CONCORD, N.C. – When the No. 17 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro makes its final NASCAR Xfinity Series start of the 2023 season at Darlington Raceway on Saturday, it will be Kyle Larson behind the wheel of the ride for the second time this season.
"I love Darlington and I love running the Xfinity car around that track," Larson said. "That’s why I chose that place was just to have some fun. Hopefully, this year we can win it. We were close last year and I would love to get a win in the No. 17 car."
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In six NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Darlington, Larson has one win, three top-five finishes, six top-10s and an average finish of 4.8. The victory came in May when he drove the No. 10 Chevrolet (for Kaulig Racing) and beat John Hunter Nemechek in one of the best finishes of the season. Last September, Larson nearly won at the 1.366-mile track in the No. 17 Chevy. He rallied from two laps down to hold the lead coming to the white flag, but last-lap contact saw him finish fifth. In his Xfinity career, Larson has 14 wins.
A win on Saturday would also be the 500th win across all three NASCAR national series for the Hendrick Motorsports engine department. That would be a crowning achievement to be the driver of record.
"You always want to be that team to accomplish great things at a very legendary team like Hendrick Motorsports," Larson said. "We got 269 (for Hendrick Motorsports' NASCAR Cup Series wins milestone with the 2021 Coca-Cola 600 win at Charlotte Motor Speedway). If I could get 500 for the engine shop that would be pretty neat."
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Larson’s Xfinity Series start comes the day before the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs begin at the South Carolina track. On the Cup side of things, Darlington has been his best playoff track with five top-five finishes, seven top-10s, 715 laps led and an average finish of 10.2 in 11 starts. In 2021, he tallied two runner-up finishes there and was battling for the lead in the 2023 spring race before late-race contact took him out of contention.
Thus far in 2023, the No. 17 HendrickCars.com entry has come oh-so-close to victory lane. William Byron earned a runner-up finish at Circuit of The Americas in March, Larson finished third at Sonoma Raceway in June and Chase Elliott came home third at Pocono Raceway in July. Alex Bowman placed ninth at Watkins Glen International in August.
"I’m surprised none of us have won in it yet," Larson said of the No. 17 Chevy doing nearly everything but winning this year. "Every time we’ve gotten in it, we’ve all been really fast and had a shot to win. I know it’s going to be fast. We were fast there last year. Darlington is just a great track for me. I think we will be good. If I can just keep it out of the wall and not doing anything crazy, we should have a good shot."
Greg Ives will be the crew chief for the effort. This will be his first race with Larson as Kevin Meendering served as the crew chief in Sonoma, while Ives was with the Garage 56 team in France for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The No. 17 car number carries a rich history and special significance to the organization. NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip drove it to nine Cup Series wins for the team from 1987 to 1990, including in the 1989 DAYTONA 500. The car number was also driven by Ricky Hendrick in various races, including in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series in 2000 and 2001. This year, the HendrickCars.com paint scheme is again based on the No. 17 truck driven by Hendrick during his 2001 rookie season.
In its history, Hendrick Motorsports has won one Xfinity Series championship and earned 26 wins in the series. The organization's four races in 2022 marked its first action in the series since 2009 when Tony Stewart took home the checkered flag at Daytona International Speedway. In its eight combined races in the series in 2022 and 2023, the No. 17 team has three poles, three runner-up finishes, six top-fives, seven top-10s and 138 laps led.
Tune in to watch Larson and the No. 17 team compete at the track "Too Tough to Tame," on Saturday, Sept. 2, at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.