Kyle Larson has a solid run going Sunday at Road America. Arguably the hottest driver in the NASCAR winning three of the last five races heading into the weekend, Larson was among the favorites.
Larson qualified second early Sunday and was running inside the top five as the laps wound down, but with 6 laps to go Larson was spun by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman entering turn 5.
Bowman, who was racing Denny Hamlin just behind Larson told his team on the radio that his Chevy had lost brakes. Bowman tried to continue but had a tire rub after getting hit by Hamlin and was forced to pit with 4 laps to go. Bowman finished 22nd and made amends with Larson on pit road after the race apologizing. The two teammates could be seen talking on pit road and there seemed to be no hard feelings.
With a damaged Chevy, Larson was able to hang on to finish 16th. After the race Larson wasn’t focused on the dust up with his teammate, rather his focus was on the points.
After chipping away at the gap of points leader Denny Hamlin in the last few weeks, Larson had a real chance to outscore Hamlin Sunday. And while there might not be any animosity between him and his teammate, Larson’s focus after the race was that points loss.
“We hate to give up points, but there’s still a lot of racing left before the Playoffs start, “Larson said. “We’ll just keep trying to do a good job in the Stages.”
It’s those Stages where Larson has shined. So far this season Larson has 12 stage wins and has earned a whopping 32 Playoff points. Sunday, he finished third in Stage 1 and fourth in Stage 2. Hamlin was sixth in Stage 1, and outside the top 10 in Stage 2. He leaves Road America just three points behind Hamlin and should Larson also win the regular season which ends after 6 more races, there will be a five-point bonus that Larson can carry into the Playoffs.
“It would be nice to get back and win some Stages, win some more races and pad our bonus points,” he said. “Obviously, it would be good to beat Denny (Hamlin) and get those five extra. Really shooting for it. You can tell he’s really shooting for it too. He was really aggressive today. Those five bonus points are important.”
Larson didn’t feel that he had anything for his Hendrick teammate and race winner Chase Elliott.
“I don’t think I could have raced Chase,” he said. “He’s so good at road courses. I don’t know – I felt like we were a fifth-place car. Not bad, but I think there’s a lot of areas that I need to get better. I feel like our team did a really good job of improving it from practice. It definitely drove better today than it did yesterday, so I was happy with that. I think we still have some room to improve all around; myself and the car a little bit.”
Hamlin finished fifth. And for his part isn’t ready to give up the regular season just yet.
“I just need to find three or fourth tenths here and there at this big of a track,” Hamlin said. “It’s like three hundredths at an oval track. If I can do that, I will be right in the game.”
He was happy with his finish.
“Considering I have never been here before. Look at the guys in front of me, they have raced here before, so yeah, I feel good about it.”