Kyle Larson’s son had an important question for his father following the race at Bristol, and that question helped Larson overcome what was a tough loss to Kyle Busch.
It was the kind of loss Kyle Larson knew would sting, a finish that would continually replay over and over and wonder what he could have done differently as Kyle Busch had nudged his way by Larson with six laps remaining to score the victory in Monday’s rain-delayed Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Then as Larson walked into his motor coach following the runner-up finish, his spirits were lifted by an innocent question from a toddler who wasn’t thinking about wins and losses, but something he deemed far more important. His 3-year-old son Owen didn’t want to know about the outcome, only if Larson had brought him a certain kind of candy.
“Did you get me some Skittles?” Owen said mentioning the candy product that sponsored Busch’s car at Bristol.
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Although Larson wasn’t going to completely put the events behind, he admits Owen’s question made him smile and helped alleviate the frustration he was feeling.
“That wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but it kind of lightened the mood, so it helps to get over it a little bit,” Larson said Friday at Richmond Raceway, site of Saturday night’s Cup Series race (6 p.m., Fox).
Busch and Larson have finished 1-2 seven times in NASCAR national touring series races, but never has the order been reversed. Each time it was Busch getting the better of Larson, not the other way around.
It appeared that would change at Bristol, as Larson led a race-high 200 of a possible 500 laps and was ahead of Busch with less than 10 laps remaining. But as Larson’s car got looser, Busch’s car got faster and he able to close on Larson that allowed him to employed a bump-and-run maneuver that nudged Larson up the track and opened a hole for him to complete the pass.
“That’s as close as I’ve come to winning a Cup race at Bristol,” Larson said. “… I want to win extremely bad at Bristol. So, yeah, that one stung probably more than any Cup win I can kind of think of at this point.
“Every single time I race at Bristol, I go head-to-head with Kyle. Even though I might not win and run second to him every time or whatever, but throughout the majority of a race it’s always him and I nose to tail in lapped traffic, which is a lot of fun, but he seems to come out on the better end of it with wins and all that stuff. So yeah, it sucked.”
Larson gets another crack to beat Busch Saturday night when the Cup Series visits the three-quarter mile Richmond short track. These sized tracks were once not Larson’s specialty, but the fifth-year driver has progressed where he is now regularly in contention at Bristol and Richmond, though he admits the half-mile Martinsville Speedway still mystifies him.
Last fall at Richmond, Larson picked up his first short track win in the regular-season finale. On that night Martin Truex Jr. had the dominant car, but a late caution erased his comfortable lead and on the ensuing round of pit stops Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing team got him off pit round first and he never relinquished the spot.
“Typically, (Richmond) hasn’t been a good race track for me, but for whatever reason, the last time we were here we were about a top-three car all race long — Truex was really fast,” Larson said. “I think that adds a little bit of confidence coming back here. But at the same time, I’ve struggled here in the past. I don’t know if I’ll be as good as I was last time, but I hope so.”
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