Saturday, Jan 22

Disappointing Kansas Speedway Debut for Kyle Larson

NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) rookie Kyle Larson headed to Kansas Speedway eager to make his debut at the 1.5-mile oval. Kansas Speedway marked the final race on this year's NNS schedule where Larson will compete at a track for the very first time. After finishing ninth in first practice, Larson was forced to a backup car after a spin in the final NNS practice of the weekend. Despite not making a single lap on the track with his backup car, Larson was able to drive the No. 32 Cessna Chevrolet to a 19th-place starting position. The Kansas Lottery 300 started off strong for Larson, as he drove up to the fourth position before a broken splitter relegated him and the Cessna team to a 30th-place finish.

 

Larson set out to learn his way around the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway in Friday's practice sessions. Larson was fast right off the truck, running some of the quickest times in the first practice session. Despite not making a mock qualifying run, as some other teams did, Larson was the ninth fastest in first practice. In final practice, the 21-year-old got into the wall after spinning in Turn 4, which resulted in rear-end damage and forced the No. 32 Cessna team to bring out their backup car. Larson, who was not able to get back on track before the end of practice, made his first laps in the backup car during Saturday morning's qualifying session at Kansas Speedway, qualifying 19th for the Kansas Lottery 300.

 

Following the drop of the green flag, Larson was unable to get a true gauge on his car before the first caution on lap 3, called for debris. Restarting in 20th on lap seven, Larson drove up to 16th by lap 20, when he radioed his Turner Scott Motorsports team to say his Cessna Chevy was good overall but a little loose into the corners while in dirty air. When the competition caution came out at lap 26, crew chief Trent Owens called Larson into the pits to change right-side tires and add fuel. Larson restarted in 12th on lap 31 and drove into the top 10 before the yellow flag was again displayed on lap 37. On the next restart, the Elk Grove, Calif. native once again gained positions, moving into eighth place before the caution came out again on lap 44. Larson reported that he had a slight vibration, which he had been experiencing all race, but that did not slow the young driver down, as he raced into the top 5 before the next caution on lap 52.

 

Owens continued to keep Larson on the track under this caution period, and the Cessna Chevrolet Camaro restarted in fifth on lap 57. Larson moved into fourth on the next lap, where he remained until lap 66. He began to slip back in the running order, explaining to his Cessna team that the vibration in his car had gotten much worse. Owens brought Larson in for a green-flag pit stop on lap 85, changing all four tires, adding fuel and making a chassis adjustment. Before green-flag stops had cycled through, the caution flag was again displayed, trapping Larson one lap down. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender returned to pit road under the caution after reporting that his vibration was still present.

 

The No. 32 Cessna team was able to diagnose the issue with the car, finding a broken splitter bar. After bracketing both sides, they were able to eliminate the issue causing Larson's extreme vibration. However, significant damage to Larson's splitter had strongly affected the handling on his Cessna Camaro. After attempting to change the splitter under caution on pit road, the team discovered that too much damage had occurred, forcing them to the garage on lap 150. This marked the end of Larson's day, relegating him and the Cessna team to a 30th-place finish.

 

"It was another tough day for my Cessna team," said Larson. "I kind of put us in a bad spot after spinning in practice and forcing us to have to go to the backup car. My Turner Scott Motorsports team worked really hard to get it ready for the race, but unfortunately we had to fight a vibration all day that just kept getting worse. My team did a great job of finding the issue and fixing it under the cautions, but it just caused too much damage to the splitter, which eliminated all our front downforce and eventually forced us to retire early from the race. It's always tough to have a day like this, but I know we'll go to Charlotte and be ready to have a solid run."

 

The NNS returns to action at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday, October 11 for the final night race of the season. Television coverage of the Dollar General 300 will begin with NNS Countdown at 7:00 p.m. EDT on ESPN2. You can also tune into the race on PRN Radio or SiriusXM Satellite Radio, channel 90.

 

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