After dominating most of Sunday’s Bank of America Roval 400, Kyle Larson thought his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff run was over when he plowed into a Turn 1 wreck after a restart on Lap 104 of 109.
Larson’s No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was all but destroyed. The right front suspension was damaged and the right front tire canted at an angle that made it all but impossible for Larson to turn left.
With one circuit left at the 2.28-mile, 17-turn Charlotte Road Course, Larson was the last car on the lead lap, one point out of the final Playoff position with a car he could barely control. As Larson approached the backstretch chicane, Jeffrey Earnhardt spun in the last corner, and his car turned backwards and lost power.
As Earnhardt tried to get his car re-fired, Larson negotiated Turn 3, bounced hard off the (NASCAR oval) Turn 4 wall and kept going through the chicane. Before crossing the finish line, Larson bounced off the outside wall again. But he finished one position ahead of Earnhardt, enough to earn a tie for 11th in the standings with Aric Almirola and Jimmie Johnson.
Larson and Almirola advanced to the Round of 12 on a tiebreaker based on best finish in the Round of 16.
“I ran hard through, whatever, (NASCAR Turns 1 and 2) over there and through the Bus Stop (backstretch chicane), and then blew a right front (in the) center of (Turns) 3 and 4 and plowed the wall, I was like, ‘Crap, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get down to make the chicane, but luckily it came down off the banking and I could turn right okay.
“So I got through the 16th corner, and then (in) 17 I hit the wall again on the frontstretch, and the 96 (Earnhardt) was stalled the whole time. I think they told me the 96 was stalled when I was like at the backstretch over there, and he wasn’t able to get his car re-fired…
“He was like 100 feet from the start finish line. I could start to see him creep in when I was getting to 16. I was like, ‘Gosh, don’t go, don’t go,’ and we were able to make it. Hey, I was pretty lucky.”