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Friday December 15th, 2017 6:44PM

Kyle Larson salvages a tenth place finish at Charlotte

By Reid Spencer-NASCAR Wire Service
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CONCORD, N.C. - Kyle Larson scored a top-10 in Sunday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but the driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet left the first race in the Round of 12 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff knowing he should have done better with one of the fastest cars on the track.

Larson ran in the top five early on but missed his pit stall on the first pass down pit road, requiring a return trip and a resulting loss of track position. He recovered and climbed back toward the front.

Larson subsequently led laps 268 through 279, but he lost 10 spots on pit road when his rear tire carrier tripped over the hose to an air gun during a stop under caution on lap 327, and the tire changer had difficulty removing the lugs from the left rear.

A pair of less-than-stellar restarts late in the race – not to mention contact from Kurt Busch’s spinning car on lap 335 – relegated Larson to a 10th-place result that could and should have been better.

“I felt like I had a car to win,” Larson said. “I made a mistake on pit road early. We rebounded from that. And then we had a costly mistake late and somewhat rebounded; but then those last two restarts didn’t go my way…

“Disappointing, but we fought hard.”

Larson enters next Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway second in the series standings, but he’s 34 points behind points leader and Charlotte race winner Martin Truex, Jr.

Despite Leading The Most Laps, Kevin Harvick Finishes Third

For the first half of Sunday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kevin Harvick looked unbeatable. Wresting the lead from Chase Elliott after a restart on lap 52, Harvick swept both the first and second stages of the first race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff’s Round of 12—his first stage wins since he swept both the first and second stages on March 5 at Atlanta.

But late in the race, when the traction compound applied to the track began to lose some of its bite, Harvick couldn’t run his preferred line as effectively and finished third behind winner Martin Truex, Jr. and Elliott. A slow stop near the end of the race – on lap 327 of 337 – also proved costly, to the tune of four positions.

“That’s about where we were going to run, second or third,” Harvick said. “We just kind of lost a little bit of the track there as the VHT (traction compound) started to wear off in the second half of the race.”

From a restart on lap 284 to a caution on lap 325, Harvick chased Truex relentlessly, closing up to his bumper in turn 3 roughly midway through the run. But Harvick couldn’t pass the eventual race winner.

“I would get close, and then I would get loose, and as the day went I just got looser on the entrance to the corners,” said Harvick, who led a race-high 149 laps. “The car started bouncing really bad and started losing grip as the VHT went away and kind of lost what I had at the beginning of the race – to arc it into the corner and do all the things I needed to do to get through the middle of the corner and be in the throttle.

“I knew where I was running was kind of questionable as to how long it would last, and the entry was the first part that gave up for me, and I just had to be really cautious getting in there. that’s why I lost my speed from the first half of the race.”

Pit Road Miscue Costs Jimmie Johnson Valuable Points

After running seventh in Sunday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is in a precarious position heading to the second race in the Round of 12 at Talladega Superspeedway, a track he doesn’t relish.

Johnson had worked his way into the top five before a snafu on pit road dropped him to 16th for a restart on lap 284 of 337. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet had to wait several extra seconds while the lug nuts on the left front tire were tightened after the car had started to leave the pit box.

“We worked our way up to fourth and then had a little miscue on pit road and restarted 16th or something and got back up to seventh,” Johnson said. “Decent progress. The car was not easy to drive and not fun to drive, but my conditions were a lot better than the other guys, and I could work my way back up through there.”

Nevertheless, Johnson is seventh in the series standings and a mere eight points ahead of ninth-place Matt Kenseth facing the uncertainty and potential peril of a restrictor-plate race.

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