The bad news: No weekend sweep for Kyle Larson, the good news: He’s locked into NASCAR’s playoff

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 18: Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford, leads Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 DC Solar Chevrolet, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 18, 2018 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Kyle Larson must have been one motivated racer.  Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway he won the pole for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race then went out and took the Xfinity series field to school leading 202 laps in route to the win.

He seemed almost untouchable.

Saturday night Larson led a total of 17 laps. A far cry from Friday night’s trouncing. In fact, by lap 75 Larson was starting to fade.

The crew worked on the car all race long, and Larson used his skills on restarts to make up ground.

On the next to last restart of the night on lap 477, after pitting for four fresh tires, Larson was able to charge through the field.  And on the final restart was hovering just behind Kurt Busch and looking for the lead.  Larson would get loose with 8 to go and Busch was able to open up the gap and would go on to win by 0.367 seconds.

Larson had to settle for second.

I mean, I’m happy to finish second,” Larson said.  “That’s probably 12 to 15 spots I feel like better than where I deserved to finish.  Our car was just really bad.  I got lucky all night lining up in the right lanes.  I could gain three or four spots every restart.  Just fight to hang on there.  Then I’d be terrible at the end of the runs.

“There were two runs there where the leaders I think were a half straightaway back from lapping me.  Thought my car was going to be really good after practice yesterday.  Probably should have spent a little more time around the bottom to work on our balance there, to make it better.

“Probably the most frustrating Bristol race I’ve had just ’cause I never really felt like I had a shot to win.”

His second-place finish did come with a silver lining: Larson is locked into NASCAR’s 2018 playoff.

“Frustrating, but we were able to fight; so that’s good for our team to be able to do that. Our pit stops, aside from the first one, were really good. So, I’m happy about that that. So, we’ll just continue to fight to get our cars a lot better.”