CONCORD, N.C. -- After taking home his eighth points-paying win in Sunday’s event at Texas Motor Speedway, Kyle Larson earned a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 race for the first time in his career.
While Larson relished in his successful day in the first Round of 8 race, the 29-year-old driver is taking things one step at a time before he focuses on the final round of the playoffs. That starts with this weekend’s playoff event.
“My mind is on Kansas,” Larson said. “I want to go there and win. I want to go there, lead a bunch of laps and try and get another win, then look forward to Martinsville. I don’t want to change up what we have been doing.”
Larson took the checkered flag at Sunday’s race in Texas after leading the race on three separate occasions for a combined 256 laps, including the final 218 laps. Crew chief Cliff Daniels and Larson used strategy and a little help from the drivers behind him to break away from the pack each time after a whopping seven restarts in stage three.
“I think Kyle knew the moves he needed to make on the restarts to get a good push to try and get out front by the time he got to turns one and two, or at least off of two, and he did it every time,” Daniels said. “He did a great job controlling the front row of the race and being able to get clear off of turn two – that was a big deal. He did such a good job executing at the end. So proud of him – it was cool to see.”
Daniels is aware he must keep his team focused on the next race at Kansas before they can prepare for the championship event at Phoenix Raceway in three weeks. While it would be easy to become complacent with a Championship 4 spot already reserved for Larson, Daniels alluded that sitting back and relaxing isn’t the No. 5 team’s style.
“We still have to go have a good run in Kansas; we definitely want to have a good run in Martinsville,” Daniels said. “We have had that one circled for a while to go have a good run there because we, as a team, feel like we have something to prove. Hopefully, we can do that. We will be focused on Phoenix, but we want to have some good races in the meantime.”
Even though Larson plans to compete as he normally would, the California native admitted that there is a sense of relief that he won’t feel the pressure to punch his ticket into the final playoff round over the next two weeks. It will be a change of pace compared to the start of the playoffs where there were some down-to-the-wire moments for the No. 5 team. There were some points during the race at the Charlotte ROVAL where he was below the playoff bubble and his chance of winning a title was in jeopardy.
“It’s great to be locked in and to start the round locked in,” Larson said. “The other rounds, we won the cutoff race so it was really cool to come out here and open the Round of 8 with a win and not necessarily look any more forward to Phoenix, but we can have a lot less stress these next couple of weeks. We had an awesome car and hopefully we can finish off the season with a championship in Phoenix.”