By Matt Weaver, Special Contributor
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — For all his accolades as a driver, not to mention the 2021 Cup Series championship, Kyle Larson still feels woefully under-prepared for superspeedway races.
And while it’s just six races, one of them is in the playoffs and another is the Daytona 500, and he undoubtedly wants to add the latter to his extensive resume of multidiscipline victories. To wit, he is already doing the little things to make himself better this year prior to the Great American Race.
Earlier in the week, Larson texted spotter Tyler Monn and asked what he was doing on Thursday prior to the Duel at Daytona qualifying races.
‘Not a lot,’ Moon more or less told him.
‘Come to the motorhome,’ Larson said, paraphrasing. ‘We’re going to watch the entire race from last year.’
Larson is convinced that his results at Daytona and Talladega are not the product of fortune but his instincts and the decisions he and his various spotters over the years have made together.
“I need to do a better job of putting myself in the right spot,” Larson said. “I used to always say, ‘oh, I’ve got bad luck at these places,’ and stuff. I don’t think those guys that are always in contingent have better luck than me. I think they’re putting themselves in a better position to avoid crashes.
“I seem to always find my way to around 10th, and that’s kind of where you get swarmed up in a crash. Just got to continue to try and evolve and figure it out quickly to be up upfront.”
He has just four top-5s at Talladega and three at Daytona over a decade worth of starts. He believes, it was purely a matter of fortune, there would have been highs that matched the lows, but it’s mostly been a lot of carnage for him across stints at Chip Ganassi Racing and Hendrick Motorsports.
“Everybody’s got a shot to win that you, that, that brings along some optimism but I’ve also crashed a lot,” Larson said. “I’m pretty optimistic that I’ll crash at some point. It’s definitely a unique style of racing and one that I haven’t quite figured out yet. I’ve had good races where I’m like, ‘Okay, I’ve got a handle on this,” and then come back the next time you crash on like lap 20, and you’re like, ‘Okay, no I don’t.’
“It’s unique. It’s hard to study for because it changes. Almost every time you go, you go back to a place where setups evolve, cars evolve, so it’s hard. There’s a handful of guys that seem to always be up front no matter what generation car it is or what rules package it may be. They just have a good understanding of it.
“I think the best thing to do is just piggyback off of those guys and just stay glued to their rear bumper and go wherever they do. I don’t really know like how to answer these questions because I haven’t quite figured it out.”
Larson is the defending pole winner of the race and Hendrick Motorsports have been the undisputed kings of time trials on superspeedways over the past decade. Larson knows he will have a car capable of winning.
He just wants to figure out how to match it and that process begins on Thursday morning with Monn in the motorhome.
“I think what gives me confidence is that Hendrick Motorsports has always been in contention for the pole,” Larson said. “It was a definitely a cool experience last year getting to lead the field to the green, and would love to experience that again today, to get the pole tonight.
“I’m just going to try and do my part and not miss any shifts, hold a steady wheel, and hopefully that’s enough to get us a pole.”