FONTANA, Calif. – Returning to the scene of what he termed “the best (weekend) of his NASCAR career,” Kyle Larson put his feet down – in the wet cement of Auto Club Speedway’s Walk of Fame – to further entrench that notion.
Larson started on the pole for last year’s Auto Club 400, led 110 laps, regained the lead on Lap 197 in what was the last of 17 lead changes in the race, and held on for his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) victory in his 116th start.
In doing so, Larson became the first driver to win NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup and Xfinity Series races and the qualifying run for the Auto Club 400 on the same weekend at Auto Club Speedway. He is one of four drivers to grab the checkered flag for both NASCAR races on Fontana’s two-mile track on the same weekend, following the lead of Kyle Busch (2013), Matt Kenseth (2007) and Kasey Kahne (2006).
Fast forward to Friday, Larson finished off the final celebratory act of his 2017 Auto Club 400 triumph by etching his footprints and signature in the cement surrounding his Walk of Fame plaque.
“It’s pretty cool to be recognized and I’m glad to see a big fan turnout here,” Larson said at his Walk of Fame ceremony. “I’ve never done anything like this before.
“It was cool to do that and get the (Jersey Mike’s) surfboard. The trophy that I won from this race last year is still the coolest trophy I’ve got in my collection and probably one of the coolest ones I will ever have in my collection. This race does a lot for their winner and it’s cool to see that.”
Located on the east end of the FanZone just outside of the track’s Gate B entrance, the Auto Club Speedway Walk of Fame inducts all of its past NASCAR Cup Series race winners and is always a fan-favorite, must-see landmark.
Larson made his Walk of Fame ceremony a family affair, including his 3-year-old son, Owen, on the fun. He placed Owen’s hands beside his footprints and allowed Owen to finish off his signature before the cement dried.
Larson is one of 16 MENCS drivers to be cemented into Auto Club Speedway’s Walk of Fame. The honor roll includes six-time ACS winner Jimmie Johnson, three-time ACS winners Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, and Matt Kenseth, two-time winner Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Mark Martin, Jeremy Mayfield, Rusty Wallace, Kurt Busch, Elliott Sadler, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards.
“Hopefully, I can have as many footprints as Jimmie Johnson does here,” said Larson, the 25-year-old Elk Grove, Calif. native whose previous best result at Auto Club Speedway was a runner-up finish as a rookie in 2014.
Larson enjoyed a breakthrough season on the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Last year’s Auto Club 400 triumph was the first of his four MENCS wins in 2017. He placed top-5 in 15 of his 36 races last year.
“Last year we came in here with three consecutive second-place finishes so I had a ton of confidence,” Larson said. “It’s a lot of fun to race here. There’s so many different lines to choose from and the track’s slick and rough. It kind of just suits my driving style.”
Back in his home state, Larson considers Auto Club Speedway among his three favorite NASCAR tracks and is excited about the prospect of defending his championship in front of his family, parents and relatives.
“This is a track that’s close to my home and means a lot to me,” Larson said. “It’s always good to be back in California. Getting the win here last year, you still come back with confidence, so hopefully we can carry that confidence into a good finish.”
Larson, racing in the No. 42 DC Solar Chevrolet, will not repeat the weekend sweep of last year because he is foregoing Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity race, the Roseanne 300, and focusing on the Auto Club 400 on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
Source: Auto Club Speedway