KANSAS CITY, Kan. – If finishing 14th with “a top-three car” didn’t leave Kyle Larson ailing Sunday at Kansas Speedway, there was also the matter of his aching ribs.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver took a prerace cortisone shot and put on a medicated patch to help manage the injury he sustained in an Oct. 14 crash at Talladega Superspeedway.
“I felt great to start the race,” said Larson, who didn’t think the ribs were broken. “I could barely feel any tenderness. And as the race went on, it just got more tender and more tender, and it’s pretty painful right now.
“I’ve got a cough, but I’m afraid to cough. We’ll maybe get it checked out this week and see if there is anything wrong with me. And if there is, if there’s anything I can do to get better.”
He’ll have a week to get ready for 500 laps at rough-and-tumble Martinsville Speedway, where he will enter the Round of 8 for the first time with a shot at the championship (by virtue of his Oct. 6 win at Dover International Speedway).
Larson is worried about racing well at the 0.526-mile oval that has frustrated him, but he is less concerned about how he will feel physically.
“Not really because the loads (at Kansas) are higher than at Martinsville with Gs pushing you into the side of the seat,” he said. “Martinsville, we don’t really have that. There’s a lot more slowing down and all that. You can slam on the brakes and things. So I don’t know if that’s going to hurt, but another seven days from now, I should be quite a bit better, hopefully.”
Larson also might need some time to recover from a missed opportunity at Kansas, where he led 42 of the first 46 laps. He stalled the car while pitting under green on Lap 47 but rebounded to retake first on Lap 59.
During a slow pit stop under a Lap 76 caution, Larson lost eight spots, and he fell outside the top 10 because of an uncontrolled tire penalty on the next stop (under yellow on Lap 117).
“Today was our roughest day that I’ve had in a long time,” said Larson, who also had a dustup with the lapped car of Joey Gase. “We had some really slow stops. My pit box was really slick, so I couldn’t get in aggressive enough (and) couldn’t leave fast enough. It made the pit stops seem worse than they were.”
Larson still managed to be in the hunt for his second victory in three races, climbing into the top five when the caution flew on Lap 254 of 277. Larson moved into second behind race winner Denny Hamlin with a two-tire stop, but he faded over the course of the final three restarts.
“Tough to have a day like that, but we had a fast car,” Larson said. “We tried to gamble on tires. Worked out for Denny, didn’t work out for us and got ate up on those restarts. Finished 14th with a top-three car.
“With him getting clean air (as the leader on the restart), I thought (Hamlin) would have a good shot. I thought if I could ever clear him, I’d have a good shot, too, but he did a good job with all the restarts holding them guys off.”
After being eliminated in the second-round cutoff race at Kansas the past two years, at least Larson could find solace at avoiding the playoff drama that led to Brad Keselowski’s elimination Sunday.
“It was pretty interesting keeping in touch with what was going on with the points,” Larson said. “The intensity just ramps up every round and every race really. Yeah, it’s going to get wild.”