NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) champion Kyle Larson’s hopes of a Texas two-step at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) this weekend – with wins in both the Focused Health 250 and the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix – got off to a strong start as the Elk Grove, Calif. native powered his No. 17 machine to the pole for Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) showdown.

Larson’s qualifying lap of 132.076 seconds at 92.946 mph was enough to hold off hard-charging rookie Shane van Gisbergen, who will start on the front row alongside the veteran. Larson, van Gisbergen, Ty Gibbs, Chandler Smith and AJ Allmendinger were the top five in Focused Health 250 qualifying.

“I think I’ve gotten the pole every time I’ve run the (No.) 17 car,” Larson said following qualifying. “It hasn’t translated to a win yet. I’m still trying to get a grasp of things. It’s going to be tough. SVG (van Gisbergen), he’s still got a lot to learn about the car and he’s already second quick.”

Larson, who’s racing in his first NXS road course race since Sonoma last summer, said the limited practice time makes adjusting to the Xfinity car a fun challenge.

“Twenty minutes is not a long time,” he said. “You get five or six laps in practice and then go qualifying. It’s going to be tough. There’s going to be lots of slipping and sliding. It’s going to be tough to keep it going straight.”

The Focused Health 250 is set to go green at 4:19 p.m. CT Saturday.

Zilisch Expels Doubts, Earns XPEL 225 Pole in Truck Series Debut

Forget the third time. For Connor Zilisch, the first time was the charm as the 17-year-old racer earned the pole for Saturday’s XPEL 225 in his NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series (NCTS) debut at COTA on Friday.

“I’m kind of blown away,” Zilisch said. “I hand it all off to Spire Motorsports and the truck that they brought. It made my job really easy. Honestly, I feel like I could have driven that at 95 percent and still gotten the pole. I might have over-drove it a little bit, but I know where I can improve.”

Zilisch’s lap of 131.983 seconds at 93.012 mph was 0.714 seconds faster than outside-pole-sitter Corey Heim. Taylor Gray, Nick Sanchez and NCS regular Ross Chastain will round out the top five when the green flag falls Saturday afternoon.

Despite earning the pole in his first attempt behind the wheel in any of NASCAR’s top three series, the Spire Motorsports rising star said he knows racing these cars is anything but simple.

“I 100 percent surprised myself today, yeah,” Zilisch said. “It’s definitely not easy. I’ve run so many different kinds of cars. I think that’s helped me. It’s been a three-month process preparing for this race. We’ve had this one circled on the calendar for a long time. It feels really good to start this strong, but we’ve got a long way to go.

“I’ve never run a truck race before. Everything’s going to be new to me – the fall off, pit road. I’ve got a lot to learn.”

With an entire NXS field chasing him up the hill to COTA’s treacherous Turn 1, he’ll have to learn quick. Green flag for Saturday’s XPEL 225 is scheduled for 12:43 p.m. CT.

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