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Kyle Larson Salvages Top Five Finish in Ally 400

Kyle Larson worked diligently to earn a fifth place result in the Ally 400. (Photo: Trish McCormack | The Podium Finish)

LEBANON, Tenn. – A fifth-place result may not seem like the most glamorous outcome for Kyle Larson and his No. 5 team. However, considering the obstacles Larson dealt with in his No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, a top-five finish in Sunday evening’s Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway felt like a moral victory.

For the first time in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, Larson tallied three consecutive top-10 finishes. On this occasion, it was a result of sheer determination and ingenuity.

Qualifying ninth for the 300-lap race, Larson struggled in the opening laps, dropping to the top 15 due to a tight handling car. As the laps clicked by in Stage 1, Larson’s pace improved, closing the gap on the top-10 runners and finishing eighth.

Stage 2 was a bit of a struggle as the Elk Grove, California native wanted his car to be tightened up. With dusk transitioning to night, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion and 2021 Ally 400 winner slipped to an 11th-place finish.

Throughout the race, Larson’s pit crew delivered consistently quick stops and incremental adjustments to find the right balance. For the majority of Stage 3, it seemed like a top-10 finish would be the best outcome in a frustrating race.

Larson netted a third consecutive top 10 result for the first time since the final three races of the 2022 season. (Photo: Eric Parks | The Podium Finish)

However, the last leg of the race was incident-free, which benefited Larson given the team’s preference for a long, green-flag run setup. After the final pit stop, Larson gained positions in the final 25 laps as if he was running on rails.

In the closing laps, Larson climbed from the bottom half of the top 10 to finish in fifth place, earning 35 points and jumping from 10th to ninth in the championship standings.

Despite the perplexing race, the 21-time race winner was complimentary of his team’s effort.

“We were pretty bad all race long, and I don’t know how we ended up fifth there,” Larson said. “Our team just did a good job with the pit cycles to leapfrog a few guys, and then we were actually somewhat decent on that last run and passed a couple of cars.

“So, I am surprised we ended up fifth. Happy with the effort and happy with another week of keeping our heads in it and getting a good finish out of the day.”

While Larson’s over-the-wall crew stepped up when it counted, he hopes to find more pace similar to his strong start to the season, evident in his victories at Richmond and Martinsville.

It is never a bad day in the office if a driver like Larson nets 35 points and ranks solidly in the top 10 points standings. (Photo: Trish McCormack | The Podium Finish)

“Proud of the team,” he said. “We just have to get the race cars a little bit faster now, or I need to look at the data on what I need to do because we just haven’t been as strong as we were in the first couple of months. But now, I think we are executing way better than we did, you know, ever so far through the season.”

All things considered, Larson knows his team is as motivated as ever to win a second championship in three years. For now, it is about thriving, capturing maximum points, and not giving away races with nine more rounds until the 2023 Playoffs.

“I am very happy with that,” Larson said. “(I) just wish we could have some of those early races back at this point. All in all, happy with a top-five finish, just frustrated that we didn’t have the speed to really go battle.”

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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