Kyle Larson looks to tame Raceway in NASCAR’s new Next Gen Car
By Hunter Thomas
Kyle Larson has finished runner-up in the past three races at Darlington Raceway, and on Sunday, he’s hoping that his seat time with NASCAR’s new Next Gen car will help him reach Victory Lane in the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400.
Back in March, Larson, as well as Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, participated in a Goodyear tire test at the track, Too Tough To Tame.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver is known to run the high line around the egg-shaped track, but even during testing, Larson earned a Darlington Stripe when he backed his Chevrolet into the wall during the first run of the day; however, the damage was minor and the team continued.
Following the test, Larson noted that driving around Darlington will be even more challenging and fun thanks to the Next Gen car.
“It has been fun so far,” Larson said. “I backed it into the fence first run. These things are a handful to drive here. Thankfully there wasn’t much damage, we were able to make some more runs. Darlington is always hard, but it’s extra hard with this Next Gen car. I think the Darlington races this year are going to be longest, toughest races of the year. I think that’s fun for us drivers, and I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully we’ll see this place packed.”
So far this season, we have seen even veteran drivers struggle during practice and throughout the first 10 races of the season. By popular demand, the Next Gen car was designed to test the skills of competitors in order to produce the best action on the track. That being said, it didn’t take long for Larson to find Victory Lane. He won the second race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in California.
“Yeah, it’s definitely edgy,” said Larson after his win in February at Auto Club Speedway. “Honestly I enjoyed it more than I thought I was going to. I thought dirty air was going to be really bad behind people, and it didn’t seem way worse or different than normal. … I thought the runs were equally as big if not bigger down the frontstretch. Restarts were still crazy.”
In 2022, Larson has found success while piloting the Next Gen car. Following his win at Auto Club Speedway, he finished runner-up at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The month of March wasn’t kind to Larson as he finished outside of the top-25 at Phoenix, Atlanta and Circuit of The Americas; however, he bounced back to finish fifth at Richmond, 19th at Martinsville and fourth at Bristol Dirt and Talladega.
When it comes to Darlington Raceway, Larson has found significant success over past four years.
Since 2018, Larson has amassed three second-place finishes and a third in four races at the track, Too Tough To Tame.
His average finish is 5.5 for his entire NASCAR Cup Series career at the track. Hendrick Motorsports’ stable is historically very strong at Darlington, so look for the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion to be a contender on Sunday.
Darlington Raceway’s first weekend of the year will be held May 6-8 as all three of NASCAR’s national series are set to take on the Lady in Black. The Goodyear 400 will broadcast live on Sunday, May 8, at 3:30 p.m. on FS1 and MRN.