Kyle Larson’s strong run ends with ‘worst birthday present’

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LONG POND, Pa. — Well, that wasn’t what Kyle Larson was hoping.

“It would be cool to see Chris Buescher win, but it would be the worst birthday present I’ve ever had in my life,’’ said Larson, who turned 24 on Sunday, before NASCAR called Monday’s Pennsylvania 400 for fog.

Larson finished sixth — the first time this season he’s scored back-to-back top-10 finishes — but Buescher’s win likely takes away another Chase spot.

Buescher is not Chase eligible after winning because he’s not in the top 30 in points. He’s six points behind David Ragan for 30th in the driver standings.

So for now, Larson remains in the final transfer spot, but he knows that likely will change soon.

“If he gets in, we’ll move on and go try and run as consistently as we can and outrun those guys that we’re behind in points and try to race our way into the Chase,’’ Larson said.

That just added to what Larson called a “crazy” race.

When the green flag waved at 12:10 p.m. ET, the focus for the field was to get to halfway in the 160-lap race with the threat of rain expected.

Larson took the lead when he stayed on track instead of pitting during a caution at Lap 67. He and Austin Dillon battled for the lead as the race approached halfway.

“I was doing all I could to stay in front of him, and he was doing all he could to get by me,’’ Larson said. “We battled hard down the frontstretch one time and then he got back to my inside in (Turn) 3 and I left him plenty of room. I was just going to try to run side by side with him and try to slow him down on the frontstretch. I guess he got loose underneath me and got in our door. That was pretty frustrating at the time, but it happens to not even matter.’’

It didn’t because the race continued, but it did matter because the contact damaged Larson’s car and impacted his straightaway speed.

What looked like a good day for Larson, though, soured when Buescher stayed out and took the lead as the field pitted under green and was in that position when the caution came out for fog on Lap 133. NASCAR called the race more than hour later.

Still, Larson couldn’t be upset by his second consecutive top-10 finish and 10th top-20 finish in a row.

“I definitely think we’re capable of being Chase contenders,’’ Larson said. “Those tracks in the Chase are my best tracks. Just got to get there.

“We’ve been running strong. Everybody at the shop is working really, really hard to get our cars better and it’s paying off.’’