Kyle Larson fought back to “an OK” 10th-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after looking like one of the strongest cars early on.
Larson won the first stage and led 95 of 267 laps. However, a strategy call from the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team led by crew chief Cliff Daniels to pit before the end of the second stage put Larson back in the pack. The loss of track position resulted in an uphill battle the rest of the night after taking the wave around at the stage break.
“I wasn’t on fresh tires and stuck in traffic,” Larson said. “Everyone is fighting so hard back there to run their race that I just got kind of stuck. Not beat around, but just stuck and having to race. It’s just hard.”
Larson didn’t make up immediate ground when back on the lead lap. Much of the final stage saw him fighting in traffic while running outside the top 10. He also reported at one point the tires were junked.
“We just did a poor job executing there in the second stage,” Larson said.
Larson finally began making progress after the final round of green-flag pit stops. Making his last trip to pit road with 55 laps to go, Larson cycled out 16th and made his way into the top 10 with just under 20 laps to go.
“[Ryan] Blaney got through there better,” he said. “I got stuck around the 42 [Ross Chastain], so he was able to get clear and get away and have a good finish. Just being on older tires and having to battle through all of them was difficult. You forgot how hard everybody races back there; it’s pretty wild.
“There were moments where I thought I was going to end up crashed or get frustrated and run myself into the wall. But we were able to mentally fight through it and come away with a top 10.”
Larson holds a 57-point gap on the playoff cutline going into Talladega Superspeedway.
“Yeah, it’s good that I didn’t let my emotions get the best of me and make my day even worse,” he said. “It’s good to go to Talladega and be that far up. I would have like dot have been up more. I feel like we gave up at least 15 points today with the second stage. That’s a bummer, but we’ll fight through it and hopefully avoid issues at Talladega.”