Kyle Larson Scores Strong Second at COTA

Despite another runner up finish, Kyle Larson continues his consistent ways. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

Despite another runner up finish, Kyle Larson continues his consistent ways. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

Above all else, Kyle Larson sets his sights on scoring victories for his No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet team. Sometimes, a second place finish in three different racetracks warrants some acknowledge and notice.

All things considered, Kyle Larson seemingly erased an otherwise miserable April with a mighty May. In this case, Larson, the 28-year-old Elk Grove, Calif. native showcased his prowess as a road course racer in challenging conditions.

Immediately, Larson and his No. 5 team unloaded a rather quick, consistent car off their hauler. Firstly, Larson logged the third fastest time in Saturday’s practice session. Correspondingly, Larson posted the second fastest time in qualifying on Sunday morning.

By all means, Larson approached the 3.41-mile Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas with unflappable confidence. Similarly to a student studying for the big test, Larson nailed some solid results in the opening two stages.

In particular, Larson, like 34 of his fellow competitors, pitted early in stage 1 after incorrectly switching from rain tires to slicks during the pace laps. Once the No. 5 Chevy was back on the rain tires, Larson responded with a fourth place finish.

For the most part, Larson kept out of trouble in a tumultuous stage 2 for the field. Indeed, visibility became a issue for the drivers with damp spots along the backstretch between turns 11 and 12.

In the long run, Kyle Larson seemingly looks like the new "Mr. Consistency." (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

In the long run, Kyle Larson seemingly looks like the new “Mr. Consistency.” (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

Chiefly, Larson resembled Sergio “Checo” Perez in last year’s Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul Park. In fact, “Yung Money” made good on .38 Special’s song “Hold On Loosely” by placing sixth.

On balance, Larson and crew chief Cliff Daniels seemed set on a sneaky strategy for their second win of 2021. Following lap 40 pit stops for Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott, Larson played the long run game in which they’d inherit the lead in the final laps.

Expressly, once the race reached the final 16 laps, Elliott held onto an apparently precarious lead while Larson ran a calculative second.

However, a caution with 15 laps remaining changed the overall complexion of the race. Instead of pouncing on Elliott’s potential late race pit stop, Mother Nature derailed Larson’s opportunity for the win.

On this day, the standing water on the track was insurmountable for the full, 68 lap distance. As a result, Elliott earned his first win of the year while Larson clinched his fourth overall second place result this season.

Understandably, Larson acknowledged the risks of motorsports particularly during rainy races like that at COTA.

“There’s honestly nothing safe about being a race car driver,” Larson offered. “Yeah, I mean, it was at moments worse than other restarts. NASCAR did a good job with the Air Titans. That definitely helped it. You could definitely see a little bit after that for the restarts.

“Honestly, just the restarts were bad for me. Once you get back around the next time, get better, get better each lap. There at the end, yeah, it was starting to rain pretty hard. You were having to deal with hydroplaning, trying to go 170-something miles an hour. It was getting pretty crazy.”

In like manner, scoring three consecutive runner up results on as many different tracks proves quite astonishing. When Larson was asked about the overall positioning of his team, the Californian opined his trademark honest perspective.

“We have a lot of strengths,” he said. “I don’t really know. There’s areas I’m sure that we need to be better. But nothing really stands out to me right now. I think track to track really. Like today, I mean, my restarts were horrible. That’s an area where if we were to be racing in the rain again, I would need to be way more aggressive.

“But, yeah, we’ve been doing a great job. I feel like Cliff has been making great calls. Our pit crew has been really strong all year long. I feel like I’ve been doing a good job behind the wheel. Knock on wood, I haven’t had any big mistakes here in the last couple months that I can think of where I did kind of early in the year, where I feel like I cost myself some good finishes. No, it’s been good. We just look to carry forward this momentum. And try and put together a good race each week.”

In the present time, Larson’s focus turns to next Sunday evening (May 30)’s 600-miler at Charlotte. Moreover, Larson remains optimistic about the No. 5 team’s potential for more wins and a strong championship run.

Given these points, Kyle Larson remains a consistent challenger on any track. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

Given these points, Kyle Larson remains a consistent challenger on any track. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

“We’ve been there every weekend, Larson observed. “We’ve been challenging. You got to be happy with that. Like I said, we want the wins, but if you can’t win, second’s better than third.”

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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