“Except for [Kyle] Larson – NASCAR Insider’s Bold Claim Casts Doubt on HMS Star’s Chances at Talladega

Published 09/27/2023, 6:25 PM EDT

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Kyle Larson’s last Talladega stint was nothing short of a nightmare, as the sun dipped below the Alabama horizon, Larson and the Hendrick garage were left reeling from a harrowing ordeal. “Unsettling,” Larson called it, but words alone fail to capture the sheer gravity of the incident. Kyle Busch’s description hit home—it was like a “brick getting rammed into a stick of butter.” Ryan Preece‘s Ford Mustang, a 130 mph projectile, slammed into Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet’s driver side, shattering the roll cage’s support bars. The fact that Larson walked away from that mangled wreck is nothing short of a miracle.

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Now, with the Cup Series playoffs Round of 8 in full swing, Talladega looms on the horizon—a track that invokes chilling memories for Larson. What’s more, the stakes couldn’t be higher, as Larson battles to secure his spot in the next round. To add fuel to the fire, NASCAR insiders are already casting doubt on Larson’s Talladega prospects before the race weekend even begins.

From Texas tumble to Talladega turbulence, Kyle Larson is watching his playoff hopes diminish

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As NASCAR bid farewell to the Round of 16, Larson stood out with the best average finish of 2.33 over the last three races. Hope was in the air as Larson arrived in Texas, his eyes set on a promising run through the playoffs. However, the Lone Star State had different plans. In the closing laps of the race at the 1.5-mile oval, disaster struck. A collision shattered his streak of consecutive top-5 finishes in the playoffs, forcing the California native to reluctantly embrace a DNF, a bitter pill to swallow given his initial high hopes.

The crash left Larson’s playoff fate hanging by a thread. He had entered Texas with a comfortable 12-point cushion above the dreaded elimination line, but he departed with a mere two-point margin, perched precariously just above 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace in P9.

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Now, the 2021 Cup Series champion faces the formidable challenge of Talladega, a track where he has struggled in the past, finishing 20th or worse in 10 out of his 17 starts. Adding to the speculation, experts at GoPRNLive recently weighed in on Larson’s playoff prospects. Senior NASCAR writer Lee Spencer minced no words as she noted a mental hurdle for Larson on the challenging superspeedways.

“Well, I think they all have a chance except for Larson. You talked about Larson, I am not confident of his super-speedway prowess. I think he has in his head that he just is not a—formerly known as the ‘restrictor plate track racer.’ And if you look at his stats, they really back that up. So I’m not feeling good about it.”

While Larson’s playoff hopes took a hit with his Texas tumble, it’s a different story for Kyle Busch, who seems to be sailing a different ship altogether. Spenser lauded Busch’s superspeedway prowess, despite both drivers facing similar misfortunes in Texas.

Kyle Busch takes center stage, sidelining Rick Hendrick’s ace

Texas proved to be another eventful chapter for Rowdy, but not in the way he had hoped. Starting from seventh in the 36-car field, Busch found trouble early in Sunday’s race. On lap 74, he spun out through Turns 1 and 2, and his #8 Camaro made unwelcome contact with the outside retaining wall, resulting in heavy rear-end damage.

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With a damaged car, Busch drove his wrecked Chevy backward to pit road, much to the amusement of the spectators. Unfortunately, the damage proved insurmountable, forcing him to drive to the garage, marking the end of his Texas stint with a dreaded DNF.

However, Lee Spenser remains optimistic about Busch’s playoff chances, particularly as the series heads to Talladega. Spenser believes that Talladega could be Busch’s make-or-break race. Highlighting the potential of Richard Childress Racing’s program at superspeedways, she said, Kyle Bush, if you look at RCR’s program at Talladega and Daytona in the past, he needs a Hail Mary right now. And Talladega could be just that for Kyle Bush.”

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As Larson braces for Talladega, the question lingers: Can he defy the odds and keep his playoff hopes alive?

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Written by:

Rashi Shetty

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Rashi Shetty is a NASCAR author at EssentiallySports. Her passion for the sport extends beyond the thrill of on-track racing, as she finds the behind-the-scenes aspects of car development and sportsmanship equally captivating. Her favorite motorsports moment of 2023 is the NASCAR Garage 56 entry at Le Mans.
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Edited by:

Nischal Kandpal

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