It has been a stellar season so far for NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) Rookie of the Year contender Kyle Larson and his No. 32 Turner Scott Motorsports (TSM) team, as they've racked up seven top-five finishes, including two runner-up finishes, and 14 top 10s. However, Larson and his SNICKERS Bites team struggled at Richmond International Raceway (RIR), battling a loose race car throughout the 250-lap race and finishing in the 14th position in the Virginia529 College Savings 250.
Larson started his long day at RIR by laying down the fourth-fastest time in the lone practice session on Friday morning. Despite running a quick lap early in the session, Larson wasn't happy with his No. 32 SNICKERS Bites Chevrolet, and his TSM crew worked during and after the two-and-a-half hour practice session to find a setup that was more agreeable. He went out late in qualifying on Friday afternoon and placed the SNICKERS Bites Chevy Camaro 18th on the starting grid.
Following the drop of the green flag, Larson remained in the 18th position when the first caution was displayed on lap 15. Larson radioed crew chief Trent Owens to say that his SNICKERS Bites Chevy felt "pretty good," and Owens had Larson remain on the track. After the race went back to green on lap 20, Larson started to work his way forward, taking over the 15th spot on lap 29. The 21-year-old remained in the top 15 until lap 59 when he fell back a position and radioed that he was starting to lose grip. When the second caution was displayed a few laps later, Larson explained that his car had gotten loose and Owens called his driver into the pits for four tires, fuel and adjustments to his No. 32 SNICKERS Bites machine.
After a solid pit stop by his TSM pit crew, Larson restarted in 14th on lap 74. After a few laps around the track, Larson told his team that his No. 32 was still really loose, prompting them to worry that he may have a tire going down. However, Larson was able to remain on the track and raced in the 15th position. The Elk Grove, Calif. native slipped back to 17th just before the caution flag waved for the third time on lap 132. After explaining that his No. 32 SNICKERS Bites Chevy was loose into and off of the corners, but good in the center, Owens brought Larson back to pit road for four tires, fuel and wedge and air-pressure adjustments. Larson restarted in 16th on lap 139 and was scored in 18th when the caution came out again on lap 172.
Larson returned to pit road for four tires, fuel and another adjustment to tighten up his car, restarting in 18th with 70 laps to go. After initially falling back to 20th, Larson began to work his way forward, taking over the 16th spot on lap 205. He was running in 14th when the caution was displayed again on lap 229 and he came in for his final pit stop, with Owens calling for four tires, fuel and a final adjustment. Larson had two strong restarts, moving from 15th to 12th and 12th to 10th before the final caution waved on lap 240. Restarting 10th with just a handful of laps to go, Larson moved up to ninth before getting shuffled back to 14th when the checkered flag flew.
"My Turner Scott Motorsports team and I had a tough night," said Larson. "We never really got the balance right, and I was loose throughout most of the race. Towards the end, we started to move forward and I thought we might end up with a good finish, but we just got shuffled back on the last restart. There hasn't been many times this year that my team and I have been off, so I know we can go to Chicago and have a better run in the SNICKERS Bites Chevrolet."
The NNS returns to Chicagoland Speedway for the Dollar General 300, powered by Coca Cola, on Saturday, September 14. The race will be broadcast on ESPN2, with coverage beginning at 3:30 p.m. EDT. You can also listen to the race live on MRN Radio or SiriusXM Satellite Radio, channel 90.