ThatsRacin

Kyle Larson can’t get over $1 million hump in NASCAR All-Star Race

Eventual winner Joey Logano, right, catches Kyle Larson heading into Turn 1 of Charlotte Motor Speedway during the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday.
Eventual winner Joey Logano, right, catches Kyle Larson heading into Turn 1 of Charlotte Motor Speedway during the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

CONCORD Kyle Larson had a million reasons to feel dejected after Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.

In the span of the final 13-lap segment at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Larsen went from a spectacular pass for the lead to battling Joey Logano to keep it.

While Logano went on to win NASCAR’s annual all-star race – and the $1 million check that went with it – Larson finished 16th after smacking the wall with two laps remaining.

“I’m disappointed – I feel like I keep letting my guys down,” Larson said. “Everybody at the race shop has been working hard and getting the race cars a lot better.

“It’s been fun recently, running up front and contending for wins. I’ve just got to figure out how to do it.”

I’m disappointed – I feel like I keep letting my guys down.

NASCAR driver Kyle Larson

Larson, 23 and in his third full season with car owner Chip Ganassi, has been getting closer and closer.

He made the Sprint All-Star Race by winning a fender-banging, last-lap duel with rookie Chase Elliott in the third and final segment of the Sprint Showdown on Saturday morning.

That put Larson starting 18th in the 20-car field, but he didn’t stay back there long.

He climbed to ninth by the end of the opening 50-lap segment, and overcame nearly spinning out early in the second 50-lap segment to take the lead with six laps remaining.

Larson was shoved back in the field after the top 11 finishers in the second segment all had to pit for four times – one of the unique twists added to this year’s race.

However, when Jimmie Johnson – who went from 12th to first after the leaders’ pit stops – struggled off the line at the restart, Larson went low and made a four-wide pass to regain the lead.

“I did not expect for a hole to open like that,” said Larson, who was third on the restart. “I thought I had to race for a couple laps, but I was able to get to the lead.”

However, Larson wouldn’t stay there.

Logano, who restarted fifth, caught up and raced him side-by-side for a couple laps before Larson’s Chevrolet bounced off the first-turn wall with two laps remaining.

“I thought clean air would be everything there, on four tires there, you know?” Larson said. “But Joey was really good there on that last run. I thought I was better than him most of the race.

“I feel bad, but it’s good that we’ve got some fast race cars right now.”

Larson entered the weekend coming off a runner-up finish at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, the fourth of his career and first since his rookie season in 2014.

On Saturday night, Larson was in position to go one better – even if it was a non-points race.

“It’s definitely been positive, especially the way we’ve been running the last few weeks,” Larson said. “The momentum has been building and building, and it’s been fun.

“This was a fun race, but I wish I could’ve done some things different there. I was doing all I could, but Joey was just a little better and was able to outrace me.”

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