FORT WORTH – Kyle Larson is well aware that his numbers have fallen from the blockbuster 2021 season that saw him emerge as the NASCAR Cup Series champion for the first time.
Larson has since earned an alternate title, courtesy of fellow Cup and Xfinity Series competitor AJ Allmendinger. In a moment of respect among his peers, “Danger” described Larson as “the most badass racing driver on the planet right now.”
“It means a lot to me. I really respect AJ,” said Larson, who continued his ritual of midweek races on dirt tracks in different classes, as well as his 10-month schedule.
“I try to race all the time and try to get better because of that,” said Larson, who will open the ASCAR Playoffs Round of 12 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon as the defending EchoPark Automotive 500 event champion.
“Other drivers have gotten to race a lot more as well, so it’s great to see that. I feel like I’ve had little impact on motorsport in America with the way people choose and choose the races they run and not necessarily stick to one type of car as we’ve seen for so long.”
Larson is fourth in points among the scores of drivers currently eligible to win the cup, an area led by teammate Hendrik Motorsports and 2020 champion Chase Elliott. Ironically, all 12 advanced via points, as drivers not playing a playoff – Including Prosper, Texas, fellow countryman Chris Bucher From Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing – She swept the Round of 16 in the Round of 16.
Larson’s two race wins this season pale in comparison to the ten he scored in 2021 during his debut with team owner Rick Hendrick. Five of those wins were recorded during the playoffs. Larson drove a whopping 256 laps of 334 laps around TMS’ High Banks/1.5 mile oval en route to Winning the tie-breaker at the October Cup last year. Larson also won 2021 NASCAR All-Star Race in June 2021 In “The Great American Speedway”.
Of course, all of that success was achieved before NASCAR officially introduced the Next Generation Vehicle Platform in February. Larson and crew chief Cliff Daniels quickly claimed their first win for the next generation on February 27 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. But Larson did not win again until he won at the famous Watkins Glen International Road Raceway on August 21. A frustrating six-month gap.
“Yes, certainly longer than we’d like,” said Larson, driver of Car #5. HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
“It presents new challenges for sure, owning a new car. It was like last year everything went our way and not much this year went our way. But I’m definitely confident in my team. I think that made us stronger in one year as if we hadn’t We reach perfection every weekend.”
Xfinity Playoffs Ready to Shake: Led by top seed Noah Gragson, ASCAR’s Xfinity Series Playoffs will open at TMS on Saturday with Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 at 2:30 p.m.
Gragson won six leading races – including three in a row – in his #9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. The 12-driver field also includes Allmendinger, Ty Gibbs, Justin Allgaier, Josh Berry, Austin Hill, Brandon Jones, Jeremy Clements, Sam Mayer, Daniel Hemric, Riley Herbst and Ryan Sieg.
More traction?: NASCAR applied a new layer of PJ1 traction compound to the TMS runway in an effort to create more pass opportunities through the unique turns – 20 degrees in Turns 1, 2 and 24 degrees in Turns 3 and 4.
“It’s a compromise you should try to figure out,” said Penske’s Joey Logano, referring to himself and crew chief Paul Wolf.
“I think it (PJ1) helps, yeah. It’s one of those repaved-type racetracks without which it would pretty much be a one-groove track and I don’t think anyone wants to see that.”
PJ1 is heat activated. With projections of ambient temperatures in the mid-1990s, this would not be a problem.
“Yes, it’s going to be wicked up there,” said Lugano, who is second in trophy points and driver of the #22 AAA Ford Mustang.
John Storbin is a great writer on RacinToday.com, based in Fort Worth. He can be contacted at email@example.com