September 10, 2017 / 3:36 AM / a year ago

Larson holds on to win Federated Auto Parts 400

Larson holds on to win Federated Auto Parts 400

RICHMOND, Va. — Kyle Larson got off pit road ahead of Martin Truex Jr. during a late-race caution at Richmond Raceway on Saturday night that sent the Federated Auto Parts 400 into overtime.

Larson then held on to the lead for his fourth win of the season in the 2017 regular-season finale.

“I’ve got the greatest team out here and definitely the best pit crew,” Larson said. “That showed tonight. I can’t thank those guys

enough. They were money all night long to gain spots. This win is a huge congrats to them. The Target Chevy was pretty good all night.

“The No. 78 (Truex) was definitely the best, but I thought I was second best for most of the runs, but it came down to the last restart there, and I got a good start. I spun my tires pretty bad, and I was a little nervous, but we cleared him into (turn) one, and I was pretty excited about that.

“So, I can’t thank Target all of our partners enough. I’m really pumped for the playoffs. We’ve got a great shot at the championship, I feel like, this year. So, I’m looking forward to it.”

After leading nearly half the race, Truex ran head-on into the wall on the final lap, trying to regain the lead from Larson.

“Tonight is a little tough; it’s a little hard to be excited (for the playoffs),” Truex, the regular-season champion, said.

Joey Logano fell one position shy of making the playoffs with a runner-up race finish.

“Last time we were sitting here after a race, it was after a win,” Logano said. “Obviously, it stings.”

Logano won at Richmond earlier this season. That win didn’t garner him a playoff spot, as it was classified as “encumbered” by NASCAR after his car failed post-race inspection.

Ryan Newman finished third, Kurt Busch was fourth, and Daniel Suarez rounded out the top five.

With a repeat winner in victory lane, the three drivers who were in provisional playoff advancing position by virtue of points — Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray — will be among the 16 drivers in the playoffs when they kick off Sept. 17 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.

Had there been a new 2017 race winner, other than Elliott or McMurray, Kenseth would’ve been the driver knocked out of a playoff spot after retiring from the race just past lap 250. When the yellow flag waved for an incident between Danica Patrick and Austin, an ambulance at the entrance of pit road created a bunch-up among three drivers trying to get into the pits.

“We were all getting on pit road, and I didn’t feel like I was going that fast, and there’s an ambulance parked out there, so everybody stopped,” Kenseth said. “I just couldn’t get stopped in time.”

Kenseth’s car sustained the most damage, and as a result, he was only the second driver out of the race. Others receiving damage in the incident able to continue were Clint Bowyer and Logano.

Truex lost the lead on pit road during the same caution, the fifth of the race. Larson and Brad Keselowski restarted on the front row, but with 100 laps to go, Truex was back up front.

As the result of a lack of late-race cautions, a green-flag cycle of pit stops kicked off with a handful of drivers short-pitting just past

lap 315.

Truex, though, waited until lap 334 pit. Keselowski cycled to the race lead after pitting 14 laps before Truex. But after Truex got his new set of tires, he closed on Keselowski, retaking the lead on lap 354 and pulling away. Larson also got by Keselowski to take second.

Truex was the winner at lap 200, the halfway point. As a result, he was the stage two winner, claiming his 18th stage win of the season.

Kyle Busch won the first 100-lap stage of the race, even though Kenseth dominated the opening stage, leading the first 89 laps of the race after starting on the pole.

Kenseth lost the lead with three drivers — Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Paul Menard — stayed out during the first caution of the race that came out on lap 87.

When the race returned to green, the drivers who stayed out fell back, and Busch moved into the lead. Busch momentarily gave up the lead when Ryan Newman elected to stay out during the caution between the first two stages, but when the race restarted, Busch retook the top spot.

Larson quickly took the lead from Busch, but Busch retook it on lap 129. Truex took the lead inside the final 50 laps of the second stage.

NOTES: Brad Keselowski won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Richmond on Friday night. Kyle Busch finished second after leading 182 laps of the 250 that made up that race. ... Denny Hamlin, who won last year’s Federated Auto Parts 400, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. had interim crew chiefs at Richmond, as their regular crew chiefs were suspended for different issues after the May 3 Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. ... Busch leads active drivers at Richmond with four wins. Several other drivers, including Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Hamlin, have three Richmond wins apiece.

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