Connect with us

NASCAR Cup Series

Kyle Larson Hopeful for 2nd Kansas Win

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson signs for the faithful before qualifying for the AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway. (Photo: Patrick Vallely | The Podium Finish)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kyle Larson is typically a frontrunner at most NASCAR Cup Series venues like Kansas Speedway.

Much like last weekend’s stop, Dover Motor Speedway, the 2021 Cup champion is confident and smooth at the 1.5-mile intermediate track. In 18 career starts, Larson has a win, seven top fives and 10 top 10 results.

Although Larson’s career average finish at Kansas is 12.9, the numbers greatly improve when considering his performances since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2021. Mainly, his average finish climbs to 6.0.

Most impressively, Larson has led 475 out of a possible 1,603 laps, or 29.63% in that six-race stretch. Simply put, Larson has that intuitive feeling when it comes to taking on a track like Kansas, a track that allows him to run at his natural racing line.

“Kansas is a track where I’ve run well since my first trip there,” Larson said in a team press release. “You can run the wall, which is the line I prefer. The tire fall off means you are searching all over the track for grip.”

Over the past four starts, Larson has been the one to beat at Kansas Speedway in terms of dominating at the 23-year-old track. Typically, Larson diamonds the corners at this venue before settling for the high line once the tires are worn out.

Notably, Larson’s car gravitates toward the loose side as a run progresses. In the past two AdventHealth 400 races, Larson has led inside the final 10 laps before the loose conditions cost him potential wins.

Ahead of Sunday’s race, Larson observes the similarities with Kansas and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Much like Las Vegas race weekend, Larson was fast in practice, posting the ninth fastest time and second quickest in a 10-lap consecutive run.

Qualifying fourth for Sunday’s 267-lap race, Larson points out a distinct difference between Kansas and Las Vegas despite the similarities.

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson has led 29% of the races at Kansas Speedway since 2021. (Photo: Patrick Vallely | The Podium Finish)

“I don’t get involved in the setup, but, yeah, I would say Vegas and here, the most similar places,” Larson observed. “Vegas is bumpier, so maybe that changes the setup up some. I think we’ve been close to winning here at Kansas pretty much every Next Gen race.

“And then we’ve been really strong at Vegas and able to win a a few of them. So, yeah, hopefully, we can get the job done.”

Last year, Larson was a lap from winning at Kansas before contact with Denny Hamlin on the backstretch sent him into the wall while the latter snatched the victory. In last fall’s Playoff race, Larson started second, led 99 laps and finished fourth.

While wins and success are preferable, Larson points out how he and his No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team can excel from defeats.

“I think you always learn from races that slipped away,” he said. “So, I think we’ve gotten our car balance a lot better from the first Kansas race, and then we just kinda lost control of the race in the fall, but we’re really fast, so, just need to execute 400 miles, and and I think we’ll have a good shot.”

Notably, Larson has a shot to win every Cup race this month. His busy May commences with the familiar confines of Kansas Speedway before next Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway, the NASCAR throwback weekend.

This year, Larson pays homage to Terry Labonte, the first driver to win the Cup championship in the No. 5 car in 1996. Recently, Larson unveiled the Labonte throwback on FOX Sports’ NASCAR RACEHUB program with an authentic reaction from the Corpus Christi, Texas, native.

“Yeah, it was cool,” Larson said. “I was kinda blown away that the secret hadn’t gotten out to him yet. So he was genuinely surprised, which was awesome. And, yeah, the car, I only got to see it the day before that.

“So, it just looks beautiful. I mean, it looks so much like the car of old. So, it’s just awesome to show our appreciation to Terry and what he was able to accomplish at Hendrick Motorsports and throughout his NASCAR career. So, yeah, hopefully, we can, do a good job for him next week.”

For now, Larson wants to get his second win at Kansas Speedway before his focus is on the throwback weekend, and ultimately, attempting the Hendrick 1100, double duty efforts at Indianapolis and Charlotte.

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson will probably watch the competition from his mirror at Kansas Speedway. (Photo: Patrick Vallely | The Podium Finish)

In a time when the Next Gen car has brought the competition closer together, Larson points out that drivers like himself still matter along with good teamwork.

“There’s always driver skill involved in everything, but I think still more than anything, your car’s gotta be really good,” Larson said. “Like, nobody [in the] previous generation or this generation is gonna take a mid pack car and go win.

“So, I’m just fortunate to race for Hendrick Motorsports, and they’ve continued to get our cars better and better, throughout the years. That’s why you see us consistently up front battling for wins, and William’s been able to take advantage of a lot of those and and win a lot of races. So, just, [we] keep working hard.”

Editor’s Notes

Harry Loomis contributed to this article on site from Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas.

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 Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in NASCAR Cup Series