Kyle Larson "feels more comfortable" at road courses

There’s no question, Kyle Larson brought momentum home with him after winning four races over the last two weeks — in both open wheel and stock cars.

Kyle Larson "feels more comfortable" at road courses
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

Larson, who grew up 90-minutes north of Sonoma Raceway, considers the 1.99-mile circuit his home track. And he'll be starting Sunday's race from pole position.

He also believes cutting his teeth on dirt and sprint cars has helped him considerably when it comes to wheeling a 3,350-pound race car around a road course.

“On the ovals, we have the no ride height rules, so they are just stuck to the race track and they are pretty ridged and don’t move around a whole lot, where sprint cars kind of flex around and you can feel the suspension a lot more,” Larson said. “I mean you can look at all the pictures and stuff of the stock cars going around here, I mean the front ends are flying in the air and there is a lot of movement. Like you can feel the grip better, so I think that is why…I feel more comfortable, I guess. 

"I don’t want to say I’m more comfortable coming to a road course than an oval, but I feel like I can understand and feel the car better when I come here. I’m always pretty confident when I go to here or Watkins Glen. I feel like these places feel most similar to a sprint car than our typical ovals do. I feel like I can feel the car better at these places. I don’t have a ton of great finishes, but I typically run up front at this race.”

Larson’s ability to run of front at Sonoma stems from a remarkable average qualifying effort of fourth. And while he’s completed every possible lap in his three-career starts, his best finish to date is 12th, Larson’s finish from 2016.

“From what I remember about this race last year, I ran, I don’t know, fifth to seventh or eighth the whole time,” Larson said. “And then got caught on pit road or we sped and then had to make that up at the end of the race. Didn’t get the finish that we deserved last year, but always run up front. 

“I love coming to these road courses. I think it kind of throws another element into it and these places are kind of driver’s race tracks. I think that is why you see like (AJ) Allmendinger run good here and those guys just because you can make up for your car not handling right.”

Larson’s best road course result was fourth in his Watkins Glen debut. He started from the front row at the Glen last year. Speaking of Allmendinger, the fellow NorCal racer punted Larson, who was running in the top 10, in the closing laps. He finished 29th. 

But with the quality of his cars this season, Larson’s confidence level has risen. And that makes the current Monster Energy Cup Series points leader dangerous.

“I think on the NASCAR side of things I think our race cars have just gotten a lot better this year,” Larson said. “They were pretty good halfway through to the end last year, but throughout the off season we just got our cars a lot better. It’s allowed me to not probably overdrive as much and make mistakes.  

“That part of it has been cool, driving fast race cars and being a contender every week in this series is a big deal.  We have run up front a lot this year and even in my dirt stuff I’ve run up front and contended for wins every time I’ve raced.  It’s just been a really fun year.”

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