Kyle Larson did it again. The Hendrick Motorsports driver led a race high 264 laps winning in NASCAR’s return to Nashville in dominate fashion Sunday.
It was his third consecutive points paying win, four when you include the All-Star Race and his fourth of the season.
“It was a great day,” Larson said. “We never really had to run behind people, so I don’t know. If one of my teammates got out front again, it would have been hard to pass them.”
“Our pit crew did an awesome job again. That number one pit stall helps a bunch too.”
After starting fifth, Larson first took the lead on lap 40 and for the final time on lap 223, winning Stage 2 in route. From that final stop he saved enough fuel over the course of the races longest green flag run to win by 4.35 seconds over Ross Chastain who scored the best finish of his NASCAR Cup career.
Fellow Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron was third after starting from the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments after qualifying. He was second with 10 laps to go but couldn’t hold off Chastain. Aric Almirola, who won the pole in qualifying earlier Sunday was fourth, with his teammate Kevin Harvick fifth, the first time the Stewart-Haas Racing team has finished in the top five since Kansas last month when Harvick finished second.
“It means we’re working hard,” Almirola said. “We’ve had a lot of races where the 4 has been a 10th-place car and the other three of us have run 25th it seems like, so we’ve been working so hard. When you run bad it’s 10 times as much work because you’re going down every single different avenue trying to figure out what’s gonna make speed in the race cars, and when you have fast race cars it’s easy because you just massage on it and polish it and keep going to the racetrack with what you know is fast. We’ve been working so hard.”
The only real issue Larson faced all day came not from a fellow competitor but from debris that stuck to the grill around lap 246. His engine temperature climbed 15 degrees higher than normal before he was able to move up to the back of JJ Yeley who was a lap down and clear the grill on lap 249. From there Larson needed only to save fuel having pitted last on lap 217.
Save he did ending the race with enough fuel to complete a long celebratory burnout along the frontstretch to the delight of the sold out grandstands.
“I was going to do something here,” Larson said. “I looked down there, Man, there’s a lot of fans down there, too. I need to go to the end. We had enough rubber and enough fuel left over to do a good burnout at the end.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished sixth in one of his better finishes as was the seventh of Daniel Suarez. Kurt Busch, Christopher Bell, and Joey Logano rounded out the top 10.
There was a total of 11 cautions many of those due to brake rotor failures on the 1.33-mile concrete track that the Cup series has never raced on before. The start of the race was also delayed for 10 minutes as heavy traffic outside the track slowed many of the estimated 40,000 fans from entering.
The last time the Cup series raced in Nashville the year was 1984 and the season raced on the .596 mile Fairgrounds Speedway oval. The winner that day was Geoff Bodine who was driving the No. 5 Chevy fielded by Hendrick. That day Bodine started fifth. Larson now driving the No. 5 Hendrick Chevy qualified fifth.
Unlike some of the other Hendrick dominations, Sunday belonged to Larson. With Byron finishing third being the only other Hendrick car in the top 10. Chase Elliott, who won Stage 1 and ran as high as second, faded in the late going with a wheel issue and was originally scored 13th. However his car was found to have 5 missing lugnuts in post race inspection and he was disqualified. Alex Bowman meanwhile finished a quiet 15th.
The NASCAR Cup Series next visits Pocono Raceway for a weekend doubleheader. A 325-miler is scheduled Saturday (3 p.m. ET) with a 350-mile event set for Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET) as all three NASCAR national series and the ARCA Menards Series will all be racing.
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Ally 400
Sunday, June 20, 2021
- (5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 300.
- (19) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 300.
- (4) William Byron, Chevrolet, 300.
- (1) Aric Almirola, Ford, 300.
- (12) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 300.
- (14) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 300.
- (22) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 300.
- (30) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 300.
- (25) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 300.
- (3) Joey Logano, Ford, 300.
- (2) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 300.
- (28) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 300
- (29) Ryan Newman, Ford, 300.
- (8) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 300.
- (24) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 300.
- (23) Michael McDowell, Ford, 300.
- (18) Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 300.
- (26) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 300.
- (9) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 300.
- (21) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 299.
- (13) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 299.
- (35) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 299.
- (15) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 299.
- (11) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 298.
- (36) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 298.
- (34) Josh Bilicki, Ford, 298.
- (32) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 298.
- (31) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 295.
- (37) Joey Gase(i), Chevrolet, 295.
- (7) Cole Custer, Ford, 252.
- (16) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, Accident, 227.
- (20) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, Brakes, 197.
- (33) Chad Finchum(i), Toyota, Rear End, 157.
- (38) David Starr(i), Toyota, Brakes, 126.
- (27) Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 79.
- (17) Chris Buescher, Ford, Accident, 77.
- (10) Ryan Blaney, Ford, Accident, 53.
- (39) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, Accident, 0.
- (6) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet DQ
Average Speed of Race Winner: 113.792 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 30 Mins, 23 Secs. Margin of Victory: 4.335 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 11 for 60 laps.
Lead Changes: 14 among 7 drivers.
Lap Leaders: A. Almirola 0;K. Busch 1-5;K. Larson 6-45;K. Busch 46-48;A. Almirola 49;K. Busch 50-53;K. Larson 54-79;C. Elliott 80-92;K. Larson 93-137;K. Busch 138;K. Larson 139-176;C. Briscoe # 177-181;K. Larson 182-218;R. Chastain 219-222;K. Larson 223-300.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Larson 6 times for 264 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 13 laps; Kyle Busch 3 times for 10 laps; Chase Briscoe # 1 time for 5 laps; Ross Chastain 1 time for 4 laps; Kurt Busch 1 time for 3 laps; Aric Almirola 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 9,1,5,99,18,3,47,2,22,21
Stage #2 Top Ten: 5,3,14,24,18,11,9,47,10,4
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