By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
Kyle Larson survived the fuel mileage blunder late Sunday at Pocono Raceway to finish second for Hendrick Motorsports.
“Nothing went right except for our finish. I’ll take that,” Larson said.
Indeed, following a heartbreaking loss in Saturday’s opening race of a doubleheader weekend — cutting a tire while leading on the last lap — Larson had another difficult day in Sunday’s follow-up race.
Starting from the rear in a back-up No. 5 car, Larson suffered nose damage after a stack-up put him into the back of Denny Hamlin entering Turn 1. From there, the day was a fight.
“It was a struggle. I had a lot of frustrating moments,” he said. “From decisions I made, circumstances of other cars sliding up in front of me. It was just hard for me to ever get track position.”
The damage, though not enough to end the day, put a hamper of Larson’s ability to lead in clean air and pass cars.
“I could get a tow OK on the straightaways if I was in a draft. But by myself, I was really slow,” he said. “My lap times showed it, I was probably 0.4 seconds off yesterday. It was definitely slower but my handling wasn’t there from the beginning so it’s hard to say how much the nose damage affected us. The balance of this car just wasn’t the same as yesterday.”
What caused the damage?
Take a look. 👇 pic.twitter.com/U4ceIHEBQB
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 27, 2021
The traction compound applied throughout the three turns of Pocono gave Larson some extra room to make passes. However, the compound was fairly worn following Sunday’s early Xfinity race followed by 140 laps of Cup racing.
“It definitely wore out a little bit,” he said. “I was happy to see it wear out today. Looking ahead, if I was them, I would put it not much higher, but maybe six-eight feet higher. Just to open up the groove and make it a little easier to pass in the corners.
Still, Larson came home second. That came to be after multiple drivers, including his HMS teammate William Byron, ran out of fuel from the lead. Larson had just enough stay kicking, earning his 11th top-five finish of 2021.
“I’m super proud of my guys for working hard and staying positive over the last 24 hours to get us a second place on Sunday,” he said. “I race so much that I move on from races instantly. I wasn’t thinking about [Saturday] and still am not. I’m just looking ahead.”