MENCS: Kyle Larson Captures Second Career Victory

Kyle Larson completed the weekend sweep at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday by taking his No. 42 Chevrolet to victory lane. Larson, who won Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at the 2.0-mile oval, dominated the event by leading 109 of the 202 laps.

The win did not come easy for the California native as two cautions slowed the event inside 10 laps remaining. During the lap 192 caution, Larson’s crew had to decide whether to pit or not to pit. The team elected to do so – while Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. stayed out.

The field would slow a lap later when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun to put the race into NASCAR Overtime. On the restart, with two laps remaining, Larson quickly took the lead and sailed to his second career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory.

“I was staying as calm as I could be, but also frustrated at the same time,” said Larson after the race. “It seems like every time I get to the lead at the end of one of these things, the caution comes out and I’ve got to fight people off on restarts. Our Target Chevy was amazing all day.  We were able to lead a lot of laps today.  (Martin) Truex was better than us that second stage by quite a bit.  We were able to get the jump on him the following restart and led pretty much the rest of the distance.  I had to fight them off there after the green flag stops and that was a lot of fun.”

The win for Larson doesn’t come as a surprise. The young driver finished second in his No. 42 Chevrolet over the last three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races. With the performance early in the new season, Larson will head into Martinsville Speedway next weekend leading the driver standings by 29 points over Chase Elliott.

Brad Keselowski ended the day sitting in the runner-up position in his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford. Keselowski had issues at the initial start of the race after receiving some rear-end damage caused by a slow start towards the front.

Things quickly got worse for Keselowski three laps later. That’s when he spun on the frontstretch to bring out the first caution of the day.

Keselowski will go into next weekend’s event at Martinsville Speedway with one victory, four top five and four top 10 finishes through five races. He’ll leave Auto Club sitting fourth in points.

Clint Bowyer stayed quiet all throughout the day to bring home a third-place finish in his No. 14 Rush Truck Centers Ford. Bowyer, a driver from Kansas, has not finished a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in the top five since Bristol Motor Speedway in August of 2015.

“It was just a good weekend.  I appreciate everybody’s hard work at Stewart-Haas Racing,” said Bowyer. “Having these teammates and having this group behind you, the organization and the teamwork, it’s just amazing to be a part of it at this point in my career.  Thanks to Rush Truck Centers for making this possible.  Gene Haas and Tony Stewart for giving me this opportunity.  It means a lot to me to be in this 14.  I have a lot of fun with these guys.  Buga and all these guys mean business.  It’s a confidence thing right now, a momentum-builder and we’re getting closer.  Obviously, this is a good track for me.  I wanted to win that damn thing, but to come home with the wild finish and everything that it was, we’ll take it.”

Martin Truex Jr., who won last weekend’s event at Phoenix Raceway and showed strength in Sunday’s Auto Club 400, finished the afternoon in fourth. Truex restarted second beside Denny Hamlin on the restart with five laps remaining. He and Hamlin were the only two leaders who elected to not hit pit road.

“It was definitely not the situation we wanted to be in, but we thought more guys would stay out there,” Truex said. “I think we only ran a few laps. It was definitely a disadvantage at the end and just really tight. Holding on for fourth was good for points. Overall, it was a good day for everybody, we just had that one pit stop and I slid a little bit – a foot or so further than I had all day. The guys got the air hose caught on the splitter and we lost six spots or whatever it was. All in all, it was a good day and we ran up front and led laps. The 42 (Kyle Larson) and I felt like we were the class of the field – he just got it done and we didn’t.”

The driver from the state of New Jersey led the field for 73 circuits.

The series will head back east to Martinsville Speedway for the STP 500. Overage will begin on FOX Sports 1 at 2:00 PM ET. on Sunday. The Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM Channel 90 will have the live radio broadcast.

Brett Winningham

Brett has been following the sport of NASCAR since the beginning of the 2006 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Since Brett was 13, he has had a passion of chasing a job in sports that not many get the opportunity of doing. He has been in the NASCAR media since the middle of the 2010 season. Since then, he has been a part of many racing podcast shows to improve his talents. You can find him on twitter @NASCAR_Brett.