LONG POND, Pa. – While Sunday’s Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway didn’t end in a win for Kyle Larson and his Chip Ganassi Racing team, Larson left happy with the strides his team has made on speed.
Larson ran among season-long favorites Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick all race long on Sunday, notching his best Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series finish of the year just ahead of visiting his most successful track on the circuit.
The No. 42 DC Solar Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 lined up alongside Truex during the final restart of Sunday’s race with seven laps to go. Larson had gotten track position on Busch and Harvick by staying out under a debris caution with 21 laps left, and he fended off the two champions on old tires the remainder of the distance.
Larson actually referenced a block by Truex on the final restart as the key to him being able to maintain his runner-up showing all the way to the checkered flag.
“I actually liked that the 78 tried to pull down and block me a little bit, because it messed his angle up to the corner,” noted Larson. “I knew he would have to slow down a little more on entry and I was hoping I could get close enough to him to get him loose. I did that, but I also got kind of loose behind him, so I just had to tuck back in line on exit and then had to try and fight off the 18 (Busch) and the 4 (Harvick) behind me.
“I was just trying to stay lower than them on exit to get them tight,” Larson added. “I am happy we finished second, because we were probably a sixth or seventh place car today and to finish better than where you run is always a good thing. I am happy about that.”
Though Larson doesn’t yet feel he’s on the same level as Truex, Busch and Harvick – who have combined to win 11 of the season’s 14 races thus far – he felt Sunday was the strongest his No. 42 Chevrolet has been yet.
“I felt like my car today was kind of as good as it’s been all year,” said Larson. “I feel like the Hendrick guys have definitely gotten better, as well as the RCR (Richard Childress Racing) guys. But I feel like I’ve kind of just been a step behind the 18 (Busch), the 78 (Truex) and the 4 (Harvick).”
“I definitely felt like Harvick had the most power down the straightaways today, at least from the little bit I was in front of him there at the end,” Larson continued. “I felt like even when I get a good exit off of turn three, he would close on me a lot. Our DC Solar Chevy was competitive, but needs to be a little bit better. … Those three are definitely the class of the field right not. We are close and we are getting a little bit better, but so are they, so we just have to keep working hard.”
Next weekend, Larson and the Cup Series field will return to Michigan Int’l Speedway, where the Elk Grove, Calif., native has won the last three races dating back to August of 2016.
Larson hopes to tie Bill Elliott’s record of four-straight Michigan wins in the FireKeepers Casino 400. Elliott swept the season at the two-mile, Roger Penske-built oval in both 1985 and 1986.
“I’m excited to go there off of three wins in a row,” said Larson of Michigan. “For whatever reason, we’ve been fast there. We actually weren’t that fast in the last one we had, but we were able to have some good restarts at the end.
“Hopefully we can go and have our car as competitive as it was the first two times and try and get a fourth win.”