Race Weekend Central

Kyle Larson Finishes 4th in All-Star Race Hours After Qualifying 5th for Indy 500

NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — Kyle Larson woke up Sunday (May 19) morning in Speedway, Ind., staring down a Fast 12 qualifying run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

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In a matter of hours, Larson qualified fifth for the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500, jumped on a plane and flew to Wilkes County, N.C., and put in a 20th to fourth run in the NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway. 

It was certainly quite the day for Larson, but as we’ve come to expect, he was competitive every time he was behind the wheel. Even without a single lap on track all weekend at North Wilkesboro, Larson was in contention for the win at the end. 

Larson dropped to the rear of the field ahead of the green, due to a driver change after Kevin Harvick practiced and qualified the car on Friday and Saturday. 

From the drop of the green, Larson began a methodical march to the front, even on a night that saw passing be exceptionally challenging. Larson climbed to 13th by the lap 100 competition caution. 

A great stop on pit road by the No. 5 team gained Larson some track position, before Larson battled as high as sixth before falling to seventh at lap 150. It was then that strategy came into play. 

As the top six cars stayed on track, crew chief Cliff Daniels elected to bring the No. 5 down pit road for a fresh set of the red sidewall “Option” tires. Larson began storming through the field on the restart, quickly climbing to third in a matter of laps. 

For a moment, it looked as though 2023 was set to repeat itself at North Wilkesboro. However, that is where the run stalled, as Larson burnt up his tires running the inside underneath second-place runner Denny Hamlin for laps on end.

Hamlin and eventual race winner Joey Logano got away from Larson, as he eventually fell back into the clutches of Chris Buescher. The two battled hard in the closing laps, with Buescher stealing a podium spot in the final moments of the race. 

“I was happy with the call to pit,” Larson said. “And then we had a really good restart and I got to third pretty quickly, and I thought I was in the best spot to win. I thought for sure we’d win, but my car just built really loose, and then I kind of had to move up to the top and they just started driving away from me and the guys from behind were catching me pretty quickly.”

Unlike the rest of the All-Star field, the drop of the green was Larson’s first impression of the newly repaved North Wilkesboro Speedway. Larson was happy with how the repaved turned out and how the track raced throughout the night.

“For one, I feel like the repave is awesome,” Larson said. “This track is the raciest repaved track I’ve ever ran on. So hats off to the whole crew here. That was a lot of fun, getting to race forward and then the option tires I thought were really exciting, so the strategy of it was fun,…I think if you were to continue with the option tire you would want a tire that’s maybe even softer, stickier, faster, but wears out or something to where they have to pit.”

Now, all the focus for Larson turns back to Indy and the week in the racecar that lies ahead. Larson noted that the travel back and forth is something he’s done before, just not to this magnitude.

“We practice I think [Monday] and then Friday, and there’s some media and lunches and sorts of things throughout the week,” Larson said. “It’d honestly be nice to kind of get some days out of the car to relax, but then obviously Saturday with flying in to do Cup practice and qualifying for the [Coca-Cola] 600 and then going back and forth there, and then doing the race will be a lot of fun.”

“It’s obviously a little bit different,” Larson said. “You know I’ve raced multiple cars, or qualified like going from Loudon to the Kings Royal or getting the pole at Richmond and then going to run the Knoxville Nationals, stuff like that in the same day. So it’s different, it’s a bigger magnitude but I’ve done it probably more than five times. So maybe that makes me be a little more relaxed on days like today, but either way the magnitude of it’s much cooler.”

As for the trip specifically from Indy to North Carolina, although Larson will travel to Charlotte next Sunday (May 26) rather than Wilkesboro, he said the biggest thing will essentially be fine tuning the process to make the double transition work the best for him. 

“I’ve made that flight from Indy to Charlotte a number of times, it’s an hour if you’re wondering,” Larson said. “It wasn’t a big deal, I think the just doing the dry run was more good for like, I didn’t have a firesuit, like this firesuit in Indy. So I had to change once I got here, so I think there’s things that we can clean up a little bit on that side of the logistics, like having my 600 suit on the airplane so I can change and get out of sweaty stuff would be nice. Overall it all went really smooth.”

Larson has now completed half the battle in Indy, as he’s not only locked into the show, he’ll roll from the middle of the second row for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

To fly back home to North Wilkesboro and put in a top-five effort is just icing on the cake for a driver with the biggest day of his racing life looming in seven days’ time. 

About the author

Chase_folsom_ROVAL_2022

Chase began working with Frontstretch in the spring of 2023 as a news writer, while also helping fill in for other columns as needed. Chase is now the main writer and reporter for Frontstretch.com's CARS Tour coverage, a role which began late in 2023.  Aside from racing, some of Chase's other hobbies include time in the outdoors hunting and fishing, and keeping up with all things Philadelphia sports related.

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Kyle opened a whole lot of eyes at Indy. I can still call him a kid, he’s having fun and loves driving everything. When your super talented and actually having fun doing it, there isn’t any pressure on him. He’s just enjoying the moment. I hope he does well in both races next week.

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