It could be argued that “Lady in Black” owes Kyle Larson.
Nine times the Hendrick Motorsports driver has competed in NASCAR Cup Series races at Darlington (S.C) Raceway.
Out of those, Larson has finished in the top five on five occasions. That includes three straight runner-up finishes, including both of the 2021 races at the track.
You may remember what happened there a year ago in the Southern 500. After many laps spent battling Denny Hamlin for the lead, Larson threw his No. 5 Chevrolet into Turn 3 up against the wall in a desperate “video game” move to get the win.
It didn’t work.
Entering the 2022 edition of the Southern 500, Larson has recorded 686 laps led at the 1.3-mile track.
That’s his most laps led at a track that he hasn’t won at. Thirty of those laps came in this year’s spring race before his engine let go, ending his day in 36th, his worst result at Darlington.
Larson said a Darlington win “is the next one on my list” of track he hasn’t won at.
“I really want to win and have been close so many times,” Larson said. “I’ve had the dominant car in that race a couple of times. I remember we had a great shot to win (in 2018) and (Brad) Keselowski beat me off pit road by like two inches and that was it. That was the race. Lost control of the restart and lost the race. I know our car should be fast there this weekend and hopefully we can just put it all together and get that win we have been fighting for.”
In his second Darlington start with the Next Gen car, how confident is Larson in his ability to navigate the track “Too Tough To Tame”?
“I don’t know,” Larson admitted. “We ran at Darlington earlier this year and we blew up, but we had a fast car. Everybody looks at me as a guy that runs the wall, which in most cases is true. But at Darlington, at least in (turns) 3 and 4, I tend to stay away from it slightly. I still run the top, but I give myself some room. But, I don’t know, it depends on how you hit the wall I think.
“You could graze the wall a lot better with the other car I think; but when you hit the wall, the car with the toe links and all are a little flimsy. Honestly, just try and stay out of the wall. That is the best case.”