Kyle Larson didn’t want another torn-up race car courtesy of Pocono Raceway on his resume.
In June, Larson won both stages at Pocono but bounced off the wall late and finished 26th. Saturday morning, he junked his primary car in practice when he got loose and spun off the Tunnel Turn, slamming the outside and inside wall.
So Sunday afternoon, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver just wanted to make it to the finish of the Gander RV 400 unscathed.
“I was a little less aggressive than normal on some of those restarts, early in the race at least,” Larson said after finishing fifth. “I just didn’t want to do anything dumb. And then off of (Turn) 1 that last restart, I played it safe as well. There were moments I was aggressive, but rather than tear up another car and cost myself points, had to be smart.”
Don’t think Larson gave anything away with that strategy, though.
“My less aggressive than normal is probably still more aggressive than a lot of folks,” smiled Larson.
For the overtime restart, Larson had a shot at grabbing his first win of the season. He was lined up fourth on the outside and had a run going into Turn 1 that put him on the leader’s back bumper. But just as suddenly, Larson was losing spots and out of contention.
“I didn’t hit the wall, but I got close, so I bailed out of the throttle to keep from hitting it, and lost momentum,” he said. “So I fell back. But better than ending up torn up like last time I was here from being aggressive on a restart.
“A good day,” Larson continued. “A lot better car than I thought I was going to have, so it just shows how good our team is right now, and how good our cars are.
“Last week I felt like we had one of the fastest cars (and) didn’t really get to show it. Today again, I feel like we were one of the fastest cars, so if I could just race a primary car, who knows what we could do. Just got to clean up a little bit of what I’m doing in practice and the races, and hopefully, we can get a win.”
Started in the back with a backup car, Larson made quick work of the competition to find himself among the contenders. He finished sixth in Stage 1 and was 10th in Stage 2. And even though Larson is one of the drivers points hunting for the playoffs, potentially running out of fuel wasn’t what had him nervous as the laps wound down.
“I don’t know if we could have made it or not, but I would have rather tried to stretch it than have some late-race restarts and risk a crash of anything,” he said. “The restarts were more nerve-racking to me than trying to save fuel. I was behind [Brad] Keselowski there, and he’s, to me, the best at saving fuel in this sport; and I was matching my lap times to his and clutching it in (Turns) 1 and 3, so I felt like I was saving as much as I could — and hopefully enough to make it. I don’t know if we would have or not, but restarts would have been scary.”