Kyle Larson and the No. 32 Target team returned to Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) when the NASCAR Nationwide Series visited the 1.0-mile track for the second and final time this season. After two solid practice sessions, Larson entered the ServiceMaster200 looking to improve on the 13th-place finish he earned in his NNS debut in March. He was on his way to meeting that goal, working his way up to the eighth position before a blown right-front tire forced the No. 32 Target Chevy into the wall, sending the team to the garage and relegating Larson to a 32nd-place finish.
Larson first took to the track on Friday morning, placing fourth in the first practice session. Larson followed that up with the 10th-quickest lap in final practice, despite not making a mock qualifying run in the session, leaving the No. 32 Target team confident in their car for Saturday afternoon's race. Larson laid down a lap time of 27.289 seconds, earning the 13th starting position for the 200-lap race.
After taking the green flag from the 13th position, Larson worked his way into the top 10 by lap 24. A handful of laps later, Larson reported to crew chief Trent Owens that his Target Camaro was a little tight on throttle in Turns 1 and 2, but that he felt good in 3 and 4. On lap 50, Larson took over the ninth position and Owens let him know that he was running lap times as good as anybody else on the track. As the laps continued to quickly tick by, Larson hit pit road for a green-flag pit stop on lap 74 and his Turner Scott Motorsports crew provided him with four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment. When stops cycled through, he was scored in the 11th position.
Larson was running 10th in the Target Chevy when the caution flag waved for debris on lap 105. Larson reported that his Camaro was looser on this run, and Owens brought him back to pit road for two right-side tires and fuel. The 21-year-old restarted in the eighth position on lap 112 but fell to 11th by lap 120, reporting that his car was too tight into the center of the corners. Larson maintained the 11th position until the yellow flag was displayed again on lap 130. Knowing that the Target Chevy hadn't responded well to the two-tire stop, Owens had Larson return to pit road for four tires, fuel and a small adjustment. With varying pit strategy up front, Larson returned to the track in the 16th position, the first car to take four tires.
On the ensuing restart, Larson had to go high to avoid another car and moved into 15th. Throughout two more quick cautions, Larson moved into 13th, but radioed to his team that the Target Chevy was getting tighter on each restart. He restarted in 13th on lap 154, looking to utilize his four tires to get back to the front. Unfortunately, a couple of laps later, the right-front tire blew out on the No. 32 machine, sending Larson hard into the outside wall. After the tire went rolling away, Larson limped back to pit road where his TSM team determined his car was done for the day. Despite ending the race in the garage and finishing in the 32nd position, Larson remains ninth in the NNS Drivers Point Standings.
"Our car was really strong in practice, so this was definitely not the day we thought we would have" commented Larson. "It's hard to know for sure what happened, but we think we cut a tire right after our pit stop when I had to go really high to avoid another car. There was a couple quick cautions, and my car just got tighter and tighter every time we went back to green as the tire started to slowly go down and then the right front eventually blew. I am really bummed for my Turner Scott Motorsports team. I have to thank them for all the hard work, and thank Target for the support. Hopefully, we'll go to Homestead and end the season on a good note."
Larson will head to Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend to make his final NNS debut of the year. The 2013 NNS season finale will air live on ESPN, with pre-race coverage beginning at 4:00 p.m. EST on Saturday, November 16.