Kyle Larson rallied back from an 18th-place starting position to score his second top-10 finish of the 2013 season. The Turner Scott Motorsports crew continuously improved on the handling of the No. 32 Cessna Camaro as Larson wheeled it through the field, resulting in an eighth-place finish and Sunoco Rookie of the Race honors at Richmond International Raceway (RIR).
After two lengthy practice sessions at the 0.75-mile RIR, Larson laid down a best qualifying lap of 21.833 seconds, placing him 18th on the starting grid. Larson piloted his No. 32 Cessna Chevrolet up to the 15th spot within the first 15 laps of the race, maintaining the position until the first yellow flag of the day waved on lap 25. Over the course of a five-minute red flag, Larson relayed to crew chief Trent Owens that he was too free in and off of the corners. Owens called for four tires, fuel and a track-bar adjustment, sending the Chevy Camaro back onto the track in 23rd.
Larson quickly battled his way back into the top 15 after green-flag racing resumed on lap 41. A long green-flag run gave the rookie an opportunity to feel out his Chevrolet's handling, and he explained to Owens that his car was now tight in the center and free off. Larson took over the 14th position just before the second caution period of the night on lap 102. Larson brought the No. 32 down pit road for service, where he once again received four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. With quick work on behalf of the crew, Larson lined up in the ninth position for the lap 107 restart.
The young rookie slipped out of the top 10 as laps progressed, dropping to 11th on lap 114. Larson radioed his team that his Camaro was improving, telling Owens, "I'm a little better, but I still need more of what you did on the last stop." Owens would get his opportunity to oblige his driver when an accident brought out the yellow on lap 152 with Larson scored 14th. Owens and the TSM crew provided Larson with wholesale changes, which included four tires, fuel, a track-bar adjustment, air-pressure adjustment and wedge adjustment, all while gaining two positions on pit road.
Larson continued to battle in the top 15, sitting 14th on the scoring pylon when a spinout brought out the yellow on lap 191. The team made their final round of adjustments on pit road, once again performing chassis and air-pressure adjustments in addition to adding four tires and Sunoco race fuel. Larson restarted 13th on lap 197 and survived a rash of cautions over the last 40 laps. The rookie reclaimed a spot in the top 10 on lap 211 and lined up ninth when the green flag waved for what would be the final restart on lap 239. Larson took over the eighth spot in the closing 10 door-to-door laps, holding the position until the checkered flag waved.
"I'm really proud of what we accomplished here," said Larson. "Our goal tonight was to finish in the top 10 and to bring the No. 32 Cessna Chevrolet home in once piece, so we definitely succeeded. Trent [Owens] and the guys did a great job adjusting the car as it cooled down and track conditions changed, and we wound up exactly where we needed to be after that final pit stop. Richmond is a challenging track and the competition is really tough in this series, so to bring home a top-10 finish here is something to be proud of. I can't thank my guys enough; I hope we can take this momentum into Talladega next week."
Larson's eighth-place finish gained him one position in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Driver Point Standings, putting him 10th in the standings after seven events. Larson was the top-finishing rookie in Friday night's race, earning him Sunoco Rookie of the Race honors, as well as the Mobil 1 Driver of the Race award. The NASCAR Nationwide Series next hits the track next Saturday, May 4 in the Aaron's 312 at Talladega Superspeedway.