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Kyle Larson Eyes Iowa Win, Scores 4th Pole of 2024

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson captured the pole for Sunday night’s Iowa Corn 350 at Iowa Speedway on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Photo: Patrick Vallely | Overbey Photography)

NEWTON, Iowa — Kyle Larson continues to showcase his short track prowess after winning the Busch Light Pole Award for Sunday night’s Iowa Corn 350 at Iowa Speedway (7 p.m. ET on USA, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90).

Coming into the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race weekend at the 0.875-mile venue located 30 miles east of Des Moines, Larson won the pole at Richmond, Martinsville and Texas. More importantly, he won last Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, retaking the points lead from Denny Hamlin.

Despite some handling concerns, namely into Turn 3, during Friday’s practice, Larson was the fourth fastest in a 10-lap consecutive average.

After logging 50 laps on Friday afternoon, Larson observed how his car’s handling and characteristics differed from the test session in late May.

“I felt a lot different than the test a couple of weeks ago,” Larson said. “I’m sure the track has probably just changed that much since then. So yeah, I was just very, very loose in, which I wasn’t that loose in at the test. The first half of practice, I was super loose in. But I felt like we got that a little bit better.

“We started running some more comfortable laps. It trended towards getting a little more similar to the way the test ended. I think we just have to study and see. I’m sure the track is just changing so much right now.”

Even if drivers and teams had experience at the 7/8 mile track in the past, with the track partially repaved, it is almost an entirely new venue, as Larson observed after Friday’s practice session.

“I think honestly, the unknown of everything I think makes things exciting, competitive and all that,” he said. “Yeah, it’s going to be fun. I think teams are probably going to have to study a lot and not sleep a lot.”

With qualifying reduced to a single round due to a 45-minute delay to dry the track, Larson was the last to qualify by virtue of his placement in Group B. Typically, this is the second segment of drivers to qualify each weekend prior to the final, decisive round lining up the top 10 starters.

In this case, Larson, like many Group B qualifiers, benefitted with going out after the Group A drivers. After posting the third fastest time of the Group B drivers on his first lap, Larson bested Ryan Blaney by 0.025 seconds for the pole.

Building off Friday’s practice session, Larson was more comfortable with his car, attacking each portion of the track with confidence.

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson takes to the 0.875-mile Iowa Speedway ahead of Sunday night’s Iowa Corn 350 at Iowa Speedway. (Photo: Patrick Vallely | Overbey Photography)

“It helped to go out last, probably,” he said. “I’m sure the track was continuing to get a little bit better. We got to watch SMT of everybody’s runs, so that helps. But it also makes you a little bit more nervous when you see everybody out there struggling.

“Thankfully, my lap was mostly comfortable, a little bit loose like everybody was. But we were able to piece together two pretty consistent laps and be fast enough on that second lap to get it done.”

As with the case for tracks with any kind of repaving, the fresh blacktop resulted in drivers fighting a loose condition. Over the course of a run, Larson may have not gained speed, but he found something just as valuable — grip.

“So how I felt in practice, to start practice – it was really slick and I felt very loose, which is kind of how I felt when we started the test,” Larson recalled. “The track was brand new; it hadn’t seen a car go around it yet and it was like oily feeling and slick. So I kind of felt that way when practice started.

“And then by the very end of practice, I thought it gained some grip and got closer to what the test was – which the test, we didn’t get to do like a 50-lap run yesterday, so I felt like the track was fairly similar by the end of it. But no – as far as lap times, we weren’t going any faster than we were at the last hour of that test.”

Given all the buzz with Iowa and sports, with the likes of Caitlin Clark, Kate Martin and the University of Iowa women’s basketball program garnering the headlines over the past four years, an inaugural Cup race weekend at the venerable speedway is icing on the cake.

Now, one of the series’ leading drivers, Larson, starting from the pole for the 350-lap race, and his peers have the opportunity to showcase premier stock car action in front of The Hawkeye State’s passionate fanbase.

“I think Midwestern fans – not only from Iowa, but all the other states around this region, are really into racing, whether it be sprint cars, midgets, dirt late models, stock cars,” Larson said. “And I think they’ve been starving for a race, a Cup race especially, here.

“Yeah, I think all of us, even drivers included, wanted a race here. I think across the board, we were all really happy to get a Cup race here. We probably all wish it would have come earlier so we could have raced on the older pavement, but regardless, I think it’s great for this fan base.”

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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