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Kyle Larson's Daytona debut doesn't go as planned

 

February 23, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com

Driver had tire issues early, was knocked out of race in late wreck

RELATED: Full race results | Series standings

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- This wasn't how rookie Kyle Larson had hoped to spend his first laps in the Daytona 500. Then, after hitting the wall in the opening laps and then running off track 20 laps later following another tire problem, he was knocked out of the race for good after a 10-car wreck late in Sunday's opener.

Heavy rains forced NASCAR to park the cars on pit road with a red flag on Lap 38. The No. 42 team thought the break may actually benefit the group, allowing them to regroup and brainstorm any further repairs for his Chevrolet.

The FOX television analysts suggested the two problems were related and speculated that a suspension piece was cutting the tires.

The 21-year-old Californian qualified 16th for his first Daytona 500 and was even considered a dark horse to win by many despite his inexperience in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and on the famous Daytona high banks.

But his Chevrolet tagged the outside wall early, forcing him to pit for tires and putting him a lap down. He pitted again on Lap 22 to replace another tire after a flat tire bounced his car into the infield grass briefly.

"Made a slight mistake on Lap 1, so we have some work to do to get back on the lead lap," Larson said during the red-flag rain delay. "But, I'm confident in the team and I know they have a plan to get the car fixed when we get back out there."

Larson got one of his two lost laps back and his No. 42 was 42nd in the race when the red flag came out.

He had worked his back through the field following a red-flag period of six hours, 20 minutes and 41 seconds. Past the three-quarters mark in the race, though, Larson and fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Austin Dillon swapped paint, with Larson taking the brunt and having to take his car to the garage.

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