Over the opening three months of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, anything and everything has gone wrong for Kyle Larson. But in Monday’s (May 6) Gander RV 400, the No. 42 team put a full race together at Dover International Speedway.
Larson was fast all weekend, qualifying third and having the best consecutive 10-lap average in final practice. During the race, the No. 42 was a mainstay around the top five, taking the opening two stages in four and sixth, respectively.
In the final stage, Larson raced around fifth. But during a cycle of green flag pit stops, the No. 42 shot ahead of Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott, where he would take the checkered flag in third, his first top-five finish of 2019.
“We were a top five car all race long,” Larson said. “There were moments where I thought I was maybe the best car. Early in the runs we were pretty good. Middle of runs we would fade, and then toward the end I’d be good again.
“It was nice to finally get a clean weekend. We are 11 or 12 weeks into the season and this was the first weekend we’ve had with no issues. Happy about that, and hopefully we can start having weekends like this every week.”
Over the course of the first 10 races, Larson had a problem in every single one of them with the exception of ISM Raceway, finishing sixth. Heading into Dover, the No. 42 had crashed out in three of four races, albeit making it to the final lap in last week’s race at Talladega Superspeedway before ending the race upside down on the backstretch.
Since Phoenix, Larson had an average finish of 24.8, dropping 15 positions in the championship standings to 21st. With a third-place effort at Dover, he jumped up six positions in points, now sitting 15th.
“It helps your confidence and all that,” Larson said. “We got Kansas [Speedway] coming up, and it’s a good track for us. We were really fast there [last year]. Look forward to that and then All-Star weekend is fun. We’ll be having some fun here.”
As for Dover and the new rules package, Larson said he was having a hard time getting through lapped traffic, making it hard to pass lead-lap cars for position.
“I would just get stuck four car lengths back and I couldn’t move up to get around them [lead-lap cars] because the runs I’d be tight, I’d just get tighter,” Larson added. “The runs I’d be loose, I’d just get looser. I kind of had to ride behind them until they made a mistake or caught traffic and I could get around them. That was frustrating.”
The Cup Series heads to Kansas next weekend, where Larson had a pair of top-five finishes in the races last season, including a stage victory in the spring race. In 10 careers starts at the track he has an average finish of 17.5.