Kyle Larson has a paperclip-sized problem named Martinsville Speedway.
Although the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet will compete at Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway to finish out the Round of 12, there is also focus on the first race in the next round of the playoffs. Martinsville kicks off the Round of 8, the most critical round for a driver wanting to run for a title in Miami. Larson already knows he has a guaranteed spot in the next round after winning last weekend at Dover.
But Martinsville has been a big struggle for Larson and company since he moved into the NASCAR Cup Series in 2013. In 11 starts, Larson has one top-10 finish — a third in the spring 2016 race — and four DNFs. He finished 18th at Martinsville earlier this season. And while the team remains confident about their chances in the following races at Texas and ISM, Larson and crew chief Chad Johnston have to find success at Martinsville first.
“Honestly, I’ve tried the simulator before and for me, it just messes me up more than anything for that place just because the brakes don’t feel as similar as they do to my real car,” said Larson when asked how the team can prepare and get better at Martinsville. “So, I don’t know what else to do to get better.”
Larson admitted he looks at more data leading up to a Martinsville race than any other track the series visits. His overall average finish is 23.6, and he’s led 29 laps (between two races) at the track.
“At that track, I try really hard to be better, and I haven’t gotten any better,” said Larson. “So I don’t know. I’m sure each time we go there with a different setup. Hopefully, this time we’ll hit on something.”
On the flip side of the equation, Larson routinely outqualifies where he finishes at Martinsville. Larson has one pole at the track (2017) and six times he’s started inside the top 10, including in the last five straight races.