Kyle Larson maintains momentum with top-three finish in 100th Sprint Cup start

1 Comment

Kyle Larson‘s 100th Sprint Cup start wasn’t as flashy as his 99th, but the third-year driver put in his best-career finish at Darlington Raceway, ending the night in third in a car that failed post-race inspection.

A week after earning his first Sprint Cup win at Michigan International Speedway, Larson had his No. 42 in a good position to win back-to-back races most of the night.

Larson started 16th, but had an average running spot of 7.64. By Lap 60, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver was in the top five.

“We had to work on our Target Chevy quite a bit there early in the night,” Larson said. “When the sun was out, it drove totally different. As the sun was going down, I could feel my car change and I was getting a little bit change looser and had to keep up with that, but we made some good adjustments.”

Larson returned to the top five permanently by Lap 240. He took the lead on a Lap 284 restart, passing Denny Hamlin and leading the next 45 laps, the second most of the season for Larson.

“Our short‑run speed was really good, especially out front,” said Larson who average a fourth-best speed of 167.402 mph early in runs. Late in runs, Larson had the ninth-best average at 157.453mph. “I struggled on the long runs with getting loose off. I was trying to take care of my rear tires as much as I could, but it seemed like nothing I did would help me on the long run.”

Larson eventually lost the lead in the pits, but was third on the final restart with 12 laps left, trailing Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick, who led a race-high 214 laps.

“Could have cleared myself up in front of Kevin through the middle of (Turns) 1 and 2, but left in that lane and kind of pinched myself down a little bit and didn’t get a good enough run down the backstretch as I needed,” Larson said. “(Harvick) was on my back bumper … and I thought if I went to the bottom I could kind of hold my own to exit, but Kevin nailed (Turns) 3 and 4 and was able to squeeze around me and get back to second.”

It left Larson with his third top-10 finish in as many starts at Darlington Raceway. It’s also the first time Larson has finished in the top five in consecutive races since 2014.

“It was good to be a contender two weeks in a row,” Larson said. “I thought maybe there was some things that could have gone our way to maybe get the win, but we’ll still take a third, build on our momentum leading up to the Chase, and hopefully have a good first round of that.”