Kyle Larson strikes gold at Dover

DOVER, DELAWARE - OCTOBER 06: Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Clover Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway on October 06, 2019 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Sunday was a day of firsts for Kyle Larson.  Larson ended a 75-race winless streak charging to victory at Dover International Speedway leading the final 60 laps for his first win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series since Richmond in the fall of 2017. It was also his first win in 11 starts at Dover, his first in the Playoffs and the sixth of his career.  The win not only means Larson will be moving into the Round of 8 for the first time but his Chip Ganassi Racing team as well.

“Everybody in this playoff field is going to be stressing next week at Talladega except for me, so that’s good,” Larson said.  “You know, last time I was at Talladega I was on my lid, and I mean, I could still end up on my lid next week, but it’s not going to matter after this win.”

Larson led a total of 154 of the 400 laps holding off Martin Truex Jr. in heavy lapped traffic in the closing laps for the win. The winning move came on pit road after Stage 2, when Larson was able to get the lead off pit road while Martin Truex Jr., who had just won Stage 2, had issues on pit road and came out sixth.

Truex was able to rally back but came up short settling for second.

“We got the lead there, Stage 2, got that stage win, and then had a pit stop issue and lost track position,” Truex said. “Then we just ‑‑ the whole third stage we were behind.  We were catching him at the end; we got close, but yeah, just unfortunate there.  We win and lose as a team.  The guys will clean it up, I’m sure, and it’s cool to come home second after that as hard as it was to pass today.”

Alex Bowman was third rallying back after his car dropped off the jack during the final pit stops.

“The fortunate thing was our guys were so fast, we still only lost like two or three spots,” Bowman said.  “You know, we just had to kind of take that time over again to pass some of the same guys, but yeah, at the same time, our race car was so good, it’s always fun passing people.:

Kevin Harvick was fourth while polesitter Denny Hamlin led a race high 216 laps and won Stage 1, but slowed reporting mechanical issues in the closing laps and held on for fifth.

“We just got tight,” Hamlin said. “Once we lost control – lost the clean air – it was so difficult to pass. I needed to be up front with as tight as my car was, so I just lost the lead and backpedaled from there. Top-five, this track, I’ll take it every week.”

While Larson was celebrating his first points win since Richmond in the fall of 2017, several Playoff drivers saw their title hopes take huge hits early on.  Chase Elliott had mechanical issues that parked him after only 8 laps; Ryan Blaney was forced to the garage after losing brakes on lap 298 and Joey Logano had issues before the green flag fell and was forced to the garage. Blaney and Elliott were scored with DNFs while Logano was running but finished 34th 25 laps down.

“We definitely used our mulligan,” Logano said. “We used the playoff points we accumulated; we just have to be perfect now. We have two really good racetracks coming up though. Talladega is arguably one of our best racetracks and I would say Kansas is as well. We just have to be perfect from here.”

For Larson, who started outside the front row, after leading 1500 laps since his last win and scoring two runner up finishes, he now becomes the first driver to be locked into the Round of 8.

“It’s going to be nice to not necessarily relax these next two but not have to worry about Talladega quite as much,” Larson said.  “There’s still two more opportunities to get stage points, get a win, but yeah, no, this is sweet.”

Kyle Busch was sixth recovering from going a lap down; Matt DiBenedetto was again impressive coming home seventh, 11-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson was the last car on the lead lap in eighth, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top 10 both 1 lap down. Playoff driver Brad Keselowski was also 1 lap down in 11th, while Playoff driver William Byron was 2 laps down in 13th.

Byron, Bowyer, Elliott and Blaney are currently below the cutoff line for the next round as the series heads to the second race in the Round of 12 next Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Sunday’s race was the 100th for the 1-mile oval and the normal trophy for winning, Miles the Monster, is covered in gold this weekend.

“This is unbelievable,” Larson said. “I’ve always wanted to win a Cup race here.  I’ve been close a number of times, so to get a Golden Monster is going to be pretty sweet.”

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Drydene 400

Dover International Speedway

Dover, Delaware

Sunday, October 6, 2019

1. (2)  Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 400.

2. (3)  Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 400.

3. (12)  Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, 400.

4. (4)  Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 400.

5. (1)  Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 400.

6. (18)  Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 400.

7. (20)  Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 400.

8. (11)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 400.

9. (9)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 399.

10. (17)  Clint Bowyer (P), Ford, 399.

11. (16)  Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 399.

12. (13)  Paul Menard, Ford, 398.

13. (6)  William Byron (P), Chevrolet, 398.

14. (15)  Daniel Suarez, Ford, 398.

15. (8)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 398.

16. (19)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 398.

17. (7)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 398.

18. (27)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 398.

19. (32)  Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 396.

20. (26)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 395.

21. (31)  Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 394.

22. (24)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 393.

23. (25)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 393.

24. (28)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 391.

25. (23)  Matt Tifft #, Ford, 390.

26. (30)  Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 389.

27. (21)  David Ragan, Ford, 388.

28. (29)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, 385.

29. (33)  BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 382.

30. (36)  Joe Nemechek(i), Chevrolet, 381.

31. (34)  Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 380.

32. (35)  JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 380.

33. (37)  Garrett Smithley(i), Ford, 377.

34. (14)  Joey Logano (P), Ford, 375.

35. (10)  Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, Suspension, 297.

36. (22)  Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, Engine, 232.

37. (38)  Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Handling, 180.

38. (5)  Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, Engine, 8.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  135.734 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 56 Mins, 49 Secs. Margin of Victory:  1.578 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  3 for 17 laps.

Lead Changes:  14 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   D. Hamlin (P) 1-11;K. Larson (P) 12;D. Hamlin (P) 13-75;W. Byron (P) 76;J. Johnson 77;K. Busch 78-80;D. Suarez 81;T. Dillon 82;D. Hamlin (P) 83-183;K. Larson (P) 184-185;D. Hamlin (P) 186-228;M. Truex Jr. (P) 229-243;K. Larson (P) 244-321;P. Menard 322-327;K. Larson (P) 328-400.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Denny Hamlin (P) 4 times for 218 laps; Kyle Larson (P) 4 times for 154 laps; Martin Truex Jr. (P) 1 time for 15 laps; Paul Menard 1 time for 6 laps; Kurt Busch 1 time for 3 laps; William Byron (P) 1 time for 1 lap; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 1 lap; Jimmie Johnson 1 time for 1 lap; Ty Dillon 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 11,19,42,24,4,88,48,18,20,12

Stage #2 Top Ten: 19,42,11,4,48,88,20,12,2,14