Kyle Larson was fast in the first race of the NASCAR Cup Series Round of 12 on September 24 at Texas Motor Speedway but, unfortunately, had little to show for it when the race ended due to a late crash that produced a 31st-place finish. That poor result dropped the Hendrick Motorsports driver dangerously close to the playoff cutline, which is made even more concerning with the next two races at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval.
HMS Vice President of Competition Chad Knaus appeared on the September 27 edition of NASCAR Race Hub and talked about the 2021 Cup Series champion and what he faces in the upcoming playoff races. When shown the No. 5’s statistics at ‘Dega, which include finishing outside of the top 10 in 10 of the last 11 races and five DNFs on the last seven drafting tracks, show host Josh Sims asked the former crew chief if Larson was on the brink of elimination.
Knaus initially paused before letting out a sigh.
“I mean he’s definitely there, but I think he’s fine,” Knaus said. “The cars have been super fast.”
“Speaking of confidence,” fellow guest analyst Clint Bowyer interjected. “There’s no confidence in your voice right there.”
“On the brink, it’s no, no, no. They’re good. They’re good. They’re good,” the Hall of Famer insisted as if trying to convince himself.
“If you keep saying it, you’ll feel good,” Sims suggested.
“They’re not very good at Talladega, it doesn’t look like,” Bowyer added.
“But the cars are fast,” Knaus replied. “The result is always not indicative of the performance. So they can get stage points, they can get themselves in, and they can do what they need to do.”
Kyle Larson Crash at Texas Put Him in Bad Position
Kyle Larson sent a message to his competitors in the first three races of the 2023 playoffs with consecutive top-five finishes, including a win in the opening race at Darlington, which automatically advanced him into the second round.
It appeared to be much of the same to open the Round of 12 in the Lone Star State, with the No. 5 team surging out to big leads on several occasions, including when he won the second stage by more than six seconds. However, in that third and final stage, the 31-year-old pushed his car in a battle with Bubba Wallace and lost, getting loose going into Turn 1 and sliding backward into the outside wall.
His day was done. He finished 31st, and fell to just two points above the playoff cutline.
Is Larson Repeating History?
Interestingly, before this year’s playoffs started, Larson met with reporters on Playoff Media Day and talked about his perspective heading into the postseason.
“I think I’ve kind of had the same mindset my whole career that I’ve ever made the playoffs,” Larson told reporters. “It’s just being consistent and finishing and not make mistakes. You know, last year I had a mistake at the Roval, and it bit me, and it cost us a chance to go win the championship. Be consistent and finish and get good stage points, you can help yourself out quite a bit. That’s the mindset again.”
There are still a couple of races before Charlotte, where he made his costly mistake last season, and he’s already made a big blunder in his 2023 playoff run. Could this one be as detrimental and end his shot at claiming this year’s title? We’ll know for sure in the next two races, but based solely on Knaus’s answer, Larson’s chances of advancing are iffy at best.