Kyle Larson scored his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup win Sunday. Larson took the lead on a late race restart and went onto victory. The win came in Larson’s 99th career start and capped a weekend that saw three first time winners in all three of the top touring series for the first time in NASCAR history. Here’s how it all went down Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.
Joey Logano led the field to the green with this second season pole at Michigan; Jimmie Johnson was on the inside, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott were the top five starters.
Logano was able to move to the lead with Johnson behind, followed by Harvick, Alex Bowman and Ryan Blaney. On lap two Harvick took second, Johnson settled in behind for third. Bowman was fourth, Blaney fifth. Chris Buescher reported his engine was “flat.” He fell back to 40th. Harvick in second stayed close to Logano.
NASCAR had called for a competition caution for around lap 20 and that came out on lap 21. 37 cars were on the lead lap. Everyone among the leaders took two tires. Logano was out first, Harvick second, followed by Johnson, Hamlin and Bowman.
Green came out on lap 26; Harvick was able to grab the lead and rocket away, Logano fell in far back. Behind them on the next lap Kyle Busch spun exiting turn 4 and the second caution flew. Busch made no contact, slid across the infield grass and was able to continue, although with four flat tires.
Harvick led to the green on lap 30; Logano and Hamlin dueled for second. Hamlin got the spot and soon he and Harvick were checking out. Martin Truex Jr. was fourth, Johnson fifth. Truex grabbed fourth on lap 31. He was third by lap 37. Bowman was reporting engine issues and began to drop back. He was 11th from 6th by lap 39. Hamlin was reporting a possible electrical issue. By lap 42, Bowman was 23rd and continuing to fall.
By lap 47, Truex was second and Harvick had a 2 second lead. Hamlin was third, Johnson fourth, Logano was fifth. Johnson took third at the start of lap 53; Logano was passed by Elliott for fifth.
Truex took the lead on lap 58 after making up a 2-second deficit while racing in lapped traffic. Harvick went third after a pass by Johnson two laps later.
Bowman pitted under green on lap 62, Blaney with a flat tire followed from sixth. Bowman took his car to the garage. Other cars deeper in the field began for green flag stops.
Truex pitted on lap 66 giving the lead back to Harvick. During his pit stop, the crew dropped the jack too soon and were forced to re-jack it to put the rear tire on. Harvick pitted a lap later. Bowman returned from the garage five laps down. The crew fixed the issue which was a bad spark plug wire.
When the pit stops cycled through, Johnson was the leader; Harvick was second, Elliott third, followed by Kasey Kahne and Blaney. Elliott was soon in second ahead of Harvick, Larson and Kahne. Larson went past Harvick for third on lap 96.
At the halfway point Johnson led by almost a second. Elliott, Larson, Harvick and Blaney made up the rest of the top five. Green flag stops loomed. Blaney pitted on lap 107. Others just outside the top five followed. Johnson pitted from the lead on lap 108; Harvick followed. Johnson had a slow stop due to issues with fueling.
Thanks to Johnson’s slow pit stop, Elliott had the lead when the stops cycled through on lap 117. Larson was second, Johnson third. Harvick was fourth, Blaney fifth.
The third caution of the day came out on lap 118 for debris on the track. It was fortuitous for Johnson who was nearly five seconds back from the leader. Johnson reported a possible tire going down and pitted. Other cars outside the top five pitted.
Elliott led, Larson was second followed by Harvick, Hamlin and Blaney when green came back out on lap 125. Johnson restarted 10th. The top 9 in front of him did not pit. Larson cleared Elliott before turn 1 and took the lead. Harvick was third, Blaney fourth; Brad Keselowski and Hamlin dueled for fifth. Hamlin had the spot by the end of the lap. Johnson was stuck in 10th and defending his spot from Matt Kenseth on lap 130. Johnson was able to hold Kenseth off and got by Ryan Newman for ninth on lap 135. He went to eighth on lap 141, he was seventh by lap 145. Crews were reporting rain was approaching the track and might be near towards the end of the race.
Johnson took sixth from Hamlin on lap 149. Another round of green flag stops were nearing.
Logano pitted from ninth on lap 153. Harvick and Blaney followed. Johnson pitted a lap later on lap 155. Hamlin followed. Larson pitted on lap 157, Elliott came with him; Elliott won the race off pit road. Keselowski also pitted but only took two tires; he got by Larson after returning to the track. Keselowski got by Harvick for 10tt on lap 16, Larson followed a lap later. Larson passed Keselowski on lap 167.
When the stops cycled through on lap 169, Elliott led followed by Larson, Keselowski, Harvick, and Johnson. The lead was 2.6 seconds.
With lapped traffic, the gap was closing with 21 laps to go. Larson was hung up though and lost ground with 19 to go.
Caution 4 came out for Michael Annett who blew a tire on lap 186 with 14 laps to go. The lead for Elliott was erased. Harvick, Hamlin, Johnson and Kenseth all pitted for two tires. During the stop Harvick snagged the hose of Logano’s crew in front of him and took the air gun dropping it on the exit of pit road.
The top five had stayed out. On the restart with 9 laps to go, Elliott led on the outside, Larson was second, Keselowski was third followed by Blaney and Edwards.
Larson was able to take the lead, Keselowski took second, and Elliott was third. Blaney was fourth. Both the front row cars had slow restarts.
Elliott took second with 8 laps to go. The lead was hovering around a second. With five to go the lead was 1.2 seconds. On the final lap the lead was 1.4 seconds.
Larson was able to run perfect laps and won his first race in his 99th career start. Elliott was second, Keselowski held on for third followed by Blaney had Harvick.
Johnson was sixth, Edwards seventh, Jamie McMurray eighth followed by Hamlin and Logano rounding out the top 10. The full results can be found here.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to Darlington Raceway for the Southern 500 next Sunday night. Live coverage will be on NBC starting at 5:30 p.m. ET.
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