Kyle Larson ‘smokes’ the field at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA - APRIL 16: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Cup Series NOCO 400 at Martinsville Speedway on April 16, 2023 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Kyle Larson used to be the first to say that Martinsville Speedway wasn’t his favorite track.  After Sunday, he’s probably singing a different tune.

Larson took the lead thanks to a two tire stop on the race’s fifth and final caution with 46 laps to go. He then took the lead from Joey Logano, who stayed out on the final caution, with 30 laps to go and cruised to his second win of 2023 by 4.142 seconds.

“Yeah, just huge congratulations to this whole 5 team and Hendrick Motorsports,” Larson said after completing a burnout that lasted an entire lap. “I feel like Cliff (crew chief Daniels) and everybody did a great job all day on pit road making the right calls, having great pit stops, and then it all kind of worked out for me there at the end.

“We had a great car. That was the best my car had been I think being able to get out front and manage.”

Logano was equally happy with his second-place finish. After struggling for much of the race including going a lap down at one point, used pit strategy and got a little bit of luck to finish as the runner-up.

“Solid recovery for what the start of the race looked like,” Logano said. “We went down a lap twice, two times. At one point in the race I would have been just happy to finish on a lead lap.

“I tried holding off Larson as long as I could, but overall there’s days when you are mad about second. Today is not one of those. Today is when you are pretty stoked that you finished a little better than I thought we were going to. “

Martin Truex Jr. also struggled from much of the 400 laps, but his crew was able to make adjustments allowing him to make a late charge and finish third.

“It was fun at the end passing a lot of cars and getting up there,” Truex said. “But still needed to be a little bit better, but overall, you know, proud of everybody for sticking with it and just grinding one out today.”

Denny Hamlin who led 36 laps was 4th, and Chase Briscoe who led 109 laps rounded out the top five.

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA – APRIL 16: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Verizon 5G Ford, race during the NASCAR Cup Series NOCO 400 at Martinsville Speedway on April 16, 2023 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Pole sitter Ryan Preece led a race high 135 laps and won Stage 1, but a speeding penalty during pit stops during the race’s second caution on lap 142, sent him to the back of the field. He finished 15th.

The entire complexion of the race changed on lap 304 when a loose tire during a round of green flag stops forced a caution flag. Among those who had yet to pit were Logano and Truex. Among those who had pitted was Kevin Harvick who won Stage 2 and led 20 laps.

The final caution came out on lap 344 when JJ Yeley lost a right front tire and hit the wall in Turn 3. The leader’s pitted but Logano’s crew kept him out to keep the lead. During those stops Harvick, who was 4th, exited the pits with a flat tire and had to return. He finished the day 20.

On the restart on lap 346 Logano would take the lead and hold it until Larson took the top spot after racing with Logano side by side on lap 371.

Larson, who finished second here last fall, was able to celebrate his first Martinsville win in his 17th try.  Hendrick Motorsports has now won 4 of the last 6 races at Martinsville.

“It means a lot to me, but I think more importantly, it means a lot to the whole Hendrick family and Hendrick Motorsports family,” Larson said. “You know, everybody knows what happened here so long ago, and I think everybody — you know, that’s on everybody’s minds every time they come to Martinsville, so wish Rick was here, Linda, but we’ve got Jeff Gordon here.

“I’m sure Rick is probably on hold with Jeff Andrews or somebody waiting to talk to me. Gosh, again, thanks to everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. You guys are the best and make me — I can’t believe it. I can’t believe that I won at Martinsville.”

Aric Almirola was sixth, Ryan Blaney seventh, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 8th, and Bubba Wallace 9th.

In his first race back after missing the last 6 with a broken leg, Chase Elliott came home 10th.

NASCAR heads to Talladega Superspeedway next Sunday for the GEICO 500. Ross Chastain is the defending winner.


Photos: NASCAR at Martinsville Speedway Sunday, Apr. 16, 2023


NASCAR Cup Series Race Results NOCO 400
Martinsville Speedway
Martinsville, Virginia
Sunday, April 16, 2023

  1. (19)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 400.
  2. (15)  Joey Logano, Ford, 400.
  3. (5)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 400.
  4. (11)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 400.
  5. (4)  Chase Briscoe, Ford, 400.
  6. (3)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 400.
  7. (31)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 400.
  8. (16)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 400.
  9. (9)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 400.
  10. (24)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 400.
  11. (23)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 400.
  12. (18)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 400.
  13. (34)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 400.
  14. (10)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 400.
  15. (1)  Ryan Preece, Ford, 400.
  16. (22)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 400.
  17. (2)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 400.
  18. (12)  Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 400.
  19. (20)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 400.
  20. (7)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 400.
  21. (17)  Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 400.
  22. (6)  Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 400.
  23. (8)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 400.
  24. (21)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 400.
  25. (13)  Todd Gilliland, Ford, 399.
  26. (27)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 399.
  27. (14)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 399.
  28. (26)  Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 398.
  29. (32)  Harrison Burton, Ford, 398.
  30. (29)  Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 398.
  31. (28)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 398.
  32. (35)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 397.
  33. (25)  Austin Cindric, Ford, 397.
  34. (33)  Zane Smith(i), Ford, 395.
  35. (30)  Anthony Alfredo(i), Chevrolet, 390.
  36. (36)  JJ Yeley(i), Ford, Accident, 337.


Average Speed of Race Winner:  74.005 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 50 Mins, 35 Secs. Margin of Victory:  4.142 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  5 for 50 laps.

Lead Changes:  10 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   R. Preece 1-135;R. Chastain 136-166;K. Harvick 167-185;C. Briscoe 186-256;D. Hamlin 257-292;B. Keselowski 293-299;D. Suarez 300-306;C. Briscoe 307-344;K. Harvick 345;J. Logano 346-370;K. Larson 371-400.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Ryan Preece 1 time for 135 laps; Chase Briscoe 2 times for 109 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 36 laps; Ross Chastain 1 time for 31 laps; Kyle Larson 1 time for 30 laps; Joey Logano 1 time for 25 laps; Kevin Harvick 2 times for 20 laps; Brad Keselowski 1 time for 7 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 7 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 41,10,45,99,14,4,23,11,5,24

Stage #2 Top Ten: 4,14,11,45,6,1,38,99,10,5

Greg Engle