Kyle Larson came to Indianapolis Motor Speedway with high expectations for his debut at the famed 2.5-mile track after finishing second earlier in the week at Eldora Speedway. The weekend started off strong for Larson and his No. 32 Turner Scott Motorsports team, with the rookie leading first practice in his No. 32 Cessna Camaro. When it came time to race on Saturday afternoon, the team struggled to find the right handling on their Chevrolet. Following the race, they discovered that a broken screw had caused the track-bar mount to fail. Despite the issue, Larson still came home with an 11th-place finish.
Larson paced first practice in the No. 32 Cessna Chevy, laying down the quickest lap near the end of the 1.5-hour practice session. In final practice, the No. 32 Cessna team made adjustments to free the car up, but Larson felt that he lost too much speed, as he finished with the eighth-quickest time. Larson entered Saturday's qualifying session with high hopes but had to settle for the 17th-place starting spot. Despite not qualifying as well as he wanted to, the 20-year-old driver felt like his Cessna machine would be strong for the race.
Not long after the drop of the green flag, Larson radioed to his team that he was too tight when getting on the gas and that his tires were sliding. Larson continued to battle through the long green-flag run, explaining that his splitter was hitting the track and that he was really struggling into the corners. Crew Chief Trent Owens called the rookie in for a green-flag pit stop on lap 29, and the Cessna team changed four tires, added fuel and made adjustments to loosen up the No. 32. After green-flag stops cycled through, Larson was shown in the 19th position.
Larson moved into 18th on lap 41 but explained to his crew that the car was really tight and his tires were continuing to slide. Larson fell one lap down on lap 46 but received the free pass when the caution flag waved a few laps later for debris. After returning to the lead lap, Larson pitted for four tires, fuel and adjustments, restarting in the 18th position on lap 56. He was forced back to the pits for an unscheduled green-flag stop just a few laps later when his temperatures skyrocketed. The team cleared off the grill, and Larson was able to get back on track and maintain his 18th-place position, despite losing a lap to the leader.
When the caution flag waved again on lap 64, Larson again received the free pass from NASCAR and was back on the lead lap. After pitting for four tires, fuel and a track-bar adjustment, Larson restarted in 15th on lap 70. Larson maintained his position over the next 10 laps, but again radioed to explain that his car was extremely tight. Owens replied that he wasn't sure why the car wasn't responding to any of the large adjustments they had already made. The caution flag was displayed again on lap 83, and the No. 32 Cessna team gave Larson four tires, fuel and another round of adjustments.
Larson restarted in 19th on lap 89 but was able to take advantage of an incident on the track between competitors, gaining eight positions before the caution was displayed later that lap. He moved from 11th to ninth on the final restart on lap 95 but fell back to 11th before the checkered flag waved. After Larson took his No. 32 Cessna Chevy back to the garage, his Turner Scott Motorsports team found the problem with their track-bar mount, which explained why the car remained tight despite their numerous adjustments.
"I really wanted to do well in my first race at Indy," said Larson. "This place is so prestigious and it means a lot to Chip [Ganassi]; after coming here to watch the Indy 500 with him earlier this year, I couldn't wait for this race. Our car was really good in practice, and I was pumped to try and get my first Nationwide Series win here. Unfortunately, once the race started, we struggled all day and never could improve on our car. After the race was over, we discovered the problem with our track-bar mount, which explained why our car changed so much from practice. I'm bummed that we didn't get the finish we deserved, but I think it says a lot about this team that we were able to still finish 11th despite the problem. I can't say enough about how hard these guys work, and I know we'll go to Iowa next weekend and bounce back."
The NASCAR Nationwide Series returns to Iowa Speedway on Saturday, August 3, for another round of short-track night racing. The US Cellular 250 will begin at 8:00 p.m. EDT, with live television coverage beginning on ESPN2 at 7:30 p.m. The race can also be heard live on MRN Radio and SiriusXM Satellite Radio, channel 90.