One would think that with Kyle Larson’s tenure at Hendrick Motorsports still relatively young, a training weekend would be beneficial. No.
“Honestly, with how good we are, I’d rather not have a practice,” Larson said. “I feel like where we are in car 5 we probably have more to lose with practice – we’re just confused. Like going for a run, going in and making a change, going over there and being on cycled tires, and it doesn’t drive the way you want it to, then you panic and make big adjustments.
“We stuck to our game plan (Friday) and only did a 20-lap race, and we’re going to look at our scores and see the little tweaks to be made. I think a lot of times in practice there is room to be gained, but more often than not, at least my story, I feel like we stand out in practice.
Larson was third fastest in Friday’s solo practice session at Charlotte Motor Speedway ahead of the Coca-Cola 600 (Sunday, 6 p.m. ET, FOX). In one-car qualifying on Saturday morning, Larson backed that race by winning pole in NASCAR’s longest race.
The No.5 team is on a hot streak entering Charlotte as Larson has been the finalist in the last three Cup Series races. He hopes history will repeat itself because the last time Larson did so, at the start of the 2017 season, he won the following week.
Charlotte hasn’t been one of Larson’s best homers, with four top-10 finishes in his 11 previous starts. However, he admits having a little more confidence this weekend given the wave of momentum he’s in and the fact that all four Hendrick cars are performing well. The company has won the last two races in which it swept the top four places in Dover and the top two places in the Circuit of The Americas.
“It’s great,” Larson said of the dynamics within the organization. “Every week here lately it seems like in the competition meetings someone has won or has had a really good chance of winning, and it hasn’t worked. Everything has been positive so far. Even Richmond, a few of us were really bad, and [Alex] Bowman won, so it was still a good meeting.
“We all get along well; we all run well together, and I think last week was really our first week of practice and then kind of a debriefing. This week, with normal practice without rain, we will have a good debriefing session, and I think we will learn more from each other this way. At least for me to be with these guys for the first time.
Larson’s early success and ability to wrestle every weekend feels a bit familiar. He compared it to 2017 when he was with Chip Ganassi Racing, as this season he has also come out of the box strong and finished with four wins.
“I would like to go back and see how many leading laps I have had at this point in the season and everything. I know I have already had a victory, ”said Larson. “Lots of finishes in second place. It’s really similar. And I just remember being excited to go to the circuit because everywhere we went I felt like we were going to have a chance to win.
In 14 races in 17, Larson finished second in the points standings with one win, 616 laps led, five second places and six top-five standings.
Along with his team Hendrick, Larson is third in the standings with one win, 778 laps led, four second places and nine in the top five.
“(Another reason it feels similar) At the start of the year, I didn’t know we were going to be that good, and it’s the same this year,” Larson continued. “I didn’t know we were going to be that good because I was going to a new team. So I would say it looks a lot like this year so far.
“We managed to get four wins back then and we had some bad luck in the playoffs; I hope we can get a lot of wins and have more playoff luck this time around.
The good news for Larson is that there will be practice on four other race weekends this season – Nashville, Road America, Indianapolis Road Course and Phoenix. The final in Phoenix is the only race with practice in the playoffs.