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Kyle Larson celebrates in victory lane at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (HHP/Jim Fluharty)

Larson Wall Rides To Homestead Victory

In classic Kyle Larson fashion, the Hendrick Motorsports driver rode the high line to victory in Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. 

After leading a race-high 199 of the 267 laps, it was the driver of the No. 5 notching his third win of the season.

Despite not being able to defend his NASCAR Cup Series championship after being eliminated in the Round of 12, Larson set sail on the final restart with 17 laps to go over playoff driver Ross Chastain and A.J. Allmendinger. 

“Yeah, definitely the best run we’ve had all year long,” Larson said. “We’ve been capable of it I feel like many weekends, we just haven’t quite put it all together. Cliff gave a great speech this morning and got us all ready to go and focused and did my best to keep it out of the wall. I got in the wall a few times but I could still make speed doing that.

“Amazing race car. I knew that that last run was going to be short enough where I was going to be in some sort of trouble there, but thankfully A.J. and Ross were racing hard behind me.

“Huge thanks to Valvoline, Hendrickcars.com, everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, too. I think it was a good day for Chase (Elliott) and William (Byron). But yeah, happy for our team, and we get to go race for an owner’s title in Phoenix in a couple weeks.

“We’re still technically not out of it. I can’t win the championship, but it means more to me to win it as a team. We’re going to go to Phoenix and try to get another championship.”

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Larson acknowledges the crowd after winning at Homestead. (HHP/Tim Parks)

It looked to be another non-playoff driver’s day, after Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. led late in the race. 

However, after a Tyler Reddick crash with 23 laps to go, Truex Jr. had a late entry heading into his pit stall, prompting a bump and spin by Larson.

“It was really hard to see through these windshields right now with the sun like that and all the stuff covering it,” Truex Jr. said. “I did see my box late for sure. So I slowed down before I turned out of the way of the 5 (Larson) there. Obviously, partly on me. I didn’t expect to get turned around. Glad nobody got hurt there. Overall, just disappointing.

“To have a good day going like that and have a shot at winning and couldn’t close the deal. Hate it for my team. It’s been one of those years. Thanks to Bass Bro, Tracker, Cabela’s, Toyota, everybody that supports us and all our fans. We’re going to keep digging and win a bunch of races once we get through this rough patch.”

Truex Jr. would finish sixth, just ahead of teammate and playoff driver Denny Hamlin. 

“It was just slow on the short run,” Hamlin said. “We got the position – the track position – we were able to get the lead there, and then get second, and we just couldn’t hold it. I just didn’t have a car that would go on the short run.”

Some playoff drivers encountered issues in the final stage of the 400-mile race, including Ryan Blaney and William Byron.

Blaney spun exiting pit road late in the race, where the driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford would later finish 17th. 

A slow pit stop impeded Byron to a 12th place finish after winning the pole on Saturday. 

The Round of Eight playoff driver that inflicted the most damage on the day was Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe. 

“The driver just made a mistake,” Briscoe said. “I was really, really loose that run. We were really tight every other run. That green-flag run we tried to get really free on the other side of it and just started taking really hard. I was hanging on with everything I had. It felt like I was on ice. Honestly, I wasn’t even running hard.

“I was trying to just get to the caution. We kept getting freer. I got sideways and had the wheel all the way to the right and ended up head-on into the wall. It is really frustrating to have it be something of my own doing. I am better than to be crashing by myself. It is really unfortunate. It makes our job easier next week I guess. We don’t have to worry about points. We gotta go to Martinsville and win.”

Briscoe finished 36th after hitting the wall on lap 160. 

It was a quiet day for 2020 Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, who finished 14th after scoring stage points in two of three stages. 

Next week, the Cup Series will solidify the Championship Four at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. 

After Homestead, only Joey Logano, who won at Las Vegas last week, is locked into the championship round. 

Behind Logano, Chastain holds a 19-point advantage above the cutline.

Elliott sits third on the grid with 11 points to the good, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Byron is five points to the good. 

Below the cutline: Hamlin -5, Blaney -18, Christopher Bell -33, Briscoe -44. 

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