NASCAR Cup Series
Tyler Reddick Will Fight For Playoffs Life From the Pole at the Charlotte ROVAL
Oct 7, 2023
Kyle Larson enters Sunday's Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway 15 points above the NASCAR Cup Series cutline, but he starts the day behind the eight ball after a crash in practice on Saturday.
Auto racing is such a bitterly tough game sometimes. You can never truly feel like you have anything sewed up, because as soon as you do, the sport will humble you.
At the end of last Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series Yellawood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, Larson escaped the day with a 15-point advantage over the Playoff cutline. Heading into a road course rumble at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, it appeared that Larson, who has been one of the best road racers in the sport, should be relatively safe.
Well, about that. Fast forward to Saturday, and Larson had a disastrous start to the final race weekend of the Round of 12 of the Playoffs.
Toward the end of Group A's practice session in the early afternoon around the 2.28-mile road layout inside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Larson lost control and popped the outside wall in what is Turn 1 of the oval layout of the track. The damage from the incident was severe enough to force the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team to go to a backup car, and it ended any chance for additional on-track time for Larson on the day.
Here is a video of the crash that will cause Larson to start Sunday's pivotal tilt from the rear of the field:
The Charlotte ROVAL, of course, signaled the end of Larson's NASCAR Cup Series championship defense a season ago. In that event, Larson made a mistake on the exit of Turn 7, which caused him to break the toe link in his rear suspension.
What looked like a solid day last fall, ended up in a disappointing 35th-place result. And it was the nail in the coffin for Larson's 2022 championship quest.
After the crash in practice on Saturday, Larson held a conversation with the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway where he admitted that while he doesn't dislike the ROVAL, the track layout is extremely difficult to perfect from the driver's seat.
"It's just a tough place," Larson explained. "It's been -- I don't know. I've just had some mistakes here, I guess. But still a fun place, and I enjoy coming to it."
As far as the accident on Saturday is concerned, Larson says the car just broke loose on him and snapped around.
"Yeah, and then I over-corrected," Larson added.
Compounding the issues for Larson, who will start in the rear of the field, is the fact that three drivers, who are outside of the cutline, will start from inside the top five on Sunday, and one of them is polesitter Tyler Reddick.
While starting in the rear is never the objective, Larson takes solace in the fact that he now knows that he is worried about trying to maximize his overall finish instead of battling throughout the event for Stage Points.
"It makes it a little more straightforward," Larson said. "I think it'll be really hard to pass, so, we'll not be able to get Stage points. Hopefully, we'll at least inch our way forward and be towards the front come Stage 3 to get a good points day that way."
While it feels straightforward, Larson does admit at a wildcard track like the ROVAL, the unexpected could still occur throughout the day, which could allow him to gain additional points throughout the race.
"But you never know, there could be some cautions that happen in the middle of Stage, that could shake some things up and you may be able to get some Stage points," Larson stated. "But don't really know until the race plays out."
How will the race play out for Kyle Larson? We'll see on Sunday.
Photo Credit: Tyson Gifford, Racing America