Jul 27, 2014, 6:52 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS – Jeff Gordon gave himself an early 43rd birthday present with Sunday’s Brickyard 400 win.
Kyle Larson also gave himself an early birthday present – his 22nd will be Thursday – with a solid seventh-place finish in his first Brickyard.
“It was a good day for us,” said Larson, the highest-finishing rookie in the race. “We were a top-10 car the whole race. Had some good restarts there for most of the race. Then that last one we had to restart on the outside and lost a spot. We lined up fifth but Denny (Hamlin) got to third.
“But still a good day. The Target car was really good. We were just too tight on short runs, then we just kind of would build tighter, looser off. Everybody was struggling with grip out there.”
For Larson to be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on what became a historic day – Jeff Gordon’s record-breaking fifth Brickyard win – was exciting for him both as a fellow race car driver, as well as a fan.
“It was fun, cool to finish in the top 10 at the Brickyard,” Larson said. “To see Jeff Gordon win is pretty special. It’s kind of like Junior winning the 500 this year. It was a really good day for everybody and all the fans, too. So, I’m happy about it.”
His seventh-place outing was Larson’s second straight top-10 (he finished third two weeks ago at Loudon), making it appear he’s past his three-race rough stretch before New Hampshire, when he finished 28th at Sonoma, 40th at Kentucky and 36th at Daytona.
“I think everywhere you have to make sure it’s an important one to try to make the Chase because it’s getting closer and closer every week,” Larson said. “We can’t make any more mistakes or have any more bad luck.
“Every track is important to us right now. Now we get to go to Pocono next week where we finished fifth before. “(We’ve) set fifth as a goal, but hopefully we’ll try to do better.”
While Larson enjoyed the aura of the most legendary race track on earth, he tried to approach it without any special preconceptions.
“It was kind of just like any other race,” he said. “But restarts were definitely intense, just like they are everywhere. Inside lane was definitely the dominant one.
“For the most part if you were on the inside row, you were going to pass a couple cars. So, yeah, just being aggressive to try to gain as much as you could on restarts because it was really hard to pass once we got going. It’s frustrating that it is so hard to pass, but it makes you better at hitting your marks.”
With other drivers coming into the media center, Larson was asked one last question, wondering what his opinion can be done to the current crop of NASCAR cars to make them even better.
Not skipping a beat – nor overlooking his dirt track and sprint car roots – Larson deadpanned, “Cover it with dirt and put some wings on top.”
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