FORT WORTH, Texas – After rocking an average finish of 2.3 in the Round of 16, Kyle Larson picked up right where he left off in Sunday’s (Sept. 24) Round of 12 opener at Texas Motor Speedway.
The No. 5 car started 11th and Larson methodically picked his way through the field on a track that has been traditionally hard to pass at. He first took the lead on lap 143, as four tires on the No. 5 car overpowered the two tires on Bubba Wallace‘s No. 23.
From there, Larson was on cruise control. He scored the stage two win by more than five seconds over Erik Jones and after winning the race off pit road, Larson left the field in the dust to begin the final stage.
Larson led 73 of the first 75 laps after the final stage restart and he was sitting pretty with a 4.5-second lead over second. That is, until the caution was brought out for JJ Yeley with 23 laps to go.
Larson stayed out under the caution, while second-place Jones and third-place Denny Hamlin pitted for tires. Wallace, who won the pole and led 111 laps on the day, restarted alongside Larson for the restart with 19 laps to go.
And that is where it all went downhill for the No. 5 team.
Wallace got the advantage over Larson on the restart and as the two were side-by-side heading into turn 1 on lap 249, Larson lost control and slammed the outside wall.
After the race, Larson seemed unsure about how he managed to lose control.
“We had an extremely fast car, so it was fun to drive and [the result was] just a bummer,” Larson said. “Yeah, I wasn’t expecting to get loose in like that underneath the No. 23. With the Next Gen cars, that doesn’t seem to be an issue.
“So, I was trying to get my shape into [turn] 1 and just should have gave a little bit more space.”
Furthermore, Larson admitted that he bit off more than he could chew in attempting the pass.
“I think if I could just replay it again, I would just give more space into [turn] 1 and race it out off of [turn] 2,” Larson said. “And eventually, the bottom would have won out.
“So, I was just trying to get it all too quickly and should have just worked for another corner.”
The bad news for Larson – who is now just two points above the playoff cut line – is that Talladega Superspeedway is up next and superspeedway racing has never been his forte. Last year’s Round of 12 was also one to forget, as Larson got eliminated from championship contention on the final lap of the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.
But last year’s elimination is not on his mind.
“I don’t think about last year,” Larson said. “I just try to do a good job every weekend and just didn’t do a good enough job today. But our racecars are crazy fast. So, just try to get through Talladega with some decent fortune and hopefully have a good ROVAL.”
About the author
Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.
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