Kyle Larson brought home a top-10 finish at Darlington Raceway, his fourth of the 2013 season. In his first ever tangle with 'The Lady in Black,' Larson scored his career-best NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) start before bringing home a sixth-place finish in the Sport Clips VFW Help A Hero 200.
After putting his No. 32 Cessna Chevrolet sixth on the scoring pylon in the weekend's only practice session, Larson laid down a 29.720-second qualifying lap, earning him the seventh spot on the grid and his best starting position in nine NNS events. Solidly holding a top-10 position after the wave of the green flag, Larson was scored eighth when the first caution flag of the night was displayed on lap 24. Relaying to crew chief and Darlington native Trent Owens that his Camaro was a little loose off the exit of turn four, Larson pulled his machine into the pits for four tires, fuel and a slight air-pressure adjustment before returning to the track in ninth.
Larson started the next green-flag run extremely loose, but as the laps ticked by, the No. 32 began to improve, and he worked his way into the sixth spot. When a spinout brought out the yellow on lap 51, Larson once again brought his Cessna Chevy onto pit road for service. The Turner Scott Motorsports crew provided him with four tires and fuel, opting not to make any adjustments to their car, putting Larson in the sixth position when green-flag racing resumed four laps later.
A long caution-free run spread out the field and set the stage for green-flag pit stops to begin on lap 92. The No. 32 Chevrolet was able to remain on the track until lap 109, and the crew provided Larson with four tires, fuel, an air-pressure adjustment and a wedge adjustment to counteract a loose condition. Entering the pits in ninth, Larson returned to the track in 10th, a position he held until the final yellow flag waved on lap 120.
With less than half the field on the lead lap, Owens decided that sticker tires obtained on a pit stop would be more valuable than position gained by remaining on track, and he called his 20-year-old driver into the pits for two fresh tires. With many teams opting to take four tires, Larson gained three spots in the pits, putting him in seventh for the final green flag of the night on lap 125. Larson had a strong restart, and he battled hard against series veterans in the closing laps, working his way up to sixth before the wave of the checkered flag. In addition to gaining two positions in the NNS Driver Point Standings, the top-10 finish garnered Larson the Sunoco Rookie of the Race and Mobil 1 Driver of the Race awards.
"Tonight was really fun," said Larson after emerging from the No. 32 Cessna Chevrolet. "I think the opportunity to test here a few weeks ago really helped speed up my learning curve and put us in a position to do well; I really learned a lot that I could bring back with me. This track is a challenge, but it's the character that makes it fun. When the race started, I thought I was running a really good high line, but when I saw some of the veteran guys in front of me running right against the wall, it gave me the courage to get up there. Taking two tires at the end was a great call by Trent [Owens]; it got us some track position and allowed me to have a really good restart. I'll happily take a sixth-place finish after the last few weeks; tonight was a great way to move past the struggles we experienced last weekend in Talladega. This year has been very up and down for my team, but I think we're on our way back up."
Larson now sits 10th in the NNS Driver Point Standings. The Nationwide Series enjoys one weekend off before a "home game" at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The History 300 will be held on Saturday, May 25th at 2:30 p.m. EDT.