Kyle Larson did not win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, but you cannot accuse the 29-year old driver of not giving it all he had to try to beat Denny Hamlin.
Hamlin had driven a smooth and flawless 15 laps, and held Larson — who led a race-high 156 laps — at bay. But on the final lap of the race, Larson said, you know what? I gotta try something.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 6, 2021
So, Larson pulled a play out of the video game playbook and opted to go into turns 3 and 4 without lifting. His No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet pounded the outside wall, but he nearly got up alongside Hamlin, and had he pulled off the win, we’d be talking about it for ages.
“I honestly got to his bumper too quick,” Larson admitted. “I was hoping he was going to run that diamond to kind of be safe and I could swerve to his outside. But gave it everything I had. I didn’t want to wreck him, but I wanted to get to his outside.”
Hamlin, who won the race, was even surprised by how deep Larson went into the corner, and had a little concern about the outcome of the race in the race’s final turn.
“Yeah, he drove it in past the limit of the car and tire,” Hamlin explained of Larson’s last lap move. “But I knew he was coming. I was a little bit conservative that last lap, because I knew I had about a four car-length lead. I didn’t think he was going to go that deep, but it was still a great race.”
While it wasn’t a win, Larson may have actually won the mental war against his championship rival Hamlin. Because now, Hamlin knows when the chips are on the table, Larson will do whatever he thinks will give him a shot to win the race. Even if that means sending his car into the wall on the final lap of the race.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.