Story By: TERRIN WAACK / NASCAR – ELKHART LAKE, WI – For the first time since 2018, Kyle Larson will compete in a NASCAR Xfinity Series event Saturday — and he will also start the race from the pole position in Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 17 Chevrolet.
Larson won P1 Friday at Road America, posting a top qualifying speed of 108.495 mph and completing a lap around the 4.048-mile road course in 134.318 seconds. Ty Gibbs from Joe Gibbs Racing will line up next to Larson after falling 0.573 mph and 0.713 seconds slower. Larson was the only one in the 38-driver field to crack the 108-mph mark.
“It was honestly surprising when I read that it’s been since 2018,” Larson said. “It doesn’t feel that long ago. But yeah, I don’t know. Just getting into the car, I guess. The driving stuff is whatever. It’s just like the visuals of the tag and the gauges, it’s different style dash than what I was even used to when I was racing Xfinity for (Chip) Ganassi. So, just the little things like that. It’s hard to adjust to at first, but once you’re out there, it kind of becomes natural and it’s just another stock car at that point.”
This Hendrick Motorsports entry marks the team’s first in the Xfinity Series since 2009. Tony Stewart was the last to pilot a Hendrick Motorsports car inside the second-tier level, winning the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Team owner Rick Hendrick holds 23 Xfinity Series victories in 339 starts.
Larson’s return at Road America is the first of three Xfinity Series races Hendrick Motorsports has committed to in 2022. Alex Bowman will make his first start since 2018 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course on July 30. William Byron will then run his second race this season – showed up for JR Motorsports at Texas Motor Speedway back in May; finished runner-up – at Watkins Glen International on Aug. 20.
The three drivers combine for 17 Xfinity Series wins. Byron adds a championship from 2017.
“I’m looking forward to competing with a lot of the young up-and-comers, as I’m sure they’re looking forward to compete with me also,” Larson said. “It should be a lot of fun this weekend and for the couple others I get to run the rest of the year.”
Larson alone has 108 career starts in the Xfinity Series, spanning from 2013-18. He has 12 wins, with the latest coming in 2018 at Bristol Motor Speedway. That year, he won in four of the six races he participated in. He ran a part-time schedule each year but 2013, when he turned out eighth in the season standings.
During that full-time gig, Larson was introduced to Road America. He came in seventh, didn’t lead any laps. His next meeting with the Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, track didn’t come until 2021 in the Cup Series, where he placed 16th.
“I picked this one because I’ve only raced here twice,” Larson said. “I don’t remember all the race I ran here in 2013, but I don’t remember being that fast. And then, the Cup race last year, this was probably our worst road course we had of the season. So that’s why it was important for me to get to run in this race and just try to learn something every lap.”