FORT WORTH, Texas – Kyle Larson may not be in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs any longer, but he served notice Sunday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway that he can still contend at the front of the field.
Larson dominated the second stage of the AAA Texas 500, leading 56 of the 85 laps en route to a 4.572 second margin over opening stage winner Kevin Harvick at the second green-checkered flag of the day.
Though he is not championship-eligible at this juncture of the season, Larson said his focus is the same as it has been all year: go out and win another race.
“I always go out to try and win and nothing’s different just because we’re out of the playoffs,” Larson explained. “Our CreditOne Chevy is extremely good today. Even yesterday, it was. It’s nice we can go out and lead a lot of laps, but probably need to get a little better on the green flag cycle. It seemed like the 4 car (Harvick) closed on me that last time, and especially in the first cycle, but I feel like on restarts and stuff that we’re pretty decent.”
Outside polesitter Denny Hamlin led opening stage winner Kevin Harvick back to the green flag for a lap 92 restart, but it was barely three corners before Harvick was back in front due to Hamlin washing way out of the groove entering turn three.
A half-lap later, the caution was out after Daniel Suarez and Kasey Kahne went for simultaneous spins in turn two, necessitating another restart during which high-side hustler Larson took full advantage.
Larson powered around Harvick’s outside when the green flag flew on lap 99, quickly opening up a three-quarter second in just three trips around the 1.5-mile quad-oval as he showcased the same speed that got him the lead during the first stage as well.
Opening up a lead of as much as four seconds at times, Larson continued to dominate until green flag pit stops began on lap 143, when Joey Logano began the cycle but was zinged for speeding and penalized.
Larson came down pit road the next time by, but it took 17 more circuits before he could cycle back to the point for good, after Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne all stayed out longer on fuel in a gamble for track position.
Ultimately, it was Harvick crossing the line in second, followed by Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott, who started at the rear of the field after being unable to qualify on Friday evening.
Denny Hamlin, pole winner Kurt Busch, Kenseth, Erik Jones and Austin Dillon completed the points-scoring drivers in the top-10 at the second stage break.
After an unscheduled pit stop for a vibration in stage one and a lack of speed in stage two, seven-time and defending series champion Jimmie Johnson completed the second segment in 31st, three laps down to the leaders.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network, as well as a periodic contributor to SPEED SPORT Magazine.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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