BRISTOL, Tenn. – Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops/NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway was, by all accounts, a very productive outing for Kyle Larson.
Larson drove the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing to a runner-up finish in the 500-lap grind around the .533-mile concrete oval, earning enough points to lock himself into the playoffs as a result.
However, after Larson won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race there on Friday – finally breaking a continued series of heartache with his first Bristol win – the California native was disappointed that he couldn’t secure the weekend sweep.
“I’m happy to finish second, because that’s probably 12 to 15 spots I feel like better than where I deserved to finish, but dang I want to win a Cup race here,” said Larson. “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, but it was a fight to hang on there.
“I honestly thought my car was going to be really good after practice yesterday. I guess we probably should have spent a little more time around the bottom to work on our balance there, to make it better,” Larson added. “This was probably the most frustrating Bristol race I’ve had, just ’cause I never really felt like I had a shot to win.”
Larson caught a lucky break when the last caution of the night waved with 18 laps to go, having just moved into fourth place when Kyle Busch and Chris Buescher crashed in turn four to slow the pace.
That put Larson restarting right behind leader Kurt Busch for the final stint of the night, something he was grateful to be able to capitalize on.
“Fourth is the second best place to start besides the leader. I knew I would get out to second,” noted Larson. “I hadn’t been around Kurt on the short runs there to see what he was doing. I was hoping maybe he would run the bottom for a couple laps, but he went straight away to the top and 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, but I never even got close enough to get to him. I was loose in and tight off. We fought the balance all night.”
Even still, it didn’t take the “fun factor” of Bristol away for Larson, who pointed out that the traction compound sprayed down over the last few races there has changed the racing at the high-banked concrete oval.
“It (the VHT) was fresh for our race,” said Larson. “I knew the bottom was going to be the place to be for a while until we got to traffic, then maybe you could move around. I don’t know what other guys think, but I didn’t feel like the bottom really wore out. The top just gets going so fast early in the runs, then you can start making the bottom work again.
“The bottom was there,” he stated. “I feel like once the top slows down enough, you can get the bottom to work. It’s kind of fun to try to figure out when that lane is going to come back in and be faster. Bristol is just an awesome place.”
In fact, Larson wants more of Bristol’s brand of excitement on the Cup Series schedule.
“If we could race here every Saturday and Sunday, our grandstands would be packed and our TV ratings would be very high,” he said. “Let’s build more Bristols.”
As for the playoffs, Larson can now turn his attention to the championship chase, as well as his continued pursuit of a victory this season.
“It’s bittersweet,” admitted Larson of not being able to seal the deal at Bristol. “Being locked into the playoffs is nice, but we still wanted that win tonight.”