By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
LOUDON, N.H. – Kyle Larson tends to undersell his prowess at short tracks in general and at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in particular.
To hear him tell it, you would never suspect that the driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet finished third and second in the first two of his five starts at the Magic Mile.
And on Saturday, in final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice for Sunday’s Bad Boy Off Road 300 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN) – the second race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – Larson posted the fastest lap in Happy Hour at 132.577 mph.
That was after he and Martin Truex Jr. tied for the top speed (132.186 mph) in Saturday’s first session.
One day earlier, Larson had qualified sixth for Sunday’s race, one position ahead of teammate Jamie McMurray. And though Larson’s average finish at Loudon in his brief Sprint Cup career is 14.0 versus McMurray’s 19.9 in 27 starts, Larson gave a nod to his teammate after the three-round knockout qualifying session.
“Starting sixth is better than where I typically start at short tracks,” said Larson, who started second and finished second at Richmond in the cutoff race for the Chase. “The last couple of short tracks have been good for me. So I’m looking forward to it. We made some gains, I think, with our Target Chevy at Richmond, and have taken some of that stuff to here at Loudon.
“I have a little bit more speed than normal. And I’ve figured out some things inside the cockpit that have helped me get a little bit better. I was looking at Jamie’s throttle data and how he’s driving a little bit different than me, and it’s helped a lot.”
McMurray likewise was happy with his qualifying effort, his best at NHMS since he started second and finished fourth in the 2014 Chase race at the Magic Mile.
“I thought, in practice actually, that we had one of the best cars on scuffed tires,” McMurray said after his qualifying run. “The qualifying format is interesting, because it doesn’t really matter how quick you are on stickers. It’s all about being good that second and third run.
“But with the temperatures cooling down, we struggled with being a little bit loose in (into the corners), but it was a good run for both of our Chip Ganassi Racing cars. Kyle ended up sixth, and we’re seventh, so I’m pretty excited about that. And we’ll probably get a good pit stall, which is really important here.”
In fact, McMurray’s crew chief, Matt McCall, chose pit stall No. 31, six stalls short of the start/finish line, with the opening to the Sprint Cup garage between McMurray’s stall and pit box No. 30, occupied by Truex, the second-place qualifier. Accordingly, McMurray will have a clean entry into his stall, even if he trails Truex onto pit road.