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Larson Determined to Win Third Cup Race at Auto Club

Kyle Larson gears up for his third Cup race victory at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo: Cornnell Chu | The Podium Finish)

Kyle Larson gears up for his third Cup race victory at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo: Cornnell Chu | The Podium Finish)

FONTANA, Calif. – Following a Daytona debacle, Kyle Larson heads into Sunday’s Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) much like past years – in search of his first victory of the new season.

Unlike last year’s season opener, Larson was in the mix for his first Daytona 500 victory. On the final lap while attempting to stay toward the front of the pack, the 30-year-old Elk Grove, California was turned into the Turn 2 wall, ending a promising effort with an 18th place result.

Like last year, Larson has an official starting position toward the midfield, rolling off from the 15th spot due to inclement weather canceling Saturday’s on-track activities.

Much like the 2022 race weekend, Larson hopes to win again at the 2-mile superspeedway.

However, this weekend’s race may have some sentimentality considering the track’s uncertain future.

Larson waged in an intense battle for the win in last year's 400-miler at Fontana. (Photo: Cornnell Chu | The Podium Finish)

Larson waged in an intense battle for the win in last year’s 400-miler at Fontana. (Photo: Cornnell Chu | The Podium Finish)

“Yeah, it’d be sweet. Anytime you can win, it’s awesome,” Larson said in Saturday’s availability. “But to go back to back would be pretty neat. It’s my home state and, and I guess, you could for now, depending on on what really happens, you can call yourself the final winner of this configuration.”

Nicknamed “Two Mile Kyle,” the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion has a knack with winning at these unique, sweeping superspeedways. Namely, five of his 19 Cup career victories have come on venues of similar layouts.

Despite the murky picture for the 26-year-old speedway, Larson’s mission does not change given his approach and mentality as a driver.

“I don’t know if people will remember it 10, 20 years from now, but at least you will. It doesn’t really… that has no bearing on me wanting to win any more or less. I want to win every race,” he said. “So, I just look forward to hopefully getting out there tomorrow and having a lot of fun trying to win my third Cup race here.”

Larson offered some insights on his comfort level with tracks like Auto Club, a venue similar to Michigan International Speedway. Namely, it blends elements of superspeedway and intermediate track racing in one race day.

“We seem to be really good on that style racetrack,” he said in a team press release. “It’s a place that I really love with the line changes and the (way the) tires wear out. I remember last year you could draft pretty well down the straightaways.

“It was a fun race. Hopefully, we can be fast again and win in my home state again.”

A tough Daytona 500 result can be dusted off with a California calling for Larson and his No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro team.

The 2021 Cup champion considers the big picture in relation to Race No. 2 of the 2023 season. (Photo: Cornnell Chu | The Podium Finish)

The 2021 Cup champion considers the big picture in relation to Race No. 2 of the 2023 season. (Photo: Cornnell Chu | The Podium Finish)

More importantly, the big picture is on his mind. Namely, there is nothing like valuable experience that can be gained from Sunday’s 200-lap event and applied for future races.

“I think there’s always something to be learned at every race. I’m sure there’s things that we’ll learn that maybe could correlate to even the following week of Vegas,” Larson said. “It’s a new season. You don’t know where yet you’re gonna stack up to the field.

“So yes, there’s always something to be learned and put forward to your race cars and so I think every opportunity is good.”

Editor’s Notes

Luis Torres contributed to this feature directly on-site from Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

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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