On Sunday, Kyle Larson made it look like it was 2021 again.
The No. 5 car ran in the front pretty much all Sunday afternoon, hugging the Homestead-Miami Speedway wall like no one else could. The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion earned two stage wins — both of which didn’t require any real sweat as he was ahead of the rest of the field by six seconds — and then, 100 laps later, he took a ceremonious trip to Victory Lane.
“Definitely the best run we’ve had all year long,” Larson told NBC after retrieving the checkered flag after the race. “We’ve been capable of it. I feel like many weekends we just haven’t quite been able to put it all together.”
But he was able to put everything together Sunday — thanks in part to what he called an “amazing race car.”
“We get to race for an owner’s title in Phoenix in a couple weeks,” Larson said. “I know I can’t win the championship, but it means more to me to win it as a team, so we’re gonna go to Phoenix and try to get another championship.”
Sunday marked Larson’s third victory and 17th Top 10 finish in 2022. It also marked his first victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
A Stage 3 restart almost changed everything. Ryan Blaney spun as he exited pit road on Lap 212 out of 267, and after the field cycled out of pit road and settled for a restart after the yellow, Larson found himself in fourth. He eventually got pushed down to fifth when the race went green again — but his consistent speed brought him back to second, nothing proving able to derail Larson’s dominance.
The nail in the proverbial coffin came during the race’s final caution: Larson was running second, behind Martin Truex Jr., when Truex appeared to have missed his pit stall and braked and then was subsequently bumped by Larson on pit road.
The dangerous situation proved harmless to everyone besides Truex — who was subsequently buried in the field and couldn’t salvage a Top 5 finish.
“I was just going behind him,” Larson said. “He had a hard left and was hard on the brakes at the same time, and I ran right in the back of him. So I don’t know, my team said he was late turning into his stall, but I don’t know. If it was my fault, I’m sorry, I don’t think it was. It’s hard to see on this pit road. I don’t know if fans or people realize, when you got debris all over your windshield, the sun is shining straight in your face, it’s hard to see your stall. So hate that it happened.”
Said Truex Jr. on the incident post-race: “It is really hard to see through these windshields right now with the sun like that and all the stuff covering it. And I did see my box late, for sure, so I slowed down before I turned out of the way to the 5 there. So obviously partly on me. I didn’t expect to get turned around. I’m glad nobody got hurt there. But overall, it’s just disappointing. To have a good day going like that and having a shot to win it and (not being able) to close the deal. I hate it for my team. It’s just been one of those years.”
One successful restart about 17 laps of staying the course and pulling away later, and Larson emerged victorious. The fastest car ended up crossing the start-finish line more than a second before the next-best finisher — and he led 199 laps on Sunday.
Ross Chastain finished second. AJ Allmendinger finished third.
Chase Briscoe only playoff driver whose day ends early
It was a largely triumphant day for playoff drivers.
For playoff drivers, that is, besides Chase Briscoe.
The No. 14 car needed a good showing at Homestead to realistically stay in points contention heading into Martinsville next weekend. But after some smoke billowed up late in Stage 2 after knocking into the wall on a turn — the driver admittedly was overcompensating with a too-loose car after getting lapped by Kyle Larson — Briscoe pushed his car into the garage.
His day was done before Stage 3.
He now enters Martinsville in a must-win situation before the Championship 4 next month.
“I think that was the first time I’ve ever just crashed by myself, so embarrassing on that side,” Briscoe said. “And of all the time for that to happen, that’s not when we needed it to happen.”
Playoff driver points standings
It wasn’t the most triumphant day for the Round-of-8 playoff drivers: Chastain finished P2, Denny Hamlin finished P7, Christopher Bell finished 20, William Byron finished P12, Chase Elliott finished P14, Ryan Blaney finished P17 and Joey Logano finished P18.
Current playoff driver standings:
- Joey Logano: 4106 points (clinched spot in Championship 4 with win in Las Vegas)
- Ross Chastain: 4101
- Chase Elliott: 4093
- William Byron: 4087
- Denny Hamlin: 4082
- Ryan Blaney: 4069
- Christopher Bell: 4054
- Chase Briscoe: 4043
Other notes from Homestead-Miami Speedway
▪ Sunday will be remembered for the Larson-Truex blunder on pit road in Stage 3, but the race was largely a clean one nonetheless: There were only 11 lead changes over the course of the 267 laps, only five different leaders (Larson, Byron, Truex, Bell and Hamlin) and only five cautions that accounted for 30 laps.
▪ Larson’s win comes seven days after he was tangled in a conflict with Bubba Wallace that made national headlines. The Hendrick Motorsports driver was wrecked in retaliation in Las Vegas last weekend and then was physically confronted by Wallace shortly thereafter. (Sunday, it’s fair to say, was a milestone in a whirlwind postseason beyond the Wallace-Larson conflict: The 2021 reigning champion was eliminated from the driver championship at the Charlotte Roval two weeks ago.)
Per NASCAR, the Cup Series post-race inspection is complete, and there were no issues. The 7, 77 and 78 cars will be going back to the R&D Center in Concord for engine evaluations.
|Position||Car||Driver||Time behind||Best time||Best speed|
|1||5||Kyle Larson (P)||—||32.849||164.389|
|2||1||Ross Chastain (P)||1.261||32.978||163.746|
|6||19||Martin Truex Jr.||4.203||32.738||164.946|
|7||11||Denny Hamlin (P)||4.429||32.91||164.084|
|11||20||Christopher Bell (P)||6.859||33.075||163.265|
|12||24||William Byron (P)||7.941||32.828||164.494|
|14||9||Chase Elliott (P)||9.408||33.081||163.236|
|15||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||9.57||33.351||161.914|
|17||12||Ryan Blaney (P)||10.099||32.836||164.454|
|18||22||Joey Logano (P)||10.529||33.28||162.26|
|27||45||John Hunter Nemechek||-1||33.275||162.284|
|36||14||Chase Briscoe (P)||-107||33.37||161.822|
(P) – Playoff driver
This story was originally published October 23, 2022 6:02 PM.