For the second week in a row, Kyle Larson had to start from the back of the pack, but just like last weekend at Kentucky, Larson drove right up through the field, bringing home a second-place finish on Sunday afternoon at New Hampshire.
“It’s a little frustrating what we have had to go through the last couple of weeks, but it’s pretty awesome to be able to run as fast as we have and finish second the last two weeks from dead last,” said Larson. “I’m proud of our team, proud of everybody at our race shop. I can’t thank my sponsors Target, Credit One Bank and all of our other supporters enough for what they do for our team. It’s been a lot of fun these last couple of weeks to be as fast as we have been, so keep working hard at it and maybe we can get some more wins.”
Though Larson scored the pole on Friday afternoon, his time was disallowed when the rear deck fin was found to be too low, dropping him to shotgun on the field when the green flag flew. Even with a 39th place start, Larson showed early that he would be a contender throughout the day, breaking into the top-10 just 30 laps into the Overton’s 301.
By the end of stage 1, Larson had climbed up to third place. Stage 2 wasn’t quite as fruitful as Larson only managed a ninth-place finish.
Stage 3 went Larson’s way again as he got to the lead for one lap on lap 238 as green flag pit stops were cycling out and kept himself in the top-five as the laps wound down.
When the final caution flag flew, Larson followed the lead of several of the other leaders by taking four fresh tires, giving him an advantage on those that would restart at the very front of the field.
While Denny Hamlin had taken over the lead, Larson was picking off the drivers in front of him, powering his way to second place and closing the gap between himself and Hamlin as the checkered flag grew nearer. Though he closed to within a few car lengths of Hamlin, lapped traffic would come into play and gave Hamlin just enough of an advantage to hold off Larson in the end.
The runner-up finish was the seventh of the season for Larson and his No. 42 team, as they continue to show that they are one of the teams to beat week in and week out.
“I thought I was catching him at a good pace, but once I would get closer to him, I would get in his dirty air a little bit and get tight. But, I felt like if I had maybe five, eight more laps I could have gotten to his back bumper and maybe did something. He is probably the best short track racer there is out here. Especially, when it comes to short, flat tracks, but for me to get beat by him is not a cool thing, but I’m proud of that because Denny Hamlin, like I said is really good at this stuff.”
Though he wasn’t able to claim the victory, the finish has to be a morale booster for the team as it comes just days after post-race penalties from Kentucky parked crew chief Chad Johnston for three races, as well as the team losing 35 driver and owner points, which dropped Larson out of the points lead.
Leaving New Hampshire, the deficit between Larson and points leader Martin Truex, Jr. grew to 38 points heading to next weekend’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.