With a car that wasn’t handling particularly well at a track that isn’t one of his best, Kyle Larson nevertheless engineered a ninth-place finish in Sunday’s First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway and left the track in seventh place in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings.
Yes, Larson is still 24 points behind fourth-place Joey Logano with two races left in the Round of 8, but with an astute pit call by crew chief Chad Johnston, he accumulated 37 points for the event and now heads to Texas, where his prospects should be considerably brighter.
Larson failed to score in Stage 1 of Sunday’s race, but when Clint Bowyer’s flat tire caused the fourth caution of the afternoon with nine laps left in Stage 2, Johnston kept Larson on the track while all other lead-lap cars came to pit road.
The result was a second-place finish in the stage—with only race winner Martin Truex Jr. passing Larson before the green / checkered flag—worth nine important points.
“This is my second-best finish at Martinsville, so I’m really happy with that,” said Larson, who ran third in the 2016 spring race at the .526-mile short track. “We were able to steal some stage points as well, so we probably overachieved for how we usually run at Martinsville.
“I haven’t seen the points spread yet, but I would say we maintained from where we came in, so I’m happy about that.”