2022 Kyle Larson Charlotte.jpg
Kyle Larson’s eventful 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night actually began the previous day when he scraped the wall in practice. With the damage too severe to repair before qualifying, the team fixed the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Patriotic Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Saturday night and Sunday before starting the season’s longest race from the rear of the field.

After starting the race from the back, Larson suffered penalties during pit stops that sent him to the rear of the field again for restarts twice in the first stage. On lap 35 after battling his way up to 11th from his 36th-place starting position, he went to the rear for a penalty after pit road equipment was accidentally removed from the pit stall. Larson then made contact with the wall on lap 51, but he was still able to maneuver up to 11th before another pit road penalty on lap 64 sent him to the rear again. Larson ultimately ended stage one in 28th.

After stopping for new tires and fuel during the break, Larson restarted stage two from 24th – but another pit road issue affected the No. 5 team. After moving inside the top 20, a small fire developed on the car during a lap-128 pit stop. Larson returned to pit lane one lap later to ensure the flame was extinguished, but he was forced to restart 30th. But, on lap 165, Larson spun off turn 4 while battling for position. While no damage was suffered to his Camaro, the Elk Grove, California, native was able to carry on and finish stage two in 14th at lap 200.

Crew chief Cliff Daniels gave an impassioned pep talk during the break, and the team responded. After restarting 23rd, Larson maneuvered up to 12th before a caution waved on lap 253. Quick work on pit road by the No. 5 crew gained Larson five spots during the exchange, and he gained another two spots quickly after the restart on lap 261. When stage three ended at lap 300, the 2014 rookie of the year was up to third.

In stage four after restarting third, Larson remained in that position until securing the runner-up spot at lap 339. After a caution at lap 345 of 400, Larson quickly grabbed the lead on the restart and held it as the race approached full distance. But on the penultimate lap, the second-place challenger wrecked and brought out the caution. Daniels called Larson onto pit road for new right-side tires for the two-lap shootout to the checkered flag, and the No. 5 driver won the race off pit road. But, on the restart, Larson was collected in a three-wide skirmish off turn 4 for the lead and spun. After pitting for fresh rubber, Larson was able to work his way back up to ninth in the two-lap overtime sprint to the checkered flag.

“The first half of the race was a struggle for all of us, but I was especially frustrated with myself. To rebound from that and have a shot to win there late was something to be proud of. Our team fought really hard, so I’m happy with that.

“It was just really tight racing off of 4. The (No.) 3 (car) almost had me cleared and we just made contact and there was a big wreck. Kind of ended my night there. Again, proud of my Hendrick team. The day would have been a lot easier if I just didn’t hit the wall on Saturday (during practice).”

Larson and the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet team head to World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois where the NASCAR’s premier series will compete for the first time. The 300-mile race takes place Sunday, June, 5 at 3:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on FS1.

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