August is a month that Kyle Larson will never forget. Larson’s long-awaited first win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was emotional for many reasons.
“I was teared-up that whole last few laps because I could just feel it. It was finally going to be it,” Larson told NBC Sports Network in his post-race interview. “This one is for the Clauson family. We really miss Bryan. We love you guys. We’re going to miss him. We parked it for him, so that’s really cool.”
Bryan Clauson, one of Larson’s closest friends, passed away on August 7th after suffering injuries in a midget race crash the previous night.
Meanwhile, Larson wasn’t having any luck in the first two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in August. On the same day Clauson passed away, Larson got spun out on Turn 7 at Watkins Glen. Larson went from finishing in the Top 5 to finishing 29th.
“After AJ (Allmendinger) got into us, I thought we were done,” said Larson following his win about his chances of making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
His hard luck continued two weeks later when he got caught up in multiple wrecks at Bristol.
Before Watkins Glen, Larson was 15th in the standings and 20 points ahead of the Chase cutoff point. Following Bristol, Larson was 16th in the standings, 39 points outside of the Chase field.
However, Larson’s run of disappointments didn’t keep him or his team down.
“We hang on to every possibility because we know anything can happen,” said Chip Ganassi, owner of Larson’s No. 42. “That’s what is great about this sport.”
Now that Larson is in the Chase, his focus is on winning a Championship. Larson was enthusiastic about his chances in the 2016 Chase, mainly because of his success at the tracks in the Chase.
In 2014, Larson posted five straight Top-Six performances in the first five races of the Chase. That included a third-place finish in Chicago and second-place finishes in New Hampshire and Kansas.
“I’m glad we're in the Chase. We got some awesome racetracks in the Chase,” said Larson.
“We have a good shot at getting to the final two rounds, for sure, if not the final at Homestead. I feel we definitely have a shot to make it to the final eight. If we make it to Homestead, I'd be super excited because we can rail at the top there pretty good.”
Larson has three career starts at Homestead and has finished in the Top 15 each time, including a fifth-place finish in 2015.
“If he makes it to Homestead, he is definitely a threat,” said Jimmie Johnson.
In his post-race press conference, Larson talked about how Clauson’s death impacted his racing.
“He would want us to race,” said Larson about honoring his friend. “It's good to be able to park it in Victory Lane, like he would have said.”
Before parking it in Victory Lane, Larson performed a spectacular burnout that delighted the crowd.
“He didn't like people doing burnouts and stuff like that, 'cause he wanted you to act like you've been to Victory Lane before,” said Larson with a grin. “But I hadn't been to Victory Lane before.”
Fans can see Kyle Larson make a run at the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at Kansas Speedway this October. Tickets are on sale now for both the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and the inaugural Chase for the NASCAR XFINITY Series and can be purchased by calling 866.460.7223 or logging on to www.kansasspeedway.com for the Hollywood Casino 400, the fifth race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on Oct. 16, the Kansas Lottery 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race on Oct. 15, and the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season finale on Oct. 14.
General parking is always free at Kansas Speedway and fans can bring in one 14x14x14-inch soft-sided cooler with their favorite food and beverages.
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