Despite a pre-race penalty, Kyle Larson climbed through the pack to secure a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs’ Round of 12.
Larson dropped to the back of the pack at the start of the Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders. Pre-race tech inspection on his No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE failed twice. Larson, on the other hand, wasted no time in retracing his steps back through the field.
Larson had already climbed into the top-15 by the time the competition caution came on lap 30. By the end of Stage 1, the Elk Grove, California native had climbed into the top ten. Larson remained in the top ten for the rest of the 400-lap race.
Larson bounced up and down the running order inside the top-10 over the two long green flag runs in Stage 2 and the final laps of the race, despite showing speed in the first 80 laps. Some drivers had fresher Goodyear tires than others due to differing pit strategy.
Larson finished sixth in the last laps, ahead of Ross Chastain and behind Joey Logano. With the three drivers separated by three or more seconds, the Hendrick Motorsports driver ran out of time to finish in the top five. Larson was one of nine drivers to finish on the lead lap, taking the checkered flag in 6th place.
“It’s a lot better than we were here at Richmond earlier in the year,” admitted Larson. “At the beginning of the race, I thought I was going to have a really good shot to win, but we kind of lost the balance there and got it back a little bit there at the end. So, we probably finished where we deserved. The No. 18 (Kyle Busch) kind of had his problems, so maybe we finished one spot better. Not a bad day. To go to Bristol and know that we’re locked in is nice. We’ll try to be aggressive and get a win this week.
“As bad as we were the last time we were here, I think to have a win in your expectations would be difficult to do. I think we exceeded what I thought we would do here. I thought it would be a good day to run around tenth. I feel like I ran from fourth to kind of seventh, once I got there, all race. So, it was a good day for our HendrickCars.com Chevy and I’m looking forward to Bristol now.”
Larson finished fourth in Stage 2 like he did in Stage 1. The 14 points he collected in the Cup Series playoffs were enough to get him into the Round of 12. Larson finished the race at Richmond Raceway with a 98-point advantage over the Round of 12 cutoff, which is presently held by Alex Bowman of the Hendrick Motorsports team.
Larson’s sixth-place result this season marks his 20th top-10 finish. In addition, it is the 29-year-121st old’s top-10 finish in the Cup Series.
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