Kyle Larson is quietly putting together a solid rookie season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Although Larson is currently eighth in the championship standings, he continues to add to his rookie lead over Alex Bowman. After placing fifth in the Friday night Bristol race, Larson extended his lead to 67 points.
The Great Clips/Grit Chips 300 this Saturday in Atlanta (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) will be a test for both rookies as neither of them have ever competed at the 1.54-mile track in the series. Larson, however, did finish sixth there last season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
“I’m excited to get back to Atlanta,” Larson said. “It’s always fun when you can do some Saturday night racing. I’ve never raced at Atlanta Motor Speedway in a Nationwide Series car, but I did race in the truck series there last season, so I feel like my team and I will be ready for the race.”
For Larson, how he performs this Saturday could determine if he should be considered a dark-horse candidate to make a run at the championship. Regardless of whether he can make a serious run at the title in his rookie campaign, a top-five or top-10 finish should move him up a spot or two in the standings and further tighten his grasp on the Sunoco Rookie of the Year race.
Through the first 23 races, Larson has compiled six top-five and 13 top-10 finishes, including a pair of runner-up showings at Bristol in March and Michigan in June. Over the last 15 races, he has 14 top-15 finishes with a 30th-place finish at Watkins Glen earlier this month being the only hiccup.
“Kyle has impressed me all season so I have no doubt he can go out and contend in his first Nationwide Series race at Atlanta,” said Trent Owens, Larson’s crew chief of the No. 32 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet.