Kyle Larson is not a hardcore fan of Taylor Swift despite a trip to Paris for a concert

DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) — Kyle Larson made one thing clear: He's no Swiftie, even if he did surprise his daughter with a birthday trip to Paris this week to see Taylor Swift in concert.

Yes, Larson wore a Swift-themed T-shirt and a couple of friendship bracelets given to him by wife Katelyn and 6-year-old Audrey.

“I don't feel like I'm a Swiftie at all,” Larson said Saturday at Darlington Raceway. “I do appreciate her music and how hard she works, but I'm not a Swiftie."

Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion, is more comfortable as one of the hottest and busiest drivers on the circuit. He is coming off a history-making victory last week at Kansas, where he edged Chris Buescher by 0.001 second — the closest finish in Cup Series history.

He'll try to win for a second consecutive week — and a second straight time at the track nicknamed “Too Tough To Tame” — in Sunday's Goodyear 400.

The photo finish with Buescher surpassed what had been a signature Darlington moment from 2003 when Ricky Craven nudged past Kurt Busch by 0.002 in what previously was the closest finish in the sport's history.

Larson expected to hit the wall instead of get the win in the final moments.

“I just thought I was going to run out of space,” he recalled. “But he left me enough room. Yeah, we got off the corner and then it was all about how the run was going to work out.

It worked out with Larson getting the win, with a disappointed Buescher finishing in second.

Buescher said he watched the finish several times and played it over and over in his mind. He learned more than he ever expected about NASCAR's scoring system and transponder location. Buescher came up with many things he would have done differently to come out on top.

In the end, the Roush Fenway Racing driver made peace with second place. “It was bothersome for two days,” he said. “There's really no way around that.”

The best way to get past it, Buescher said, is with a more comfortable and successful showing at Darlington, where he's had four top-10 finishes in his last six appearances, including a career-best third behind winner Larson at the Southern 500 last September.

Larson, whose two wins on the season trail the three of Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin, said the excursion to France was a bit of a break from what will be a busy rest of the month.

Larson will slide between the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro and qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. He'll attempt to complete all 1,100 miles of racing the next week, first at Indianapolis and then at Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600.

JONES' RETURN

Erik Jones returns to racing after missing the past two weeks with a compression fracture of a lower vertebra after a wreck at Talladega last month. Jones, a two-time winner at Darlington, said he feels 100%, although it's more likely he's still got some healing to do over the next couple of weeks.

Jones said he can't lift heavy weights, although he believes he can return to the gym next week. He expects to be fully recovered by the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in two weeks.

Jones was cleared by NASCAR to race at Kansas, but after further conversations with his team he felt he needed more time to recover.

“If I really pushed it, I could've been in the car if I pushed it, I could've been in the car if I really, really wanted to be,” Jones said. “At the same time, if I make that call on my own and overrule, and I go out and re-injure myself, I look like an idiot."

REDDICK'S RUN

Tyler Reddick led qualifying for Sunday's race, continuing a strong history at Darlington. Reddick, 28, has had three top-three finishes at NASCAR's oldest superspeedway, including second place at this race two years ago and as runner-up to Larson in last September's Southern 500.

Reddick starts in front of two Roush Fenway Racing drivers in Brad Keselowski and Buescher. Ty Gibbs is fourth, with Byron fifth. Larson is sixth, followed by Hamlin, Bubba Wallace, Ross Chastain and Martin Truex Jr.

ODDS AND ENDS

Larson's race at Kansas makes him the betting favorite to take his second straight checkered flag at Darlington. He's listed at 4-1 odds by BetMGM.com for the Goodyear 400 on Sunday.

JGR teammates Hamlin at 4.75-1 and Truex at 5.5-1 are next. Byron, who won Darlington's spring race in 2023, is at 7.25-1 and pole-sitter Reddick is at 8.5-1.

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