|Rain gives rookie Larson top spot at Richmond|
|Friday, April 25, 2014 8:24 PM|
By HANK KURZ Jr.
RICHMOND, Va. — Kyle Larson still wants to earn a pole position on his own but he’s not complaining about being handed his first one.
The rookie will start in the top spot tonight in the NASCAR race at Richmond International Raceway after a thunderstorm washed out qualifying.
“I’m still happy,” he said Friday. “But yeah it would be nice to get a legit pole. I don’t know if we would have gotten it had it not rained.”
Actually, he probably wouldn’t have.
The field was set based on the fastest laps run in the first practice and Larson had his best run his the third of his 70 laps around the 0.75-mile oval. His top lap of 126.880 mph easily beat runner-up Brad Keselowski, whose best came at 126.192 mph, and No. 3 starter Clint Bowyer (125.900 mph).
The top starting spot comes in just the 13th Sprint Cup Series race for Larson, including eight this season.
When the team worked on qualifying in the final practice session, “We were seven-tenths slower than our lap that we laid down in first practice and almost two-and-a-half tenths slower than the fastest guy in second practice. I doubt we would have been on the pole but I will take it how we get it.”
Unlike Larson, Keselowski’s starting spot is not unusual. The race will mark the seventh time in nine races he has started in the top five.
“We would still like to qualify and have a shot at the pole but we foresaw this coming and put a little extra emphasis in the practice sessions to get a good run out of it and a good spot and I am glad to see that kind of panned out for us,” Keselowski said, referring to forecasts for rain during the day.
Bowyer and Kasey Kahne complete the second row and the top 10 also will include defending race winner Kevin Harvick in fifth, followed by Brian Vickers, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Truex, Paul Menard and Jimmie Johnson. Jeff Gordon, the points leader through eight races, will start 25th.
September villain Bowyer happy to be at Richmond: Clint Bowyer sounds happy to be back at Richmond.
NASCAR’s last visit here in September 2013 threatened Bowyer’s popularity with the fans when he spun intentionally with seven laps to go, causing a jumble in the race standings — and in NASCAR’s playoffs
Bowyer went from second in the standings heading into the Chase for the Sprint Cup to admittedly being distracted by a NASCAR investigation that led to fines and suspensions against Michael Waltrip Racing.
By the time the Chase was two races old, Bowyer was essentially out of contention.
“The fan base, Twitter and things like that — I took a beating for a while but we weathered the storm, it’s behind us and it’s a lot of fun to interact with those fans whether it’s good or bad,” he said. “It’s all positive interaction as far as I’m concerned because they are talking about our sport.”
Bowyer, who got married during the week off for Easter, would like to leave them talking again tonight for another reason: his third career victory at a favored track.
“Looking back over the years, you always have a track that fits your driving style and your confidence level is more for some reason and this has always been the case for me,” he said before practice. “I’m looking forward to having another good run here and shaking that off from last year.”
Winless through eight races and with only two top-10 finishes, Bowyer is 16th in points and eager to get that victory most drivers think will be a free pass into the 16-driver Chase format this year.
And, he says, the numbers are more dire than his team’s actual performance. He counts Martinsville, Texas and California as tracks where he was right in the thick of contention until something happened.
“It’s definitely been that kind of year,” he explained.
As for his new status as a married man, it has been one big celebration, starting with a number of friends in the Bahamas — “They knew we were there. Just put it that way” — to more fun once he got home.
“It was a lot of fun. Train wreck is what it would kind of be considered, too,” he added.
|Last Updated on Friday, April 25, 2014 8:28 PM|