HAMPTON, Ga. – For the sixth time in recent memory, Kyle Larson had a car capable of parking in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory lane, but circumstances denied him a chance to celebrate.
Larson had the dominant machine in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, leading seven times for a race-high 142 laps and winning stage one, but copped a speeding penalty during a yellow-flag pit stop on lap 225 that dropped him well outside of the top 10 and ended his shot to contend for the win.
The Elk Grove, Calif., native ended up mired in 18th for much of the ensuing run even with a fast car, but eventually fought his way forward for a 12th-place finish with the No. 42 McDonald’s Chevrolet Camaro.
It was a positive day from a speed standpoint, but far from the result that Larson was hoping for. He now has a six-pack of races where he’s led 100 or more laps and hasn’t won.
“I had a really good day going until I sped,” said Larson. “My car handled really good … and then once I got where I had to restart in the back, I was just really tight. Clean air is even more important now (with the new package) than in the past, I think, at least at a track like this.
“That was a little disappointing, but I’m more just upset at myself for making a big mistake like that.”
Larson was quick to point out that the miscue was on his shoulders.
“It’s just one of those things. I made a mistake,” Larson noted. “I knew it was going to be close. When you flash some reds on your dash, you hope you come off pit road and they don’t say anything … and half the time it works out in your favor, but today I was just too fast and got in trouble.”
Though Larson wouldn’t give a hard answer, he admitted that he was likely in the cat bird’s seat to win the race before the late speeding ticket derailed a dominant day.
“I felt like I had a car capable of winning, for sure,” said Larson. “We led a lot of laps, even though I felt like the 4 (Kevin Harvick) and the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.) were better than I was on the long run, but out front I feel that I had the best car for 25 laps or so. I was really happy about having that speed.
“Once we got in traffic, I just lost all front grip and couldn’t do much after that.”
Sunday marked an overall strong showing for Chip Ganassi Racing, with Larson leading the most laps and teammate Kurt Busch battling late to secure a third-place finish in his second race with the organization.
Larson agreed with that assessment, but also knows he’ll have to be mistake-free to close out race wins as the season goes on.
“I think this was good for us. Kurt ran well, I led a lot of laps … so those are good things,” Larson said. “It was definitely a positive day; I just have to clean some things up on my end, especially on pit road.
“If I can do that, we’ll be a lot better going forward.”