Kyle Larson ‘pissed’ after losing for a second week in a row

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - MARCH 12: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Cup Series United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 12, 2023 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Heading into Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Phoenix the weekend seemed to belong to Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson. With a new rules package in place, NASCAR allowed a rare Friday practice session, one that Larson led. Then on Saturday he grabbed the pole for Sunday’s race.

Early in that race, it was William Byron who held serve however, snatching the lead from second place and holding it through the first Stage.

With the advantage of the number 1 pit stall however, Larson was able to re-take the lead and from there it seemed to be his race. He would go on to lead a race high 201 laps.

In a flashback to a week prior though, when the checkered flag fell, it was Byron celebrating the win.

Late in the going, Larson’s biggest competition came from Kevin Harvick who was able to wrest the lead from Larson on lap 269 shortly after a round of green flag pit stops. But a caution on lap 303 erased a five second lead for Harvick and set up a final round of pit stops.

Again taking advantage of the first pit stall combined with a two tire stop, Larson was able to get out ahead of Byron and four other cars who also only took two. The first car on four tires was Harvick who lined up seventh.

Larson had the lead on the restart with three laps to but before the field got back to the line, a three car crash happened deep in the field setting up an overtime finish.

Larson led on the restart, but Byron was able to muscle past after taking the white flag. Larson meanwhile was caught up in a three wide battle for position with two cars who had taken four tires. When they crossed the line, Byron had won, and Larson was fourth behind Ryan Blaney and Tyler Reddick.

“We got lucky with the one caution,” Larson said. “Team made a great call to take two, get us out in the lead.

“Restarts are just tough. I felt like I ran William up pretty high. I was expecting him to lose some grip. But he did a really good job of holding it to my outside, clearing me down the back.

“Yeah, I’m pissed off. Great fight by the team, great car, way better than we were here last year. Yeah, I mean, it’s a long season, but hopefully we’re in the Final 4 when we come back here in November and can have a run similar to that with speed and try to execute a little bit better at the end.”

Larson thought he had cleared Byron on the final restart, only to see his teammate get passed him.

“I thought I drove in far enough to at least that if he chased me in I thought he would get too high and into the marbles,” Larson said. “I think that top lane just got a little bit better the last 50 laps or so. I didn’t run in far enough and ended up getting beat. It’s a bummer, but William again executed the last two races a little bit better than I did. Congrats to him and their team. We’ll try to keep these good runs up.”

Greg Engle