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Kyle Larson Eyes EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix Win at COTA

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson looks forward to Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at COTA. (Photo: Josh James | The Podium Finish)

DEL VALLE, Texas — Kyle Larson rolls off midfield from the 15th position for Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at COTA with confidence and determination.

While the past two visits to the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course have been eventful, he enters the 68-lap race with a positive mindset. Prior to the weekend, the Elk Grove, California, native expressed his thoughts on doing the double duty effort in Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 17 XFINITY Series and No. 5 Cup Series efforts.

“I’m definitely excited,” Larson said. “It’s just a good opportunity for me to get more comfortable here. I don’t feel like I’m quite that comfortable here at COTA. So I want the laps and the extra seat time to hopefully benefit the race on Sunday, most importantly. But also hopefully have a shot to win in the 17 car.”

Before Larson pulled off a last lap, Overtime victory in Saturday’s Focused Health 250 at COTA, he was intent on returning a sentimental number to Victory Lane for Rick and Linda Hendrick. After all, their late son, Ricky, drove a No. 17 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet entry in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series to a victory at Kansas Speedway in 2001.

Kyle Larson

After some close calls since 2022, Kyle Larson netted the Focused Health 250 victory at COTA. (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

Up until Saturday’s race, Larson recognized the close calls that he and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates have dealt with in that ride since 2022.

“We’re always really fast, no matter if it’s myself, William [Byron], Alex [Bowman] or Chase [Elliott] in that car,” he said. “Just for whatever reason, haven’t haven’t gotten it done, you know? So, it’d be nice this weekend to beat a lot of good guys and hopefully get get that 17 car back in Victory Lane.”

Although Larson won the pole for the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at COTA, he started toward the rear due to a cracked brake rotor. Working his way up to 11th in Stage 1 and fourth in Stage 2, the 2021 Cup champion flat spotted his tire in the waning laps while running inside the top five.

With late cautions leading to two Overtime restarts, Larson, who opted to change tires, worked his way outside the top 20 to third before taking the lead on the last lap. The seas parted once Shane van Gisbergen ran into Austin Hill, the leader, following the stadium section of the course.

Larson drove past the Chevrolet combatants with ease, winning in the No. 17 car. While there may not be a lot of similarities between Larson’s Cup and XFINITY cars, he had some takeaways from a comfort standpoint.

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson considered any takeaways from Saturday’s XFINITY Series win in relation to Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at COTA. (Photo: John Arndt | The Podium Finish)

“Honestly, I don’t think there’s a ton that I might’ve learned,” Larson observed. “The Cup car felt way more gripped up than the XFINITY car does here. The pace is way faster. Brake markers and stuff are similar. The [Turn] 8, 9 exchange, the car feels different in all the areas where you cut the corners.

“The XFINITY car seems higher up the ground and doesn’t bottom out in 19 or 7, 9 quite as much as the Cup car does. The Cup car responds way different. So I’m not sure there’s much that I can learn from [Saturday]. I learned where some bumps and stuff are for restarts, things like that. There’s always something that you learn. The Cup cars and XFINITY cars don’t translate like they used to.”

As for Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at COTA, Larson’s best result is a runner-up in 2021. However, he placed 29th in 2022 and 14th last year.

Despite an average finishing position of 15th, Larson was among the fastest cars in a five lap consecutive average and placed ninth in Saturday’s practice session.

Given how competitive Cup racing can be, Larson expressed confidence in terms of expectations with himself and his team especially after an early season win at Las Vegas. After all, it is the bare minimum for a 14-time Cup championship winning organization.

“I don’t really think about that part of it because we plan on making the Playoffs every year,” Larson shared. “We expect that we should be. But it’s good. Honestly, for me, it was nice to get a win early in the year for this being such a historic season for Rick and Linda with the 40th anniversary.

“So, it was nice to just win early in the year and know that I was contributing to the historic season. Hopefully, there’s gonna be plenty more history be made the rest of the year. But glad to have our win on the board for them, and hopefully we can get many more.”

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson looks to parlay long run speed to contend in Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at COTA. (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

Considering the journey that Larson has experienced as a person and driver, naturally, with the team’s ruby anniversary, he reflected on how things may have played out if he had the acumen and mindset from today when he was a 21-year-old Cup rookie in 2014.

“Gosh, I don’t know. I don’t even remember what I was really thinking about 10 years ago,” he said. “The sport was was much different back then [with] weekend schedules and the race team. I was with all of that.

“So, I don’t know. I wish I could go back then with the experience that I have now, and I think I would win a lot more than I did. But, I’m also very, very thankful for how the 10 years ago and all that played out till this point. I had a great time with [Chip] Ganassi and definitely help prepare me for my time here at Hendrick.”

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson 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 is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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