Another race, another runner-up for Larson
March 15, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Second. Again.
For Kyle Larson, this bridesmaid stuff is getting old. That’s five times now. But who’s counting?
A year after battling Kyle Busch to the finish line, narrowly missing his first career victory in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Larson once again came out on the short end, running second to, you guessed it, Busch at Bristol Motor Speedway.
He shouldn’t feel bad. Busch hogged the top spot in the Drive to Stop Diabetes 300, leading 120 laps on the high-banked half-mile. Only Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth led more often (178 laps), but track position eventually spoiled the efforts of the 2003 Sprint Cup Series champion.
It also played a role in Larson’s charge, the No. 42 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet driver unable to work his way forward when re-starting the race on the inside lane.
"Really, depending on what line you’re in, I could start third and I’d be fifth off of (Turn) 2," the 21-year-old Larson said. "Then you’d get to fourth (on the outside) and you’d be running second off (Turn) 2.
"That’s what happened to me on that last restart."
Larson was on the outside, in fourth, when the field lined up for a final nine-lap green-flag run following a caution for a single-car incident involving Jeremy Clements. Busch, Kevin Harvick and Kenseth were first through third.
In two laps, Larson had made his way to second and set his sights on Busch. But a misstep allowed Busch to drive away.
"I thought I could chase down Kyle," Larson said. "I was trying really hard, got up over the cushion, I guess, and got some rubber on my tires. I lost some ground doing it."
It also opened the door for a fast-closing Harvick, who was "pretty strong too, the last few runs," according to Larson.
"Right when I got up too high in (Turns) 1-2 and Kevin got to my inside, I knew that was it for the race," he said, "unless we got another caution. Which would have probably screwed me because I would have started on the bottom. That’s probably the point that I knew, (the point) that I decided I should hold on to second."
Larson is competing fulltime in Sprint Cup (for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates) and running the bulk of the Nationwide Series races for Turner Scott Motorsports. Saturday’s runner-up finish was the fifth time he finished second in an NNS race. Win No. 1 hasn’t arrived.
The 2013 Bristol finish, in which he made contact with the wall and Busch as the two sped out of the fourth turn and underneath the checkered flag, wasn’t forgotten as this year’s final laps played out.
"Yeah, I was thinking about it," he said. "I was not going to be as nice as I was last year."
Unfortunately for Larson, he didn’t get the chance.