CONCORD, N.C. -- Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman are looking at last Saturday's race at Richmond Raceway as a learning moment after they both had a rocky start to the second NASCAR Cup Series playoff race.

Larson’s sixth-place finish at the .75-mile track came after starting at the rear for the field during Saturday night’s event due to pre-race inspection issues. His second-place result in stage two yielded him enough playoff points to secure his spot in the Round of 12 for the 2021 playoffs.

“It’s a lot better than we were here at Richmond earlier in the year,” Larson said. “At the beginning of the race, I thought I was going to have a really good shot to win, but we kind of lost the balance there and got it back a little bit there at the end. … To go to Bristol and know that we’re locked in is nice. We’ll try to be aggressive and get a win this week.”

In his first race at Richmond for Hendrick Motorsports last April, Larson crossed the finish line 18th after his team was unable to make the right adjustments during the event. Larson was a lap down in 23rd before the end of stage two and restarted stage three in 25th before pushing toward the 18th-place result.

“As bad as we were the last time we were here, I think to have a win … would be difficult to do,” Larson said. “I think we exceeded what I thought we would do here. I thought it would be a good day to run around 10th.”

Teammate Alex Bowman finished 12th at Richmond as he and the No. 48 team worked to adjust the car to the track throughout the race. Even though Bowman took the checkered flag at Richmond in April, marking the first of his three wins in 2021, the tweaks throughout the playoff race made it difficult for Bowman to pick off positions and advance up the field.

“We struggled to start,” Bowman said. “We were really good at the end of stage two. We didn’t make any adjustments and we were really bad at the beginning of stage three. … I feel like we did a good job throughout the course of the race at getting our car better from where we started.”

Bowman now sits tied for 12th with Kurt Busch in the playoff race as the NASCAR Cup Series approaches the final event in the first round. The field heads to Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 18 to hash it out for the final spots in the Round of 12.

“We just didn’t end where we needed to end,” Bowman said. “(We are) on the bubble going into Bristol, but just have to go do my job and hopefully we have a fast Ally Camaro there and go get the job done.”