Kyle Larson’s first Sprint Cup experience at Daytona International Speedway didn’t end well.
With 39 laps to go in February’s season-opening Daytona 500, Larson was taken out in a multi-car pileup that began when fellow rookie Austin Dillon slid up the track and into Larson, who promptly spun out and into oncoming traffic.
This weekend, he’ll be returning to Daytona hoping for a better result in the Coke Zero 400 – preferably, a win that would seal his place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Right now, Larson is within the Chase Grid but not by much. He’s tied for 14th on the Chase Grid with Greg Biffle at 474 points and Clint Bowyer is just one point behind in the 16th-place cutoff.
A victory Saturday night at the 2.5-mile oval throws all that points talk out the window. But in order to contend, Larson knows he has to avoid the mayhem that so often comes with restrictor-plate racing.
“We’re really confident, but at the same time it’s a track where things can go really badly,” said Larson in today’s NASCAR teleconference.
“Just kind of setting goals as every other week, try to finish the race and get a Top-10, and see if we can put ourselves in position to get a win at the end – that would be great.
“The biggest goal is to try and stay out of the Big One, because it’s going to happen. I’m sure there will be one or two of them throughout the race. [We need to] try to stay out of trouble.”
Larson will also be looking to bounce back from a couple of poor results in the last two races.
He was one of the quickest drivers during the Sonoma weekend two weeks ago, but brake and power steering problems during the race relegated him to a 28th-place finish.
Then last weekend at Kentucky, a right-front tire failure sent Larson into the wall at Lap 76 for his first DNF since the aforementioned Daytona 500.
But with the Chip Ganassi Racing team’s relatively solid pace throughout the season, Larson isn’t fretting.
“I think my crew chief [Chris Heroy] said it best – he’d be worried in the last couple years, but now our car has been fast, so he’s not worried at all,” he said.
“That’s good, and gave me some more confidence because I think any other two weekends or having two bad races would be less nerve-racking, but then you go to Daytona where the chances of another bad weekend are high, so it’s easy to get nervous about that.
“We haven’t had many struggles all year, and now we’ve had a couple bad ones. Just got to get back on track.”
Meanwhile, Larson has added another race this summer to his itinerary beyond the Sprint Cup Series. He confirmed today that he would drive a Turner Scott Motorsports entry in the Camping World Truck Series’ July 23 race on the dirt at Eldora Speedway.
“I don’t know if I was supposed to say anything or not about the [Eldora] race,” said Larson, who finished second last year at Eldora to Austin Dillon.
“But yeah, we’re running that race. I’m really excited about that. We’re going to go test here pretty soon and get ready for that one because that’s definitely a race I want to win. We were close last year, so it’s nice to get to go back and give it another shot.”