Larson Takes Lead on Late Restart to Win at Michigan

by Tucker White On Sun, Jun. 18, 2017

Kyle Larson celebrates victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Photo by Tim Jarrold for SpeedwayMedia.com

While he dominated the day and led the most laps, despite failing to win a single stage, Kyle Larson took the lead on a late restart in the closing laps of the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway and held off challengers to score the victory.

Restarting with 15 laps to go, Larson — in second — passed Kyle Busch to retake the lead going into Turn 1. He held off Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin in the final two restarts to collect his third career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory in 127 starts.

“Yeah, thankfully, Michigan has got some decent grip where you don’t spin your tires too bad,” Larson said. “We were able to just have good pushers every restart there and sucked down on their door into (Turn) 1 and get them loose underneath me. I was a little bit nervous, but I thought with the people behind me, I would be okay. The Cars 3 Chevy was good all day. I thought we were probably a third to fifth place car. The No. 78 and No. 18 were definitely better than I was, but we kept working on it and had good restarts there when it mattered.

“I just had a hell of a push from Ryan Blaney behind me,” he added. “I can’t thank him enough for shoving me like that. It was cool to see him get his win last week and then he helped me a ton today to get this win. He stayed committed to me all the way down the frontstretch and got me past the No. 18 which was key.”

Elliott finished second, while Joey Logano rounded out the podium.

When asked what made the difference on the final restarts, Elliott said he didn’t know.

“Man, I don’t know. It was all just about how your push went,” he said. “I am really proud of our effort today. I thought we way improved from where we were last year as far as those late-race restarts go and was able to hang with them and really just kind of rely on the guy behind you. Kyle (Busch) gave me a great push. I didn’t give him a very good push that time before. He went a little sooner than I thought he was going to. He gave me a good push and I think somebody pulled out on him. He had to go block them and it just ends up kind of disrupting the whole situation when that happens. But, a great day from our NAPA Chevy group. I think we overachieved today with where we started this weekend, which is always nice when you are here at the racetrack. Happy to do that and ready to get on down the road and get through these summer months and try to tune everything in.”

Hamlin and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top-five.

Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-10.

Larson led the field to the green flag at 3:20 p.m. and held the lead the first 33 laps before Truex passed him going into Turn 3 on lap 34 and drove on to win the first stage.

Larson emerged with the lead under the stage break and held it through a cycle of green-flag stops. Four laps prior to the end of the second stage, however, Truex passed him exiting Turn 4 on lap 116 and won the stage.

From that point, Truex was in control of the event. But then Ryan Sieg brought out a caution for a solo spin with 50 to go, and Busch exited pit road the race leader. He also had the race in check until debris in Turn 2 with 21 to go set up the run to the finish.

Clint Bowyer brought out a caution with 14 to go when he tagged the wall in Turn 2, as did teammate Danica Patrick when she was taken out by a chain reaction backup on the ensuing restart and slammed the inside backstretch wall.

The race lasted two hours, 47 minutes and 24 seconds at an average speed of 143.369 mph. There were 10 lead changes among four different drivers and eight cautions for 34 laps.

Larson leaves Michigan with a five-point lead.

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