CHICAGO, Ill. — It was an eventful Saturday in the Xfinity Series for Cup Series regular Kyle Larson — he won the pole for Saturday’s Overtons 300 at Chicagoland. His team then had to change tires before the race, sending him to the back of the field. But Larson was able to work his way through the field to take the win Saturday.
“We had a right front tire going down at the end of qualifying,” Larson said after the race. “Goodyear gave us one fresh tire on the right front, and that made us really lose on the first run. I took my time getting to the front. I thought I would get there a little quicker than I did, but even when I ran the top it was really sketchy.”
“We got in the wall just barely a few times,” Larson said, adding that team owner Chip Ganassi gets “anxiety” when he runs the car on the top line like that. “We were able to keep the right side somewhat clean.”
Larson said the long run was key to the victory.
“Once we got a long run in and we got to the top I knew I’d eat them up,” he said. “I’m surprised they didn’t fight me very hard. But it was nice to not have to race hard and make a mistake or anything.”
Larson was able to work his way through the field to finish the first stage in sixth place. He then won the second stage. On the last restart with 84 laps to go, Kevin Harvick jumped out to the lead. But Larson, who had a better long-run car all day, was able to jump out to the lead.
After green flag pit stops and an attempt by Brandon Jones to stretch the fuel in hopes of a caution, Larson reassumed the lead where he stayed until the checkered flag, finishing eight seconds ahead of Harvick in second. Cole Custer finished third, Daniel Suarez in fourth and Daniel Hemric in fifth.
The win was Larson’s 10th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and his second for the season.
Harvick acknowledged after the race that his car was better on the shorter run.
“The handling was great on the last stop, probably better than it was the stop before,” Harvick said. “We were just a 1-25 (lap car), and not a 25-50.”
Suarez, drinking a Coca-Cola after the race, wouldn’t go so far as to complain about the heat, while several other drivers were headed to the infield care center for IVs.
“It was warm,” Suarez said. “It was warm for sure.”
Larson said he wasn’t concerned about dealing with the heat again Sunday in the Cup race, saying he tends to struggle more on Saturdays with the heat than on Sundays.
“Even if Sunday’s hotter than Saturday, I always seem to be fine in the Cup race,” he said.
He said he feels like the driver cooling system in the Cup car works better than in the Xfinity car, and he even questioned today whether the one in his car was working.
“I felt like it wasn’t working today,” he said. “I did turn it off once to see if it was working and it was working, it just wasn’t working very well.”
He said he might consider getting an IV tonight to prepare for Sunday’s Cup race, but that he’s not a big fan of needles, so he’ll have to think about it.
Whether he will be able to sneak a win Sunday and sweep the Xfinity and Cup races, Larson said it will depend how the day plays out.
“I mean, I think there’s a decent opportunity,” he said. “Cup races are so hard to win. I feel like this race will be won around the bottom. The Xfinity cars are easier to run around the top.”
He said he feels like the preferred line Sunday will be around the bottom of the track on both ends, which is where Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick run so well.
“I think we have a top-five car,” Larson said.
Chase Elliott went to the care center after the race for fluids and was treated and released.
“I feel a lot better now,” Elliott said. “Those IVs make you feel like a million bucks. Just really hot this afternoon. Those cars always seem a bit hotter than the Cup cars.”