Pit road penalty quashes Kyle Larson’s winning chances

BRISTOL, TN - APRIL 24: Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet, leads the field into turn one after the start of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 24, 2017 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Kyle Larson broke a record, in a race that ran like … well, a broken record.

Starting from the pole in Monday’s rain-delayed Food City 500 at Bristol motor Speedway, Larson led the first 202 laps of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Never before had a driver for Chip Ganassi Racing led that many laps in a single race in NASCAR’s premier series.

But as was the case in Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race, when Larson led 180 laps, the end of the race wasn’t as satisfying as the beginning.

On Saturday, Larson finished seventh after a cut tire and a subsequent commitment line violation sent him to the rear late in the race.

Monday was déjà vu. Larson was running in the top five before a speeding penalty on lap 421 of 500 sent him to the rear in the Monster Energy Series race.

Though he recovered to run as high as second, thanks to a two-tire call to gain track position under caution on Lap 462, he couldn’t pass race leader Kevin Harvick over the final 33-lap green-flag run and faded to sixth at the finish.

The quality of the competition, however, made up for the pit road mistake.

“Yeah, I got that speeding penalty,” Larson said. “I was just pushing on pit road and messed up there and had to gamble on two tires, and the balance was okay on two, but I just didn’t have the speed (or), I guess, the grip that the 48 (race winner Jimmie Johnson) and the 14 (runner-up Clint Bowyer) had to run the bottom.  I knew I couldn’t go down there and get by the 4 (Harvick), so I was trying to maybe set him up, up top, but it was a lot of fun there.

“The three of us were racing hard for the lead for a few laps and had some traffic, so I thought the race was great. The track changed a lot throughout the race and was extremely exciting. I don’t know what more you could ask out of this place. This is the best track we go to, most exciting place, and I love coming here.”