Kyle Larson nearly pulled the upset.
He did what no other could do Sunday at Darlington Raceway by chasing down and applying pressure to race leader Martin Truex Jr. However, Larson admitted he might have been too patient when dealing with Truex and trying to steal the win in the Goodyear 400.
Before the final round of green-flag pit stops, Larson was coached by crew chief Cliff Daniels to be patient. Daniels was confident that the No. 5 team would help Larson close on Truex through the pit cycle, which they did. Larson sat 1.7s back. Inside 30 laps to go, Larson was on Truex’s bumper.
“When we closed a bunch throughout the green-flag cycle, that final one, and I could see that I was really close and noticed that I was gaining on him, I definitely had to tell myself to just calm myself,” Larson said. “Even the whole last stage, I felt like I did a good job for where I was at and who I was battling with to take care of my stuff. But yeah, when the leader is in front of you, it is tough to remind yourself (to be patient).
“In a way, I maybe was too patient at one point. I got to his back bumper in (Turns) 1 and 2, and I could see he was struggling in front of me, and I thought, ‘well, if I’m just patient here and stay behind him and put some pressure on him, maybe he’ll use his stuff up or get into the wall in (Turns) 3 and 4’ because he was running so close to it. So, I was just hoping he would make a mistake. But looking back, if there was something I could have done differently, I would have taken advantage of that opportunity and tried to get to his inside and maybe clear him off of (Turn) 2 and then kind of block him in my dirty air the rest of the race.”
Larson hounded Truex for much of the final run but to no avail. As Larson reported he was too loose in the last few circuits, Truex, who had been dominant all day, again flexed his muscle and stretched back out to a healthy lead.
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Darlington continues to be one of Larson’s best tracks on the Cup Series schedule. Although he didn’t lead a lap Sunday, Larson has led 500 laps in the seven starts he’s made at Darlington and improved his average finish to 6.0. Additionally, he has now finished in the top three in four of his last five races at the track.
Running the 750-horsepower package, Larson said the day was “a lot of fun. I don’t remember honestly how the high downforce was because I didn’t get to run here last year, but it was fun to be here during the day, my first daytime Cup race here, so it was cool to do that. I had a lot of fun slipping and sliding.”