Larson picks up second win this year at Michigan
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Kyle Larson claimed his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of 2017 and the third of his career Sunday in the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, the site of his first career win last August.
Larson’s latest win came after he led nearly half of the 200-lap race.
”I can’t thank these guys enough,“ Larson said. ”The 3 Chevy was really, really fast, and it was cool to win it. What a great Father’s Day present for myself and all the other fathers out there. My dad is here today, too, so I‘m looking forward to celebrating with him.
“We’ve been so close to so many other wins. This is our second Cup win of the year, but we’ve had six second-place finishes. All in all, it’s a good season, so far, and we’ll continue to keep building on what we’ve got.”
Chase Elliott finished second for a third consecutive race at Michigan. Joey Logano was third, Denny Hamlin took fourth and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top five.
“I am really proud of our effort today,” Elliott said. “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.”
Larson and Martin Truex Jr. combined to lead all but six of the first 150 laps before a caution for a Ryan Sieg spin. Kyle Busch then took over by taking the lead with a two-tire pit stop. Larson had dropped back several positions early in the third stage that made up the final 90 laps of the race.
“I think, restarted third or fifth that time and got loose off of (turn) two, and I got freight-trained down the backstretch,” Larson said. “Just really hard to restart on the bottom, unless you are on the front row and you can get clear of them. Just had to keep fighting all day.”
After Martin Truex Jr. lost the lead to Busch, he dropped to the back of the top 10. But as Truex fell back, Larson recovered and eventually got back up to second. Larson took his final lead when a push from Ryan Blaney propelled him past Busch on a restart with under 20 laps remaining.
The yellow flag waved two more times, for a Clint Bowyer wreck with 13 laps to go and again with nine laps remaining when Blaney didn’t get up to speed on the previous restart and caused an accordion incident that also involved Kevin Harvick, Daniel Suarez and Danica Patrick.
Truex got back up to sixth by the finish. Busch slid back to seventh. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson finished eighth through 10th.
Truex won both of the two 60-lap stages that made up the first 120 laps of the 200-lap race, claiming his ninth and 10th stage wins through the first 15 races of the 2017 season. And in both of those stages, he claimed wins after passes on Larson.
”We had the best car out there, without a doubt,“ Truex said. ”Just inside-lane restarts at the end killed us, so just stings when you have to race like that, you know? You get just in a bad spot, and there’s nothing you can do about it. We seen it the last couple restarts, so just wrong place.
“Probably should have took two tires that last time we pitted; we took four. That killed us. Just wrong lane on the restart every single time all day long and couldn’t use the best car to win.”
In the second stage, Truex got by Larson in the closing laps. Busch also passed Larson near the end of the second stage, relegating Larson to third.
Matt Kenseth ran a close second to Larson through most of the second stage, but after Kenseth slid through his pit box during a green-flag cycle of stops on lap 108, he wound up trailing Larson by six seconds after the round of pit stops completed. He also lost positions -- second to Truex and third to Busch.
Truex claimed the first-stage win after taking the lead from Larson on lap 35. Once Truex took the lead, he pulled away, building a margin of about four seconds over Larson, who finished second in the first stage after starting on the pole and leading the first 34 laps. In lapped traffic, though, Larson closed back up on Truex to finish the opening stage just two seconds back.
Larson beat Truex off pit road between the first two stages to retake the lead for the start of stage two.
While Larson led the opening laps, both Truex and Busch spent time right behind him in second, trading the second position back-and-forth. Clint Bowyer did get up to second on the restart that followed a lap-six debris caution, but Truex quickly retook the spot.
NOTES: Jimmie Johnson, A.J. Allmendinger and Landon Cassill had to start in the back after going to backup cars because of separate practices on Saturday. Daniel Suarez had to start in the back because of an unapproved tire change. Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick had to drop to the back at the start because of unapproved body modifications. Ty Dillon wound up in the back after his qualifying attempt on Friday was disallowed because of an unapproved body modification. ... Johnson is one win from a tie with Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison for fourth on the career wins list. He is tied with Cale Yarborough for sixth with 83 wins. ... Wood Brothers Racing is seeking its 100th win after Ryan Blaney posted the 99th win for the team May 11 at Pocono Raceway. ... Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin barely edged out NASCAR Xfinity Series driver William Byron to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Michigan International Speedway by 0.012 of a second, the closest margin of victory in Xfinity Series competition at MIS since the advent of electronic scoring. ... Joey Logano won the 2016 FireKeepers Casino 400. Kyle Larson claimed his first career Cup Series the last time the series visited Michigan last August. ... MIS is the fastest track on the Cup Series schedule. ... No Michigan-native driver has ever won a Cup Series race at Michigan. Two Michigan natives, Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones, competed in Sunday’s race.