Kyle Larson’s first top five at Indianapolis Motor Speedway couldn’t have come at a better time.
With Dale Earnhardt Jr. missing Sunday’s race with concussion-like symptoms, those on the outside of the Chase grid looking in were ready to pounce. It was Larson who took advantage.
His fifth-place finish in the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 moved him to 15th in points and 16th on the Chase grid.
Larson holds the final transfer spot by 10 points over 17th place Kasey Kahne heading into next weekend’s Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has been ruled out for Pocono because of concussion-like symptoms, dropped to 18th on the Chase grid.
“I don’t know if I was expecting much more than a top five, really,” Larson told NBCSN. “I didn’t know we had that speed in our car. We were probably a fifth- to seventh-place car but was able to get some good restarts there at the end. Just a solid day for the whole Target team.
“We qualified good for once and just solid weekend. It was a good one.”
The No. 42 from Chip Ganassi Racing started the day 10th and was not a factor for the win. But Larson ran a solid race and stayed in contention late to gain positions when four cautions flew inside the final 10 laps. Those accidents also aided Larson’s Chase chances by collecting drivers like Trevor Bayne and Ryan Blaney, who are also fighting for a spot on the grid.
Prior to those four cautions, Larson was running ninth, and he proceeded to gain four spots over the final 10 laps.
There are six races remaining in the regular season. Larson is in his third full year of Sprint Cup competition and has never made the Chase.