Rim riding is Kyle Larson’s forte, and it proved dividends on Saturday in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway, as he wheeled his No. 42 ENEOS Chevrolet to victory lane after taking the top spot on the final restart and leading final 30 laps to earn his second win of the season.
“I’ve been close a couple times. We should have won this race last year and cut a tire late,” Larson said in his post-race press conference. “I know Brad (Keselowski) probably had the best car, but I felt like we were pretty even, maybe just a tick better. But clean air was big today,” said Larson, who scraped the wall in the closing laps trying to drive away from the No. 22 of Keselowski as well as the rest of the field.
Keselowski finished in second place after leading a race-high 145 of the 200 laps. “We made a major stride forward with this team. Being able to lead a lot of laps, it was a little disappointing to not bring it home at the end, but all in all it was a good weekend,” he said.
Another Sprint Cup regular, Kevin Harvick, finished in third place in his No. 88 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet, with Austin Dillon finishing seventh for Richard Childress Racing.
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates and championship favorites Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez came home in fourth and fifth, respectively, rounding out the top five on Saturday. Elliott Sadler finished sixth, Brennan Poole eighth, Matt Tifft ninth and Justin Allgaier tenth.
Roush Fenway Racing teammates and Xfinity Chasers Darrell Wallace Jr. and Ryan Reed came home just outside the top ten, 11th and 12th. Blake Koch and Brendan Gaughan squeezed inside the top 15 as well. However, three of the aforementioned drivers currently sit below the cut line for The Chase, with Suarez, Sadler, Jones and Koch currently occupying the top four spots heading into the final race of the Round of 8 next weekend at Phoenix.
That’s right—the little team that could, Kaulig Racing and the No. 11 car of Koch, currently sit fourth in the standings and hold a one-point advantage over the No. 7 JR Motorsports team of Allgaier. However, one point doesn’t mean much. Especially considering that the No. 7 has outrun the No. 11 consistently all season long.
The Chase Grid has yet to see an Xfinity regular grab a victory in the Round of 8. Therefore, nobody has officially clinched a spot into the Championship Four in Miami. Suarez holds a 17-point advantage over fifth, Sadler has a 16-point cushion, Jones has a seven-point cushion and Koch, as stated earlier, has a mere one point separating him and Allgaier.
Wallace Jr. and Gaughan are in virtual must-win scenarios heading into next week. Gaughan is 22 points behind the cutoff and Wallace Jr. is 19 back. Reed is only five points out, but hasn’t shown the speed and consistency to contend for wins—moreover top fives finishes.
The Ticket Galaxy 200 will take place next Saturday afternoon (Nov. 12) at 7:30 p.m. ET from Phoenix International Raceway. Four drivers will advance; four drivers will be eliminated. It’ll all be on the line, and we know that drivers will do anything and everything to get to Miami.