TULSA, Okla. — Much like Christopher Bell in 2017, Kyle Larson knew quickly after winning his first Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals last year that the car he drove to victory lane was special.
It was fast. It was not just fast enough to win, but fast enough to be dominant.
So Larson did what any sound racer with a winning car would do. Rather than dust it off and use it for a second year in a row, Larson retired his winning mount and set out to create a faster one.
It was a decision that surprised many onlookers Tuesday, but Larson proved his decision wasn’t a bad one by promptly winning his seventh preliminary night feature in the last 10 years.
Did having a new car change his approach any?
“Not really,” Larson admitted. “I mean, a race car’s a race car. It’s been so long since I’ve been in the other car that I don’t really even remember how that thing drove, but I think this thing’s pretty similar. We’ve been fast with it since we got it; we just had some gremlins at Merced (Speedway in California) that kept us from getting good finishes. But we’ll be fine.
“We’ll keep tweaking on it. Paul (Silva, crew chief) will get a few days to think about things and adjust, and come Saturday night I expect we’ll be good again.”
Larson and Silva were in agreement with the decision to park their winning car from a year ago, especially considering the Chili Bowl wasn’t the only race it won during an impressive three-month run.
“We won so many races with it last year. It wasn’t only the Chili Bowl, but we won a lot of big races with it,” Larson recalled. “We won the Hangtown 100 in that car, Turkey Night … we won, I think, nine of 11 races in that thing and our worst finish was fourth. It was such a good piece and really consistent for us.
“I’m sure someday down the road, we’ll look back at that car when it’s sitting in my shop or wherever I end up putting it and we’ll remember that it’s got a lot of history,” Larson added. “But Paul and I were both in agreement to park that car and start the Kyle Larson Hall of Fame or whatever you want to call it.”