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‘Inches away from anything’: Kyle Larson explains his love of the high lane

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FORT WORTH, Texas – Kyle Larson swears perception isn’t reality.

“I don’t get into the wall every race,” Larson said last Saturday, causing a ripple of laughter in Texas Motor Speedway’s media center.

In the closing laps of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, with Brad Keselowski less than a second behind him, Larson took his No. 42 up high and zipped around the track right next to the wall.

And yes, he brushed said wall. But like the 2015 Xfinity finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Larson went on to win.

Larson, who has won twice in the Xfinity Series this year and earned first Sprint Cup victory, admits he thought his chance of winning ended after he made contact with the wall.

“I looked up in the mirror and (thought) ‘All right, here (Keselowski) comes. He’s probably going to get a big run and clear me into (Turn) 3 and take my line away,'” Larson said. “I was able to have a big enough gap on him from when I did hit the wall that he wasn’t able to get too close to me. It took me a corner, probably a lap to make sure I was all good.”

Larson’s Xfinity crew chief, Mike Shiplett, knows his driver’s tendency to run the highest of grooves for laps on end goes against conventional wisdom.

“We’ve made a point in practice to run on the bottom a little bit more, but he still went up there,” Shiplett said. “You cringe when he goes up there because you know he’s inches away from anything. With a bumpy race track, it’s a little bit harder, it’s easier to lose the car. On a smoother track, it’s not that big of a deal.”

Larson’s rim-riding ways originated in his sprint car days and he’s transitioned them into the Xfinity and Sprint Cup cars, with varying levels of success. Though it’s more likely to be successful when he’s piloting a Xfinity car.

“They’re really easy to run up by the wall,” Larson said. “It seems like I can go a lot faster than most people up there. I can enter higher, I can enter faster.”

Larson acknowledges there’s “more risk” in racing right next to the wall. But in a situation like Saturday’s, with Keselowski within striking distance, Larson considers the reward worth it, even if his car takes a little beating.

“I can go I feel a half-second faster a lap when I run the top,” Larson said. “That’s why I do it. It’s a lot harder in the Cup car. Xfinity cars you can actually hit the wall and like I said, go faster the next lap. Cup cars, you can barely touch the wall and you can ruin your race. I don’t seem to run the top as much in the Cup series, because the risk is a lot bigger.”

Larson doesn’t run for points in the Xfinity Series as he does in Cup. That’s why Larson has been working this season to improve his racing in the conventional driving line.

“(I’ve) been trying hard this year to get better on the bottom, but (I’m) still able to run the top as good as I have in the past,” Larson said. “Been trying to become a better all around driver and move around. But today, didn’t have to. I was fast on top.”

Even though Shiplett cringes when his driver goes higher than everyone else, he’s confident in Larson’s talent.

“He knows what he’s doing and he gets the job done,” Shiplett said.

Kyle Larson takes high lane to Xfinity win at Texas

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Lapped traffic and then his trademark high lane were Kyle Larson‘s saving grace Saturday as he used them to beat Brad Keselowski and win the Xfinity Series’ O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway.

With a big push from Elliott Sadler in the outside lane, Larson beat Keselowski on the race’s final restart with 30 laps to go. He never allowed the No. 22 to lead another lap despite a heated duel that lasted about 10 laps.

“I love seeing Elliott Sadler behind me on restarts,” Larson told NBC Sports. “He’s really good at taking off and pushing me. He helped win Pocono earlier this year.”

Larson and Keselowski ran side-by-side multiple times before a steady stream of lapped cars kept Keselowski from getting back to Larson.

Larson used the middle to high lanes to get around lapped traffic as Keselowski stuck within half a second of his rear bumper. When he ran against the bottom line in traffic, Larson battled a “really tight” car.

“Once I got to clean air I was like, ‘Oh, man, we’re going to lose,'” Larson said. “Got to the top just in time and got rolling.”

With his second Xfinity victory of the season, Larson ensured the winless streak for Team Penske’s flagship team would last passed one calendar year. Keselowski gave the No. 22 its last win in this race last year.

After starting from the pole, Keselowski led a race- and season-high 145 laps after only leading 104 in 13 previous starts this year.

The top five was Larson, Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez.

MORE: Race Results

MORE: Point standings

HOW KYLE LARSON WON: He deftly navigated lapped traffic and the high lane late to keep Brad Keselowski at bay in the closing laps.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: While never a factor for the lead, Kevin Harvick kept his No. 88 in the top five most of the day and finished third, his second top five in seven starts this season … Daniel Suarez overcame a broken alternator and replacing a battery to finish fifth.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Chase driver Blake Koch had to pit around Lap 40 for a tire beginning to shred. He was later caught speeding on pit road and finished 14th, his best finish at the track … Brandon Hightower caused the first and final cautions of the race and finished 35th … Matt DiBenedetto caused the fourth caution on Lap 133 when spun and hit the Turn 4 wall. He finished 36th.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We’ve had our ups and downs throughout the year – just been kind of a weird year. Some odd circumstances took some wins away from us, some mistakes I’ve made have taken some wins away from us. It’s just kind of an odd year and it’s carried over into the Chase some too.” – Erik Jones, who leads Xfinity regulars with four wins, but none since the Chase opener at Chicagoland.

NEXT: Race at Phoenix International Raceway, 7:30 p.m. ET on Nov. 12 on NBCSN.

Brad Keselowski wins pole for Xfinity Texas race

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FORT WORTH, Texas – Brad Keselowski will start from the pole in the Xfinity Series’ O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway, which airs on NBC.

Keselowksi recorded a speed of 186.909 mph, which tied Erik Jones. Keselowski received the tiebreaker based off owner points.

Filling out the top five was Matt Tifft (186.761), Daniel Suarez (186.567) and Kyle Larson (186.432).

Jones has started on the front row in all five Chase races.

The pole is the second this year for Team Penske’s No. 22 team after earning it at Road America. Keselowski’s pole, the 20th of his career, comes a year after giving the No. 22 team its last win.

It’s Keselowski’s first pole in 18 starts at Texas.

Where Xfinity Chase drivers will start:

Erik Jones, second

Daniel Suarez, fourth

Justin Allgaier, sixth

Elliott Sadler, eighth

Blake Koch, 12th

Ryan Reed, 13th

Brendan Gaughan, 16th

Darrell Wallace Jr., 18th

Click here for qualifying results.

Xfinity Chase driver Blake Koch crashes in first Texas practice

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FORT WORTH, Texas – Blake Koch, a Xfinity Chase participant, will go to a backup car after being involved in a hard crash early in the first Xfinity Series practice at Texas Motor Speedway

Koch, who is third in the Chase standings, was on his first lap of the session when his No. 11 Chevrolet and shot it into the Turn 2 wall. Koch said over the radio that “something broke.”

The wrecked car was brand new for this weekend. The backup car most recently was his backup at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Koch drives for Kaulig Racing, a one-car team in its first season of Xfinity competition. The team is part of a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing.

Entry list for O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge Xfinity race at Texas

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After a two-week layoff, the NASCAR Xfinity Series resumes racing this Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge.

A field of 40 cars are listed on the preliminary entry list, with two driver positions still to be filled: the No. 97 Chevrolet and No. 177 Chevrolet, both owned by Victor Obaika.

This will be the second race in the Round of 8 in the inaugural Xfinity Series Chase for the Championship. One more race remains in this round, next week at Phoenix, which will determine the four drivers who will compete for the championship on Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suarez come into this race tied for the series lead.

Click here for O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge Xfinity race at Texas entry list

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