NASCAR Cup Series
Kyle Larson Paces NASCAR Cup Practice at Phoenix; Full Practice Results
Mar 11, 2023
It's been a dominant weekend so far for Kyle Larson, the driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Phoenix Raceway. After pacing the lone NASCAR Cup Series practice session on Friday, Larson went out and blistered the field in the opening round of qualifying on Saturday.
In the final round of qualifying, Larson wasn't nearly as dominant, but the end result of him sitting on the pole was never in question.
"It's definitely a blast," Larson said of piloting his No. 5 Chevrolet. "Just a huge thank you to everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and especially on this No. 5 car. For getting a new aero package thrown at them and doing their homework and bringing a fast race car to the track."
Larson says that despite NASCAR bringing an aerodynamic package that has reduced downforce on the NASCAR Next Gen car by 30-to-40%, he hasn't found any noticeable differences from behind the wheel.
"Yeah, I don't. If I didn't know that we had a different aero package, I wouldn't know," Larson smiled. "So, I think that just says a lot about our team and our preparation. Maybe -- I felt like maybe on the exit [of the turns] it was a little bit looser, but as far as dirty air went and all of that, I didn't feel any difference."
Larson's lap in round 2 of NASCAR Cup Series qualifying was a 27.642-second circuit around the 1-mile oval in the Arizona desert, which equates to 130.237 mph.
Denny Hamlin, driving the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry TRD, will start Sunday's United Rentals Work United 500 from the outside of row 1, as Hamlin was just 0.065 seconds shy of Larson's top time in Round 2.
Hamlin was a surprise driver that nearly bested Larson for the pole, as Hamlin was barely inside the top five of group A in round one of qualifying. While Hamlin had a good qualifying run, he's really excited about his chances over the long run.
"We're really optimistic about our long-run speed," Hamlin said.
Hamlin said he would have had the pole had it not been for upsetting Larson in a round of pickleball before qualifying.
"Kyle's just mad because I beat him in pickleball, so he chose to unleash his anger on us in qualifying there. It'll be fun. We'll talk about it here in a little bit," Hamlin joked.
William Byron, Brad Keselowski, and Christopher Bell made up positions three through five.
Ross Chastain, Michael McDowell, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, and Erik Jones rounded out the top 10 qualifiers for Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series event at Phoenix Raceway.
Here is the complete starting lineup for the United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix:
Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images