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Larson looking to close the deal at BMS

Jeff Birchfield • Apr 5, 2019 at 8:40 PM

BRISTOL — Kyle Larson came close, oh so close, to winning the Food City 500 last year.

The driver of the No. 42 Ganassi Racing Chevrolet appeared to be on his way to victory until a late charge by Kyle Busch. With just six laps to go, Busch executed the classic bump-and-run and passed Larson.

Busch pulled away enough so Larson couldn’t repay the favor and drove to victory on Bristol Motor Speedway’s high banks. Making matters worse, Larson ended up runner-up again in the August Night Race to Busch’s older brother, Kurt. After coming so close and with six top-10 finishes in 10 races, Larson is ready for his first Bristol win.

“Bristol is my favorite track and you always want to win at your favorite track,” he said. “I was fortunate to win in the Xfinity Series there after being so close. It’s going to make that moment when you do win extra special. Hopefully, this is the year where it all comes together.”

An added twist this season has Kurt Busch now as Larson’s teammate. With the former champion now on board, the team has shown immediate improvement. For Larson, a 26-year-old California native, it has been a welcome addition.

“Listening to him, what he’s feeling with the race car, he can just drive a race car no matter what track we’re going to,” Larson said. “He’s able to feel every inch of the race track and he’s pretty amazing. I don’t have that feel. I’m listening to him and able to learn off that kind of stuff.”

Larson, a five-time winner in the Cup Series, still competes frequently on the dirt tracks — including this past winter in Australia, where he continues to win races. Asked if there were any bad habits developed in that style of racing when he gets back in the Cup car, Larson was dismissive.

“I don’t know. I think sometimes after I’ve been in a winged sprint car, maybe I’m overaggressive in a stock car,” he said. “I think there are more good habits than bad habits because I think racing any type of car helps.”

He continued that after running the 500-lap races, working with a team and more strategy, it actually makes going back to the shorter races more difficult.

Still, the sprint car racing seems to fit in at Bristol, where drivers like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne are former winners. Larson, known as a driver who likes the high line, finds that Bristol suits his driving style well.

It’s also a place he wishes the Cup Series raced at more often.

“Bristol is a 500-lap race where it’s really, really intense. You have to be aggressive running on the top and the bottom, where you can do the slide jobs and all that. Then with the banking, everybody is running the top at Bristol. I love Bristol. I would run there every Saturday night if I could.”

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