Kyle Larson Seeks Playoff Momentum at Michigan

All in all, Kyle Larson remains optimistic about his team's Playoffs push. (Photo Credit: Matteo Marcheschi/TPF)

All in all, Kyle Larson remains optimistic about his team’s Playoffs push. (Photo Credit: Matteo Marcheschi/TPF)

By and large, Kyle Larson has shown grace, poise, and dignity in a trying year.  Certainly, he remains focused on the job at hand with his No. 42 McDonald’s Chevrolet team.

After all, while his bid to win the Knoxville Nationals effectively ending earlier this week, his efforts to make the NASCAR Playoffs push remains vibrant as ever.

“It’s a bummer,” Larson said. “But obviously, I’ve known that an option, or whatever you wanna call it, for the last few years that I’ve done it, I’ve always said that if I didn’t have a good prelim night, I wouldn’t be able to go back. It’s a bummer but I already knew it going into it, so I need to do better on Wednesday.

We wouldn’t race on Saturday just because with me not racing (on Friday night), I would have to start last in the E-Main and it’s pretty much impossible to transfer. I couldn’t pass anybody the other night, so why would I be able to pass people (on Saturday)? So, we’ll just go hang out and support Carson Macdeo and hopefully he can transfer through the B and make a good run to the end.”

Much like Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Ken Schrader, the 27-year-old Elk Grove, Calif. native loves racing.  Like a musician who may double between their primary band and a side project, Larson values any time he gets on the track.

Without delay, Larson's ideal week would consist of racing each day. (Photo Credit: Matteo Marcheschi/TPF)

Without delay, Kyle Larson’s ideal week would consist of racing each day. (Photo Credit: Matteo Marcheschi/TPF)

“To me, the way I view it is the more often I’m racing, the better I’m becoming,” he observed. “I would race every single day of the week if I could and I believe it would help me.  People can look at earlier in my career in Cup and they blame that I would run bad on Sundays because I’m not focused.  But then all of a sudden, when we got our cars better, I was still racing more sprint car races, now it’s because he’s racing all of the time even though my schedule didn’t changed.

I think media and fans and some people in the teams probably looked too deep into it and just tried to assume their own opinion. As long as I know that when I race that it makes me better, that’s all that matters. I feel like 2017, we had that really good year, and that finally convinced them that it doesn’t hurt anyways when I go race sprint cars.”

On that note, Larson realizes the challenges and logistics with bringing a quality dirt track experience to NASCAR fans.  In fact, the Californian candidly shared his thoughts on producing an entertaining dirt track race to stock car enthusiasts.

“I think that it would be cool,” he remarked. “I mean, there’s races where sprint cars are run the night before like Charlotte and I raced the night before in Chicago.  You kind already kind of have it but it’s not the same thing as morning of, but they did that deal earlier this year with Stadium Trucks at Texas.  And, I don’t really know how that came across to fans.

Make shift tracks are really tough to make the racing exciting.  I’d hate to see them throw dirt down on the infield or something and it’d be a terrible race.  NASCAR fans who’ve never watched a dirt race before will form their only opinion of it and might think it’s lame. They’d have to do it right if they did it.  But, I don’t know if they’d ever do it or not.  But they’re always looking at ways to make the race day more exciting.  So, you can never say never, but I haven’t heard any rumblings about it.”

While Larson confirmed his intentions to run the Driven2SavLives BC39 race at Indianapolis next month, his focus remains set on Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan.  Moreover, the three-time track winner provided some insights on the changes to this 2-mile superspeedway.

Usually, Larson enjoys driving on the high lanes of Michigan. (Photo Credit: Matteo Marcheschi/TPF)

Usually, Kyle Larson enjoys driving on the high lanes of Michigan. (Photo Credit: Matteo Marcheschi/TPF)

“I think if (the VHT or PJ1) was a few feet lower, it’d be a lot easier to go up there and try it out,” Larson said.  “Tomorrow, you might get some guys to venture up there.  I think you’ll be able to try it in Turns Three and Four first.  And maybe if it’s gripped up enough, that’ll give you confidence to try it in Turns One and Two.

We’ll see.  I know everybody thinks I’m the first to go to the top, but I don’t think I ever am. I just wait until other people try it.  And then I typically go a little bit faster than they do up there or commit more than they do once they go up there.  But I think it’s a few feet too high, but we’ll see once we race on it.”

Conversely, Larson’s penchant to run the high line about parallels his level of confidence.  In particular,  he focused on the gains his Chip Ganassi Racing team recently made in the past two months.

“I kind of got a sense today in practice of going up to speed really close to it through the gears when you leave pit road,” he said.  “And even in the race earlier this year, we could run that high and I drove around people up there.  So, I already know it’s equal up there without the VHT.  At least I feel like I’m going to try it more so in Three and Four before One and Two but I’m not really sure mentally or why I feel that way.  Something tells me we’ll be able to go up there first.”

With four races remaining until the NASCAR Playoffs, Larson’s best opportunities for wins likely preside at Michigan and Bristol.  All things considered, the young racer’s versatility with vastly different venues speaks volume during a high pressure time.

“(Bristol) feels like a dirt track and how you would race a dirt car,” he said.  “It’s just really aggressive.  And you can move around with the VHT with the stuff that they put around the bottom.  It suits my driving style and I don’t know why.  I love it too.  It’s my favorite track by far, so that always helps.”

Ultimately, Larson remains hopeful with repeating his exploits at Michigan during the 2016 and ’17 seasons.  Moreover, the perennial frontrunner wants to capitalize on what he and his team produced in June.

In any event, Larson realizes his best shot for wins presides at Michigan and Bristol. (Photo Credit: Matteo Marcheschi/TPF)

In any event, Larson realizes his best shot for wins presides at Michigan and Bristol. (Photo Credit: Matteo Marcheschi/TPF)

“No, I don’t prepare any differently or honestly do anything differently,” he observed.  “We’ve just ran well here and I don’t know why.  We were able to win three in a row.  Even the race here earlier this year, our pit strategy didn’t work out.  We lost a ton of track position at the end.

But I ran inside the top-five or six once I got up there all race basically.  I feel like our cars are a lot better right now than they were then.  So, I look forward to the race on Sunday and hopefully, we can have a good shot.”

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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