest in final practice for Coca-Cola 600

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CONCORD, N.C. — Kyle Larson topped the final practice session for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 with a speed at 186.400 mph.

The Cup points leader, Larson will start 39th in the race because his No. 42 Chevrolet didn’t clear inspection in time to qualify.

Ryan Blaney (185.861), Matt Kenseth (185.046), Kurt Busch (184.856) and Erik Jones (184.818) rounded out the top five.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was seventh fastest at 184.433 mph. Pole-sitter Kevin Harvick was 20th fastest at 182.648 mph.

Jimmie Johnson recorded the most laps in the session with 47.

Jamie McMurray had the best 10-lap average at 180.914 mph.

The session was stopped for a caution once after Brad Keselowski spun exiting Turn 4.

Click here for the full practice report.

Justin Allgaier wins pole for Charlotte Xfinity race

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CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier won the pole for the Xfinity Series’ Hisense 4K TV 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

With a speed at 182.488 mph, Allgaier earned his fifth Xfinity pole and his first since the March 2013 race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Allgaier is joined on the front row by Austin Dillon (181.519).

The top five was completed by Ryan Blaney (181.378), Daniel Hemric (181.324) and Kevin Harvick (181.245).

Christopher Bell will start seventh in his first Xfinity race.

Brad Keselowski and Dakoda Armstrong will start from the rear after not passing inspection in time to qualify.

Click here for full qualifying results.

Ryan Blaney leads second Coke 600 practice

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CONCORD, N.C. — Ryan Blaney posted the top speed in the second practice session for the Coca-Cola 600.

Blaney’s No. 21 Ford produced a speed of 188.055 mph Saturday morning around Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The top five was filled out by Erik Jones (187.598 mph), Martin Truex Jr. (187.084), Daniel Suarez (186.838) and Trevor Bayne (186.239).

Pole-sitter Kevin Harvick was ninth fastest at 185.567 mph. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 14th quickest at 185.141 mph.

Kyle Busch recorded the most laps in the session with 48.

Click here for the full practice report.

Eight teams lose 15 minutes of Coke 600 practice for failing pre-qualifying inspection

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CONCORD, N.C. — Eight Cup teams were held 15 minutes during Coca-Cola 600 practice today for failing pre-qualifying inspection on Thursday

Drivers include Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Paul Menard, David Ragan, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, Corey LaJoie and Chris Buescher.

Buescher’s team also loses pit selection for Sunday’s race because it failed inspection three times.

Larson and LaJoie’s loss of practice time comes after neither qualified Thuraday because their cars didn’t clear inspection in time.