Saturday, Sep 23

Hectic Race Leads to 14th-Place Finish for Larson in Mid-Ohio Debut

Despite having no road-course experience prior to this season, Larson came to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Mid-Ohio) for the Nationwide Children's Hospital 200 looking for a solid finish in his No. 32 McDonald's Chevrolet Camaro. After doing well in Thursday's test sessions and finishing 12th and seventh in Friday's two practice sessions, Larson earned his best qualifying effort of the season, starting the 90-lap race from the fourth position. An incident on lap one left Larson three laps down, but the rookie got back onto the lead lap and worked his way up to the top five before a wild last lap left him with a 14th-place finish.


After taking the green flag from the fourth spot, contact from a competitor sent Larson spinning into the wall on the first lap. He brought his No. 32 Chevy to the pits and his No. 32 McDonald's team began to work feverishly to get Larson back on track. Larson's spin did not bring out the caution flag, so the Turner Scott Motorsports team was forced to work under green-flag conditions, and the 21-year-old returned to the track three laps down, in 40th position. By the time the first caution flag was displayed on lap 20, Larson was in the 38th position. Despite running lap times as quick as the top-five cars, Larson was still caught three laps down. Most of the lead-lap cars pitted, but two remained on track, so Larson was not able to utilize the wave around. Instead, he came back to pit road for four tires and fuel.


When the caution flag was displayed again on laps 27 and 30, Larson was unable to utilize the wave around or receive the free pass from NASCAR, so crew chief Trent Owens called his driver to the pits under both cautions for fuel and continued repairs to his McDonald's machine. On lap 33, Larson restarted in the 37th position and was still scored three laps down. The field returned to yellow five laps later, and Larson received the free pass. After pitting for fuel, Larson restarted in 35th position, two laps down, on lap 41. Four laps later, the caution was again displayed, and Larson again was scored in the free-pass position. After getting a second lap back, Larson restarted in the 35th position on lap 49.


The 40-car field enjoyed a long green-flag run, and Larson was able to stay on track longer than most of his competitors, having pitted for fuel several times. Being scored in the 32nd position, Larson drove himself back onto the lead lap on lap 61 after the majority of the leaders had come to pit road for green-flag pit stops. Just before coming onto pit road himself, the field returned to caution on lap 63. Larson pitted for four tires and fuel, restarting in the 26th position on lap 67. Finally being back on the same lap as the majority of the field, Larson quickly went to work, earning six spots on the first lap back under green and entering the top 15 on lap 69. After continuing to hit his marks and run solid lap times, Larson took over the 10th spot on lap 78.


On lap 88, Owens radioed his young driver to report that the No. 32 McDonald's Chevy was the fastest car on the track. As Larson raced in the ninth position, the caution flag was again displayed just before the scheduled last lap of the race, setting the field up for a green/white/checkered finish. With more fuel than the rest of the field, Larson took the green from the eighth position ready to earn a solid finish for his McDonald's team. As the field received the white flag, Larson was scored in the sixth position. Larson continued to battle for a top-five spot on the last lap, but contact from two other cars forced him to lose his position and spin, relegating the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender to a 14th-place finish.


"Man, I'm not sure what to say about today," commented Larson after the race. "I know this much. My Turner Scott Motorsports team was awesome today. They brought a great car for me, and when we got spun on the first lap, they worked really hard to repair my McDonald's Chevy and get me back on track quickly. All day Trent [Owens, crew chief] made great calls and when we finally got back on the lead lap, we went to the front. I hate that we didn't get the finish that we deserved today, but I guess you never know what you'll get on a road course. Despite everything that happened, I had a lot of fun at Mid-Ohio and it was really cool to qualify fourth. I'm ready to move on to Bristol and see what we can do there after finishing second earlier this year."




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