Kyle Larson finishes second in ‘most frustrating Bristol race’

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — A night after earning his first NASCAR win at Bristol Motor Speedway, it was back to business as usual for Kyle Larson in the Cup Series.

Larson had to settle for another second-place finish to a guy named Busch.

Larson earned his fifth runner-up result of the season and his second at the half-mile track. But instead of placing behind Kyle Busch like he did in April, Larson was left looking at Kurt Busch‘s rear bumper.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver has placed second six times since his last win in the 2017 regular-season finale at Richmond. Three of those runner-up results have been to Kyle Busch.

“I mean, I’m happy to finish second,” Larson said. “That’s probably 12 to 15 spots I feel like better than where I deserved to finish. Our car was just really bad. I got lucky all night lining up in the right lanes.  I could gain three or four spots every restart. Just fight to hang on there. Then I’d be terrible at the end of the runs.

“Probably the most frustrating Bristol race I’ve had just ’cause I never really felt like I had a shot to win.”

After starting from the pole, Larson led three times in the first 63 laps but only led two laps the rest of the way.

He placed sixth in Stage 1 and fought to place fourth in Stage 2.

Larson found himself in 10th on the next to last restart with 22 laps to go. On the final restart, with 13 laps to go, he was in fourth.

Larson quickly moved into second after Clint Bowyer failed to get up to speed on the restart.

“Fourth is the second-best place to start besides the leader,” Larson said. “I knew I would get out to second. I hadn’t been around Kurt on the short runs there to see what he was doing.  Was hoping maybe he would run the bottom for a couple laps.

“He went straight away to the top.  I knew it was going to be tough to pass him.  I knew if I got close to him, I’d have to use the bumper a little bit.  I never even got close enough to get to him there.”

Larson, who clinched a spot in the playoffs on points, gave the traction compound applied to the bottom lane in each turn a positive review.

“It didn’t really matter where I ran,” Larson said. “Everybody that passed me either passed me on the top or the bottom, then drove away from me in each lane.

“I would say the lanes are pretty equal and consistent. Just hard to pass. When you get down there, you can have more lap time down there, but then your exit gets kind of tight because they hang on your outside.

“Yeah, Bristol is still a bad‑ass place.  I think they’ve done a good job with figuring out exactly where they need the (compound).”