Looking to bring his Turner Scott Motorsports team some good news to end a rough week, Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Kyle Larson worked his way through the field and found himself in contention for his first NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) victory. After battling a tight-handling Chevrolet Impala throughout much of the 125-lap race, the No. 32 Cessna crew gave Larson what he needed to vault from sixth to second on the race's last restart. With just over 10 laps to go, Larson had his sights set on the race leader but the rookie ran out of time. He brought home a second-place finish, tying his career best NNS finish, and earning his second top five in a row.
Making his NNS debut at the two-mile oval, Larson used the practice time on Friday to get accustomed to the high-speed Michigan International Speedway. Feeling comfortable with both the track and the car, Larson ended up seventh fastest heading into the qualifying session on Saturday morning. Larson felt that he was a little too tight during his qualifying attempt and placed the No. 32 Cessna Chevrolet in the 11th starting spot for the Alliance Truck Parts 250.
The green flag quickly turned to yellow, after a multi-car accident on lap one. After a second quick caution, Larson immediately went to work picking his way through the top-10 running order. On lap 15, Larson called down to his crew that his Cessna Chevy was too loose on the entry, when running in traffic, and tight coming off the corners. Crew chief Trent Owens took this into account, calling for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment to the No. 32 Camaro. As the race went on, Larson radioed back in to his crew and said that his car was still too tight and they would need to make a bigger adjustment on the next pit stop. Larson's second pit stop came under yellow on lap 65, and again he received four Goodyear Eagle tires and Sunoco fuel combined with a track-bar adjustment in an effort to loosen up the No. 32 Cessna Chevy.
Just past the half-way mark of the 125-lap race, the car started coming to life and Larson found himself running in the sixth position. Larson and the Cessna Chevrolet were running laps consistently one- to two-tenths quicker than the top-five running cars. On lap 80, the yellow flag was displayed once again when the front straightaway was littered with debris. Owens took the opportunity to call his driver down pit road to top the car off with fuel and make another track-bar adjustment. On the race's final restart on lap 102, Larson made a daring three-wide pass to move himself inside the top three. With just over 10 laps to go, Larson overtook the second-place car and started to run down the race leader by running quicker lap times. Unfortunately, the Rookie of the Year candidate ran out of time and what would have been an emotional victory lane ended up tying his career best NNS finish in the second spot. Larson has been on an impressive run as of late, capturing his second top-five finish in a row and his fifth consecutive top 10.
"I thought we had a top-five car coming into the day, but not a second-place car," said Larson. "Trent [Owens] and my Cessna guys worked hard all day to give me a great car. I wish I was able to bring home a win for these guys and our friend Jason Leffler. A lot of the guys on my team worked with Leffler in the past, and he was a friend of mine, so this second place means a lot to all of us. If we can continue the good runs we've had lately, I feel like we have a win coming our way very soon."