Kyle Larson’s balky No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet qualified 34th on Saturday. After unapproved adjustments to the car, Larson started last in Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
After that, things got worse. On lap 104 of 193, Larson blew a left rear tire and spun on the backstretch, losing a lap in the process.
Timely cautions and attrition, however, came to his rescue. Larson got his lap back as the beneficiary under caution for the end of Stage 2, and after spending most of the afternoon running mid-pack, he dodged late accidents to finish 11th—a miraculous result given the lack of strength in his car.
“We just had a terrible race car and were really slow all weekend,” Larson said after the race. “We were able to salvage a decent finish, but the Fords are so fast here and can rack up a lot of stage points.
“Even when they have a bad day, they still gain points on us. It is what it is. We’ll just go to Kansas and try and win.”
With the Round of 12 cutoff race at Kansas set for next Sunday, Larson faces elimination from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. He’s 11th in the standings, 26 points behind reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr., who is currently in eighth place.
Larson finished fourth at Kansas in May.
“Yeah, Kansas is a good track for us,” Larson. “We’ve challenged for wins there in the past, and hopefully we can go there next week and be strong.”
“Strong” might not be good enough. Given his position in the standings, Larson may have to win to advance.