KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kyle Larson’s roiling weekend at Kansas Speedway ended on an upswing despite late contact with Ryan Blaney that cost him a chance at the win in Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ KC Masterpiece 400.
“It was definitely our best race of the year (on a 1.5-mile track.) We led a lot of laps and had fun,” Larson said after pushing his damaged No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to a fourth-place finish. “I felt like myself, the No. 4 (race winner Kevin Harvick) and the No. 12 (Blaney) were pretty equal. It was just whoever got to clean air and got to the top the quickest could kinda maintain the lead.”
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On the opposite end, Blaney’s night ended with a disappointing 37th place and a DNF after leading 54 laps. Blaney was racing Larson hard with 19 laps to go when his No. 12 Team Penske Ford got loose, leading to contact first with Larson and then the outside wall.
“I definitely take the blame on that one,” a dejected Blaney said after taking his car to the garage. “I was just trying to side-draft hard and the car was kind of light down the frontstretch there and it was just hard racing at the end.
“It was definitely my fault just trying too hard. I made contact and it cut my right-front down. I hate I got the 42, but it was just hard racing.”
Larson also took some of the blame for allowing Harvick to pull away, which put him in position to be battling Blaney to that degree.
“Blaney was really good at staying low on exit on the restarts and able to get to people’s insides,” Larson said. “So I was trying to protect low and I didn’t expect the No. 4 to get that big a run up there. I should have stuck up there with him sooner and not given up the lead.”
The contact — and an extra pit stop on the ensuing caution period to tighten lug nuts — hampered Larson’s hopes for a win. But he had already overcome starting at the back of the field when the team needed to change tires after the No. 42 spun during qualifying.
He powered back through the field, finishing Stage 1 in fifth and following his favored high line all the way to the front and a Stage 2 win.
“I felt good out there,” Larson said. “I felt like I could move around and run the wall really hard and then when I caught some cars I could move down and go fast, so I was happy about that and happy with the performance of the Chevy. Our car was just good and I could come off the wall and chase the clean race track.”
From the beginning of the weekend, Larson said he was pleased with his car’s speed – he posted the fastest 10-lap average in the weekend’s sole practice session – and believes his Chevrolet team is finding its groove again. Larson aims to rekindle that groove from last season, which had him atop the drivers’ standings after 11 races in 2017. That stellar start contrasts with this season’s 10th-place ranking and a best showing of second place (at Bristol and Auto Club) heading into next weekend’s Monster Energy All-Star Race then the Coca-Cola 600 on May 27.
“You never know with the All-Star package,” Larson said about revving up for a hot streak at another 1.5-mile track. “But we had a really good car tonight and hopefully can carry some momentum.”