By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Kyle Larson earned a top-10 finish in his NASCAR Cup Series return despite being collected in two incidents in the Daytona 500.
Shortly after green flag pit stops past the halfway mark at Daytona International Speedway, Larson ran inside the top-10 in his No. 5 Nations Guard Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. The Hendrick Motorsports driver was among several Chevrolet drivers getting swept up be the Ford and Toyota drivers who pitted after them.
Larson led on lap 110 before Christopher Bell and others swept by. As Bell passed, he cut a left rear tire and spun. The No. 20 DeWalt Toyota Camry collected both Ryan Preece and Larson. The No. 5 bounced off the before continuing on.
That wreck shortened the already small competitive field down to 15 cars with 80 laps to go. With few cars, the field circulated single file until the final laps. On the final lap Brad Keselowski attempted to pass Joey Logano for the lead.
However, the duo wrecked, setting of a horrific crash. As Keselowski’s No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang went up in flames, Larson broke loose. He barely clipped the wreckage of the No. 2 and then bounced off the wall himself. That dropped Larson from fifth down to 10th. As the race ended under caution, the Hendrick driver picked off where he left off 11 months ago.
“All-in-all a good day,” admitted Larson. “I thought we were in an OK spot there at the end to get a top-five, if not, maybe a win if things worked out down the backstretch and through three and four. They all kind of started crashing in front of me. I almost made it through; I think I barely clipped the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) car and then kind of slid all the way through three and four. Thought I might save it, couldn’t save it and started spinning. Lost some spots, but it was still a top-10.”
Larson was strong throughout the weekend at Daytona International Speedway. He finished seventh in his Bluegreen Vacations Duel before finishing inside the top-10 in both Stages. Between his finish in the Duel and a fourth and eighth place in the respective stages, Larson netted an additional 14-points.
“We finished top-10 in the Duel; got some points there. We were top-10 in both stages, so not a bad day for us. Would have liked to have been a little bit better, but anytime you can see the checkered flag at Daytona is always a good day. We’ll come back here next week and have some fun on the Road Course.”
The small competitive field late in the race was a result of a 16-car wreck on lap 13. Larson narrowly avoided the incident after running mid-pack in the early laps.
The top-10 finish came in Larson’s first race since Phoenix Raceway in March with Chip Ganassi Racing. After the COVID-19 shutdown, the NASCAR world turned to iRacing for several weeks. During that time, Larson was suspended by NASCAR after using a racial slur in a non-NASCAR sanctioned iRacing event.
The 10th-place finish is the 102nd top-10 in Larson’s NASCAR Cup Series career.
Next for Larson is his first trip in a NASCAR vehicle to the Daytona Road Course. He has three starts on the 3.56-mile configuration in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Larson was a part of the 2015 winning team in a Daytona Prototype.
Feature Photo Credit: Harold Hinson / Harold Hinson Photography