By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
He may not be locked into his first Chase Berth just yet, but Kyle Larson took a huge step toward securing his first chance at battling for a championship in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Larson started the day 19th in the championship standings, and kept himself in a position for a top-10 finish all day long. He rolled off from the grid in the 10th position, and at a track where it’s hard to pass, that helped Larson stay in the top-10 virtually all race long.
“The Energizer Chevy was good from the start, which helps. We qualified good for once, and it was just a solid weekend. It was a good one,” Larson said after the race.
As the Brickyard 400 reached the penultimate laps, a big crash with six laps to go brought out the red flag. Larson at this moment, sat ninth. It was looking like an alright afternoon. After a few more caution flags, which included an overtime period, Larson was able to knife his way through the carnage to score a fifth place finish, for what turned out to be a huge points day.
“I don’t know that I was expecting much more than a top-five really. I didn’t know we’d have that speed in our car,” Larson explained, “And we were probably a fifth or seventh-place car. But I was able to get some good restarts there at the end. It was just a solid day for the whole Target team.”
Fortunately for Larson, just about every driver he was chasing in the point standings had huge issues as the final laps clicked off Sunday. Ryan Newman had a pair of crashes. Larson’s teammate Jamie McMurray was involved in a crash as well. So too were Trevor Bayne and Ryan Blaney.
As a result of all of those wild circumstances, Larson’s fifth place finish now moves him to the final spot in the Chase Grid with just six races left until the start of NASCAR’s version of the playoffs. Larson has a ten point cushion heading into Pocono Raceway next weekend.
It’s an incredible recovery for what seemed like a lost season not all that long ago for Larson. After 11 races, Larson ranked 21st in the point standings, and he hadn’t really shown much speed. Then came a stirring second-place effort at Dover. Larson followed that race up by winning the Sprint Showdown, which got him into the Sprint All-Star race, which he nearly won, but a failed tire late ruined a shot at victory.
However, since that two race stretch, Larson has become much more competitive, and now he is in position to control his own destiny as far as the Chase is concerned.