NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie of the year candidate Kyle Larson has found immediate success at nearly every track the circuit visits. Martinsville Speedway is not one of them.
The Elk Grove, Calif., native will make his third career start at the historic half-mile speedway in the Goody’s® Headache Relief Shot® 500 on Oct. 26. His average finish of 34.5 at Martinsville ranks second from the bottom at tracks where he’s made more than one career start.
“Martinsville is probably the toughest track on me, just because it’s way different than anything I’ve ever done,” Larson said during a break in a recent test session. “You get hard on the brakes, you almost stop in the middle of the corner and you run the same line pretty much the whole race.
“I’m more of a driver who likes to search around, so it’s tough on me when you come here and you’re kind of committed to one lane.”
Fortunately for Larson, he has a teammate in Jamie McMurray who knows how to get around Martinsville. He has one win in the Camping World Truck Series and has 12 top-10 finishes in his Sprint Cup career.
“I think I learn from Jamie at all the racetracks we go to, but here especially,” Larson said. “This is probably the biggest one where I can lean on him and learn a lot, because he’s really good here.”
Unfortunately for Larson advice can only take you so far.
“This is one of those places that if you come here for the first time and you hit on it, it comes very natural,” McMurray said. “If you come here and it doesn’t, it’s really hard to do what you need.”
Despite his struggles, McMurray said sometimes Larson can be his own toughest critic.
“I think he’s harder on himself than where he’s really at,” he said. “He has a really high goal and he’s beating himself up today more than he probably should.”
Because of Martinsville’s steep learning curve, Larson said taking home the iconic grandfather clock trophy would be even more special.
“To win here at Martinsville would probably be one of the biggest wins of my career, just because of how tough it is on me,” Larson said. “And the grandfather clock is one of the coolest trophies on the schedule, so I hope I can figure this place out one day and take one of those home with me.”
Advance ticket prices for the Goody’s® Headache Relief Shot® 500 begin at just $40.