Kyle Larson’s amazing run continued at Kansas, when he defeated Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott to win his ninth NASCAR Cup race of the year.
Larson, who had led for the majority of the race, took the lead on a restart with 39 laps to go and held off late challenges from Kevin Harvick and then Elliott by 3.619 seconds at the finish.
Larson has now won the first two races of the series playoff semi-final round and is the only driver who has secured a spot in Championship 4. Larson has now won three races in a row for the second time this season.
The win came on the 10th anniversary of a Hendrick plane tragedy in Martinsville in 2004 that killed ten people, including team owner Rick Hendrick’s son, brother, and two nieces.
Ricky Hendrick’s only NASCAR victory came at Kansas Speedway in the 2001 season, when he won a Truck race.
Larson also broke the record set by former HMS driver and Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon in 2001 for the most laps led in a 36-race season (2,320 laps).
“I want to dedicate this win to Rick and Linda [Hendrick]. I never got to meet Ricky or the other men and women who lost their lives that day but I felt the importance of this race, no doubt,” Larson said. “It was crazy how it all worked out there at the end.
“Thank you to Rick Hendrick. I know it means a lot to you and I’m glad I could get it done.”
Larson’s team-mates supplied some of his toughest competition in the race once again.
“I thought we were a third-place car, maybe,” Larson said. “William [Byron] was really fast. I hate to see the unfortunate luck there for that team [Byron had to pit late for loose lug nuts]. They’ve been really strong of late.
“But we were able to capitalise and get the win and hopefully we’ll go to Martinsville and get a clock.”
In Sunday’s race, Harvick finished third, Kurt Busch fourth, and Denny Hamlin fifth.
Several title candidates, including Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr., had issues in the race on Sunday, as has been the case throughout this year’s playoff run.
Blaney, Truex, Keselowski, and Joey Logano are in danger of missing out on the Championship 4 with one race remaining in the semi-final round at Martinsville next weekend.
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