Kyle Larson fifth at Pocono, ties for second-best Sprint Cup finish of season

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Well, color Kyle Larson Target-red, as in blushing and surprised.

The leading candidate for NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year somehow turned a marginal car into a near-winner in Sunday’s Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway.

Instead of where he thought he would wind up at in the 160-lap event, Larson drove both his butt and the tires off his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, coming home with a fifth-place finish, tying his second best showing thus far this season.

“Yeah, I’ll take it,” Larson said. “It was a lot better finish than I thought we’d have today.

“After Happy Hour (on Saturday), I thought we’d have a 15th-place car. But I knew from the drop of the green, we had a really good Chevy and throughout the race it got better and better.”

Larson’s finish equaled his fifth-place showing at Texas. His best performance to date in 2014 was runner-up at Fontana in March.

In addition, he remains 10th in the Sprint Cup standings after Sunday’s race.

Overall, it was an excellent weekend performance for Larson, who made his first-ever visit to the 2.5-mile tri-oval.

On Saturday, he won the ARCA 200 race there, and while he wound up short of a weekend sweep on Sunday, Larson put his overall performance in fitting terms:

“Getting a top-five here at the Tricky Triangle and a win yesterday in the ARCA Series — I guess you can’t ask for a much better weekend.”

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Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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