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LONG POND, PENNSYLVANIA - JUNE 26: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, drives with a flat tire on the final turn of the NASCAR Cup Series Pocono Organics CBD 325 at Pocono Raceway on June 26, 2021 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) | Getty Images
LONG POND, PENNSYLVANIA - JUNE 26: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, drives with a flat tire on the final turn of the NASCAR Cup Series Pocono Organics CBD 325 at Pocono Raceway on June 26, 2021 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Kyle Larson Comes One Corner Short of Fourth Straight Win

By Dustin Albino

LONG POND, Pa. — Kyle Larson had the dominant car in Saturday’s Pocono Organics CBD 325 at Pocono Raceway. What’s new?

Larson was looking to become just the ninth driver of the modern era to win four straight points-paying races. Including the All-Star Race, it would have been five straight checkered flags. He was well on his way until the No. 5 Chevrolet blew a left front tire in Turn 2 on the final lap.

End result, ninth.

“I guess disbelief. A little bit laughable, just because I can’t believe it,” Larson said after the race. “Hate that we didn’t get another win; would have been cool to win five in a row. Just wasn’t meant to be today.”

With no tire wear all race long, Larson believes he ran over a piece of debris in the waning laps. When exiting Turn 2 on the final lap, he stated his Chevrolet “wouldn’t turn.”

Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Alex Bowman, got by for the win, his third of the season. Dating back to Dover International Speedway in mid-May, HMS has six straight wins, its longest streak since the 2007 season.

With 19 laps remaining in the race, Larson restarted fourth, choosing the outside line behind Kyle Busch. That allowed Bowman to pick the front row, with Ryan Blaney in close pursuit. Ultimately, Larson made quick work of Busch, but was unable to get by Bowman, who grabbed the lead.

With four laps to go, Larson was finally able to pass Bowman for the race lead.

“I was having to work really hard to get by [Bowman], Larson said. “He started to get really tight through [Turn] 1 and I was able to use that to my advantage and fake him low, mess his angle up a little bit and get him wider off 1 and was able to finally get by him. I thought we were going to get the win, but we didn’t.”

Unlike the past few weeks, Larson believes he didn’t have the dominant car early, pointing to Busch and William Byron as drivers that had the best racecars. It took until late in the second stage for the No. 5 car to come in, despite leading 15 laps in the race.

And with his Chevrolet being near the best it had been all day in the final run, he th0ught he would make quick work of Bowman. That wasn’t the case.

“When I got right to second, I thought I would pass Alex fairly easily, just because I was a lot better than him the run before,” Larson added. “In clean air his car was really good; I just couldn’t get by him.

“I got a little deflated and then there were moments where I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to get him now.’ I was able to get him to adjust his entries a little bit and mess his angles up on exit and I got the run I needed.”

Admittedly so, Larson is upset; disappointed to not get his fourth straight win. But he was quick to point to other races in his career  — on dirt — where lapped cars have spun in front of the leader, and he scooted by for the victory.

Larson will have to start in the rear in a backup car for Sunday’s race at Pocono. But having the opportunity to possibly win tomorrow is keeping his head straight, knowing he will likely be in contention.

Larson said, “I guess that’s one thing that’s keeping me excited and not depressed is that we get to come back again tomorrow. I’m sure our backup car will be just as good as that one. I feel like we learned a lot about our car today and the track came to us a lot. We should hopefully be good again tomorrow.”

The No. 5 car is scheduled to start 12th on Sunday, but will drop to the rear prior to the green flag in the backup car.