After a thrilling race to the finish line in last Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Bristol, Kyle Larson, who finished runner-up to Kyle Busch, returns to his home state for this Saturday's Royal Purple 300 (5:00 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Auto Club Speedway.
In 23 NASCAR Nationwide races, no California native has ever won at Auto Club. Larson, of Elk Grove, hopes to build on his performance in Bristol to become the first. However, it will be his first visit to the track.
"I haven't raced at Auto Club Speedway, but I've watched a bunch of races and it looks like a lot of fun to me," said Larson, who is currently second in the NASCAR Nationwide Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. "There's more than one groove, which makes for great racing."
If Larson finds his way to Victory Lane, he would be just the fourth driver to win in their first NASCAR Nationwide start at the track. Mark Martin was the most recent, winning in February 2005. Scott Riggs and Todd Bodine also accomplished the feat, with Bodine winning the inaugural series event.
In Larson's first four races of the 2013 season, coincidentally also the first of his NASCAR Nationwide career, he opened the season with a pair of 13th-place finishes at Daytona and Phoenix followed by a 32nd-place finish at Las Vegas after an accident ended his day 18 laps shy of the scheduled 200.
Larson currently ranks ninth in the points standings, 49 points behind leader Sam Hornish Jr. Of the eight drivers in front of him, none have wins at the track while only three have top-five finishes (Austin Dillon, Brian Scott, Brian Vickers). Vickers is the only driver with multiple top fives (two).
His finish at Bristol moved Larson up five positions in the standings and had some considering him as a possible dark horse in the championship race. The way in which he raced Busch in the closing laps drew praise from the driver of the No. 54 Toyota and opened a lot of eyes throughout the garage.
He'll be looking to do more of the same this Saturday.