There isn’t a single soul in all of NASCAR – and probably all of Motorsports – that can hold a candle to Kyle Larson when it comes to running against the outside wall, just a fraction of an inch away, lap after lap without any major mistakes.
Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Larson put on a masterclass of “rippin’ the boards” as some would call it, dominating the Dixie Voda 400 on the way to his third win of the year in the NASCAR Cup Series and the 19th of his career.
Starting from fifth place, Larson wasted very little time putting himself in position to take control of the event, taking the lead away from William Byron – his teammate at Hendrick Motorsports – before the 30th lap of the race.
Now, saying the race had already been decided at that point would be an exaggeration, but it became blatantly obvious, fairly quickly that it would take an ill-timed caution, or a supernatural force, to keep Larson out of victory lane.
That poorly-timed caution happened – twice, actually – and it looked as though Larson, who struggled somewhat on the shorter runs, was going to find another Homestead victory slipping through his fingertips.
The first poorly-timed caution came in the middle of green-flag pit stops, when Ryan Blaney spun his No. 12 Ford Mustang on the access road exiting pit road. The spin forced a caution right as Larson was getting ready to enter the pits, meaning he’d lose valuable track position to both Martin Truex Jr. and Ross Chastain.
Another poorly-timed caution happened about 30 laps later, after Larson had made his way back into the runner-up spot, when Tyler Reddick crashed at the exit of Turn 2, forcing the leader’s back to pit road, and setting up a 17-lap dash to the finish.
Larson’s biggest challenge was set to be Martin Truex Jr. – who had inherited the lead through the interrupted set of green-flag stops. Coming onto pit road, Truex slowed dramatically trying to find his box, and got spun around by Larson, losing him valuable track position.
With the mishap on pit road, Larson was able to gain control of the restart, extending his margin of victory to 1.261 seconds over Ross Chastain, who had a fierce battle with AJ Allmendinger for the runner-up spot over the final run.
Austin Dillon was able to capitalize on a fantastic final pit stop and a fast car to secure a fourth-place finish, his fifth top-five result of the year, a career-high for the Richard Childress Racing driver.
Brad Keselowski completed the top-five, scoring another positive result for himself and RFK Racing heading into the final two events of the season at Martinsville and Phoenix.
Martin Truex Jr. rebounded to finish in sixth, charging from 19th on the final restart that took place with 17 laps to go. Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Daniel Suarez completed the top-10.
After being one of the fastest cars throughout the entire race, a poor adjustment to start the third stage, and a bold strategy call gone wrong, relegated William Byron to a 12th-place result.
Chase Elliott, teammate to race-winner Kyle Larson, finished 14th, continuing a downward spiral in performance for the No. 9 team over the last month or so, one that has put them in a vulnerable position heading to an elimination race at Martinsville.
Ryan Blaney was only able to rebound to 17th after spinning on the access road with less than 50 laps to go, while his teammate Joey Logano – who won at Las Vegas to lock himself into the ‘Championship Four’ – finished in 18th.
Chase Briscoe was the only NASCAR Cup Series Playoff driver to run into a significant issue, slapping the wall 160 laps into the event after fighting his hardest to stay the first car one lap behind the leader. Briscoe finished last, and heads to Martinsville in a must-win.
Next for the NASCAR Cup Series is Martinsville Speedway, the penultimate event of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season. William Byron captured the win at the half-mile paperclip in the Spring, can he do it again and advance to the Final Four?