LEBANON, Tenn. – Not even the threat of running out of fuel was enough to slow Kyle Larson down Sunday afternoon as the NASCAR Cup Series debuted at Nashville Superspeedway.
Larson annihilated the NASCAR Cup Series field for the fourth-straight race as he earned his third-straight points paying victory in addition to his victory in the NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway on June 13.
He led 264 of 300 laps at the 1.333-mile concrete oval, but despite that his visit to victory lane was never a foregone conclusion.
A number of drivers had brake issues Sunday afternoon and that threat loomed large for everyone, including Larson, as the laps wound down. Larson also found himself having to save fuel during the run to the checkered flag following the final restart on lap 233.
With constant coaching from his crew chief Cliff Daniels, Larson was able to save all the fuel he needed. He had so much leftover that he was able to complete a burnout stretching from one end of the frontstretch to the other as the packed grandstand cheered him on.
“We had enough rubber and fuel leftover to do a good burnout there at the end,” Larson said with a smile.
Behind Larson, Ross Chastain used a risky pit call to his advantage, allowing him to earn a career-best runner-up finish aboard his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.
Chastain made his final pit stop for fuel prior to the final restart on lap 233 whereas Larson and most of the other leaders made their final pit stop during a caution period between laps 218 and 223.
That meant Chastain, unlike nearly everyone else, didn’t need to save fuel. Chastain took advantage of that fact and marched through the field from outside the top-10 during the final restart.
With 10 laps left Chastain made it to fourth and within the next two laps he navigated his way to second. However, he was still more than five seconds behind Larson, who had more than enough fuel to make it to the finish line.
“It was a great day. We never really had to run behind people,” Larson said. “If one of my teammates got out front again it probably would have been probably hard to pass them. The Valvoline Chevrolet was really good. It cut the middle of the corner really well and our pit crew did an awesome job again. That number one pit stall helps a bunch, too.”
William Byron finished third to give Chevrolet a sweep of the top-three positions. Aric Almirola, who won the pole earlier in the day, collected his best finish of the season in fourth. Kevin Harvick also had a strong day, finishing fifth for his fifth top-five this season.
Chase Elliott, who was originally scored 13th at the finish, was later disqualified when NASCAR discovered five loose lug nuts on his Chevrolet. The disqualification drops Elliott to 39th in the race results.
Larson will now try to become the first driver since Jimmie Johnson in 2007 to win four consecutive points races in NASCAR Cup Series competition. The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., for a doubleheader weekend next Saturday and Sunday.