Nothing came easy for Kyle Larson Sunday. Larson emerged from a chaotic road course race on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s hybrid ROVAL for his seventh win in the 2021 NASCAR Cup series season.
It was a stunning comeback considering that early in the race it looked as though Larson’s race, and his Playoff hopes were over.
On lap 33 during pit stops under a caution for a spin on the front stretch, Larson pitted from fifth reporting a voltage issue, and the hood came up on his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. The crew saw that the engine had thrown an alternator belt and Larson spent a long time in the pits, rejoining the field deep in the pack and still in need of an alternator belt.
“I was getting stressed out,” Larson said. “Like man, I’m not going to get knocked out of the Playoffs like this. It wasn’t looking too good. Thankfully, everybody on our No. 5 car did a great job of staying calm. Cliff (Daniels, crew chief) as always, did a great job of communicating with me and what was going on and getting the battery changed and the alternator changed and whatever it takes to get our battery running.”
Larson held on until the Stage break when the crew could affect repairs and from that point Larson had to charge back through the field. It took nearly the rest of the race, but Larson was finally able to grab the lead on lap 102 and held on to beat Tyler Reddick by .782 of a second. Chris Buescher, Kyle Busch who won Stage 2, and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five.
“I just had to pick my way through traffic and stay calm,” Larson said. “We had some good restarts there at the end and I was able to kind of use my tire advantage to get under Denny (Hamlin) and kind of squeeze some real estate off of No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) there. It was fun racing with Tyler (Reddick). He’s one of the best there is. I don’t like racing him because he’s so good and so hard to race and pass. So, it was just a fun race there and a lot of craziness all day long.”
Larson’s drama however paled in comparison to the madness happening for the final spots in the Playoff Round of 8 that ended in disappointment for Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, and Hendrick drivers William Byron and Alex Bowman all of whom were eliminated.
Three of the four were inside the top 8 at one point and eligible to move on. Byron and Bowman both needed nothing short of a win; Byron led a race high 30 laps and was fighting for the win in the closing laps but on lap 107 spun coming out of turn 6 ending his chances of the win and moving on in the Playoffs finishing 11th. Like Larson, Bowman had electrical issue early in the race, but his crew was unable to diagnose the issue and he finished 10th.
Harvick ran among the leaders much of the race, but his temper got the best of him and an incident from Bristol Motor Speedway earlier in the season where Chase Elliott slowed him while leading allowing Larson to eventually win the race, came back to the forefront when on lap 57 he spun Elliott into the wall coming out of turn 7. Elliott had heavy damage and for much of the rest of the race was struggling and out of the top 8 in points.
However, in a case of karma perhaps, as Elliott, who won Stage 1, recovered, and was closing on Harvick, Harvick blew through turn 1, and into the wall on lap 100. As the crowd roared its approval, Harvick climbed from what was left of his car and was out of the race, and this year’s Playoffs.
Matt DiBenedetto, Joey Logano, Bell, Ryan Blaney and Bowman rounded out the top 10. Elliott was scored 12th. Playoff driver Brad Keselowski finished 20th, Martin Truex Jr. 29th
Larson is now the top seeded driver in the Round of 8 which starts at Texas Motor Speedway next Sunday. Hamlin, Logano, Keselowski, Truex, Blaney, Elliott and Kyle Busch complete the seedings.
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Bank of America ROVAL 400
Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course
Concord, North Carolina
Sunday, October 10, 2021
- (10) Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 109.
- (29) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 109.
- (16) Chris Buescher, Ford, 109.
- (9) Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 109.
- (1) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 109.
- (30) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 109.
- (3) Joey Logano (P), Ford, 109.
- (4) Christopher Bell (P), Toyota, 109.
- (6) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 109.
- (12) Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, 109.
- (11) William Byron (P), Chevrolet, 109.
- (8) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 109.
- (25) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 109.
- (15) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 109.
- (14) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 109.
- (19) Michael McDowell, Ford, 109.
- (17) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 109.
- (23) Cole Custer, Ford, 109.
- (31) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 109.
- (2) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 109.
- (18) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 109.
- (22) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 109.
- (27) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 109.
- (21) Aric Almirola, Ford, 109.
- (13) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 109.
- (20) Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 109.
- (36) Joey Hand, Ford, 109.
- (37) Josh Bilicki(i), Ford, 109.
- (5) Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 109.
- (28) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 109.
- (35) Scott Heckert, Ford, 109.
- (39) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 108.
- (7) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, Accident, 98.
- (34) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 96.
- (26) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, Accident, 93.
- (32) Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 90.
- (38) Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, Engine, 66.
- (33) AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, Engine, 57.
- (24) Ryan Newman, Ford, Accident, 19.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 77.783 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 15 Mins, 4 Secs. Margin of Victory: .782 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 9 for 18 laps.
Lead Changes: 15 among 10 drivers.
Lap Leaders: D. Hamlin (P) 1-9;J. Logano (P) 10-13;R. Blaney (P) 14-22;*. Allmendinger(i) 23-24;C. Elliott (P) 25-26;*. Allmendinger(i) 27-29;K. Busch (P) 30-51;R. Blaney (P) 52;W. Byron (P) 53-75;K. Busch 76;C. Buescher 77;D. Hamlin (P) 78-80;W. Byron (P) 81-87;K. Busch 88;D. Hamlin (P) 89-101;K. Larson (P) 102-109.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): William Byron (P) 2 times for 30 laps; Denny Hamlin (P) 3 times for 25 laps; Kyle Busch (P) 1 time for 22 laps; Ryan Blaney (P) 2 times for 10 laps; Kyle Larson (P) 1 time for 8 laps; * AJ Allmendinger(i) 2 times for 5 laps; Joey Logano (P) 1 time for 4 laps; Chase Elliott (P) 1 time for 2 laps; Kurt Busch 2 times for 2 laps; Chris Buescher 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 9,16,12,19,22,1,18,24,34,4
Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,9,4,12,22,5,2,19,48,24