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Kyle Larson "thought for sure" he would win All-Star Race

Kyle Larson faced an uphill battle to win Sunday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway, but he made it look quite possible for a while.

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro

Larson had already had a full day, qualifying fifth for next weekend’s Indianapolis 500 earlier in the day, and arrived at North Wilkesboro about 30 minutes before driver introductions for the main event.

Because he did not drive his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in practice or qualifying this weekend – Kevin Harvick filled in – Larson had to start the 200-lap main event from the rear of the field.

While he struggled early to gain positions in the 20-car field, a late-race decision to pit for new tires provided Larson with a surge that looked like it may include a $1 million pay off.

On a restart with 42 of 250 laps to go, Larson lined up 10th, the first car on new tires. Within five laps, he had moved to third but eventually his tire advantage dissipated, and he fell well behind eventual winner Joey Logano and runner-up Denny Hamlin.

“I thought I was doing what I needed to maintain the balance of my car, but I think we just pumped the air up a lot and I just built really free, really quickly, on that run,” he said. “And then I moved up and I just slowly got tight after that.

“I thought we were in a great position to win. I thought for sure we would win, but just didn’t work out. We’ll do our homework and try to get our car better for next year.”

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro, Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing, Nexlizet Ford Mustang

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro, Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing, Nexlizet Ford Mustang

Photo by: Rusty Jarrett / NKP / Motorsport Images

Larson credited his NASCAR team for all the work it put into preparing a competitive car despite his absence all weekend.

“Hats off to the team,” he said. “I know they had a lot of work this week; having Kevin (Harvick) practice, swap seats and everything back to where I could drive it. Proud to go back and forth (from Indy) and have a shot to win.”

Larson received a rousing welcome from the crowd at North Wilkesboro when his helicopter landed at the track bringing him from Indianapolis. He received another ovation when he was introduced in driver introductions.

Larson said the strong run Sunday night meant “something more” following an impressive showing in Indy 500 qualifying.

“To be lined up on the second row of the Indianapolis 500 is pretty crazy. Yeah, I just can’t believe it, really,” he said. “I thought if we could make the Fast 12, that would be exceeding expectations.

“To qualify as well as we did (Saturday) and then get into the Fast Six today was unbelievable. Happy with how it’s gone so far there, and now I look forward to hopefully get better in race trim.”

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