Kyle Larson raced his way into NASCAR’s All-Star Race and then raced his way to a $1 million victory Saturday.
The 26-year-old from Elk Grove, Calif., had the high point of his season by winning the Monster Energy Open at Charlotte Motor Speedway to earn a spot in the elite All-Star field later that night. He held off Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch for the win.
Larson finished second to Busch two years ago, and seventh last year.
He’s hoping to cash in on another event he has come close to winning in the past: the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 2.
“It was an up and down day for us from the open to the All-Star Race,” Larson said about his win. “We had a good enough car, once we got out front where I could hold it wide open and stay in front of the [pack] and win a million bucks.”
Last June, Larson finished second at Pocono Raceway, just behind Martin Truex Jr. In the last five races held at the “Tricky Triangle," Larson has finished in the top 10 three times. He has led for 46 laps in that time.
Pocono Raceway -- a 2.5-mile track consisting of three turns and varying straightaways -- typically requires an adjustment for the drivers because of its unorthodox nature.
“Because it’s so different and unique, I actually enjoy going there,” Larson said. “It’s fun to get to do something a little out of the ordinary from our typical oval."
This year, the adjustment will be even bigger because of new rules set in place for 2019, which lessened the aerodynamics packages on the cars. Because of the loss in efficiency, cars now have less power and less speed, making the Pocono race unpredictable for the drivers.
“We’ve been faster in the past, I’ve led some laps there and been close to winning, but we’re going back with a new package, so I don’t really know how we’ll be on speed,” Larson said. “... Pocono is such a unique track, it’s hard to get an idea of how it will be until you get there."
Larson’s season didn’t get off to the start he’d hoped. He’s had three top-three finishes, his last coming at Dover earlier this month, when he finished third behind Alex Bowman and Truex.
He’s 15th in the Monster Energy Cup Standings. The most notable moment of the season for him was an airborne crash at the Geico 500 at Talladega, but Saturday offered a chance to turn things around.
“You try to stay positive from it and turn it into a good week,” Larson said. "It was nice to get that win and hopefully we can continue to get that momentum going for the rest of the season.