Kyle Larson will be starting on the pole for this evening's running of the Toyota Owners 400 at the Richmond International Raceway. Larson, 21, has never led the field to green in his 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts preceding Saturday's event.
The Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates driver currently sits 15th in points after eight races this season. Even though Larson has a pair of top-five finishes to start off his first full-time season in NASCAR's premier division, he has three finishes of 20th or worse. However, Larson has excelled at tracks which he has driven at before, and Richmond is one of those venues.
In three Nationwide Series races at Richmond, Larson has an average finishing position of 8.7. He also recorded a top-five finish in his lone K&N Pro Series East race at Richmond in 2012. Now, he is on NASCAR's biggest stage, and the pressure is starting to lighten up now that people understand he is capable of racing for wins.
Larson's pole award will not count as an entry into the Sprint Showdown at Daytona to begin the 2015 season next February. However, it will help him earn experience at the front of the pack - racing against some of the sport's top drivers. He already scored his first career Nationwide Series pole award with Turner Scott Motorsports at Bristol a few weeks ago, but starting up front in the Cup Series will put the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender's integrity to the test.
His Ganassi teammate, Jamie McMurray, finished fourth in the last race at Richmond back in September after leading a handful of laps. Besides holding the top speed in practice on Friday morning, Larson had the 10th fastest average of 29 cars that ran 10 consecutive laps during that first practice.