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Kyle Larson Eyes 4th All-Star Race Win

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson began his whirlwind weekend between Indianapolis to North Carolina ahead of Sunday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro. (Photo: Kathrine Miller | The Podium Finish)

NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — The pursuit of the Hendrick 1100 kicked off in earnest this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Kyle Larson. Before heading to the 0.625-mile North Wilkesboro Speedway for the NASCAR All-Star Race, he pursues the pole for next Sunday’s 108th Indianapolis 500.

Following the announcement of Larson’s Indianapolis-Charlotte double on Aug. 12, 2023, the Elk Grove, California, native hit the blacktop in anger on Tuesday, albeit with rain shortening his on track efforts.

Finally getting some track time on Wednesday through Friday, the 31-year-old racer impressed the racing world by logging a four-lap average of 232.563 mph, locking himself into the race and for Sunday’s qualifying sessions.

After nailing the impressive four-lap qualifying effort with his No. 17 Arrow McLaren Dallara Chevrolet entry, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion was ecstatic about the effort with his diligent team.

“Happy with the balance of the car and proud of the team,” Larson said. “Great to be in the show, and a huge thank you to Arrow McLaren, everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, especially Rick Hendrick. I know he’s watching probably back at home.

“Just an awesome opportunity and having a blast so far too. Staying in tune with things with things happening at North Wilkesboro as well. It’s been fun watching from a distance.”

Even with Larson not practicing his usual No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro entry, driven by Kevin Harvick on Friday and Saturday at North Wilkesboro Speedway, his focus has been on executing the ideal four-lap performance. Focused, prepared and gaining bravery, he made the most of his two qualifying attempts on a hot track.

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson looks for the pole at Indianapolis before flying to North Wilkesboro to defend his NASCAR All-Star Race win. (Photo: Wayne Riegle | The Podium Finish)

“Happy to get to get a good run in there,” he said. “Honestly, I feel like the nerves were a lot less going the second time, even when not completing the first run. I just felt less nervous. It was good to get a run in. I don’t ever get to qualify like that where you get multiple shots at it, at least where that one-lap matters.

“You can forfeit a run. Getting that run in earlier and not completing it was fine. I felt so much more comfortable there.”

Comfort is the name of the game for any driver wanting to be on the pole for those four, flawless laps at “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” While all eyes will be on the Team Penske efforts of Will Power, Scott McLaughlin and Josef Newgarden, Larson hopes to throw his name in the hat if he advances to the Firestone Fast Six.

Saturday afternoon was one of the latest achievements in the versatile driver’s career. A revolutionary driver in every sense, Larson is no stranger to racing in different kinds of cars and excelling in them with confidence and bravery.

Kyle Larson

With the love and support of family, Kyle Larson kicked off his H1100 efforts with a ticket to Sunday’s qualifying sessions before going to North Wilkesboro for the NASCAR All-Star Race. (Photo: Wayne Riegle | The Podium Finish)

On Saturday, Larson celebrated the moment with his family, including his parents, Mike and Janet, his wife, Katelyn, and his children, Owen, Audrey and Cooper. Even more so, it was another memorable moment for his career and for Hendrick Motorsports, partnering with Arrow McLaren, a special feat in the organization’s 40th anniversary season.

After qualifying wraps up on Sunday afternoon, Larson flies to North Carolina to defend his NASCAR All-Star Race win and another chance at the $1 million prize. The driver known as “Yung Money” might find himself in familiar territory as he will start toward the rear of the field as he did not qualify the No. 5 car at the historic short track.

Harvick has kept the seat warm for Larson leading up to the main event on Sunday night. With Harvick returning to his spot in the FOX NASCAR booth and Larson likely to make it in time for 200-lap exhibition race, the Californian recalled the obstacles leading up to last year’s win.

“For the Cup race last year at North Wilkesboro, I think it was extra special just to win there,” Larson said in a team press release. “With how our weekend was before the race made it even more special because we were not competitive, We didn’t practice well.

“We didn’t do well in the Pit Crew Challenge. In the heat race, we fell back and really were frustrated with how the weekend was going.”

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson’s No. 5 car was piloted by Kevin Harvick as seen in Friday’s practice session at North Wilkesboro. (Photo: Phil Cavali | The Podium Finish)

From Lap 19 onward of the NASCAR All-Star Race last year, Larson was untouchable. It might not be as smooth on Sunday night with the prime, standard tire compound coming into the fray with the option, softer tire meant for fast pace in a short run.

Even so, if anybody is capable of replicating feats with little to no time in the racecar designated for the weekend, Larson can get the job done. It will serve as good practice ahead of next weekend’s true test in the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Spedway and Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

For now, Larson can count on crew chief, Cliff Daniels, and the rest of his No. 5 pit crew to tweak his car so he can demoralize his competitors.

“The team was working hard, recognized that we were really bad and threw a bunch of changes to it for Sunday’s race,” Larson recalled. “I could feel pretty early on that we had a competitive car. And then yeah, cruised up through the field and dominated the race.

“To win was great; winning a million bucks was awesome. To win at a historic racetrack that I never envisioned myself racing at was pretty neat. To sweep that weekend was cool.”

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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