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Kyle Larson falls just short of victory in Darlington

NASCAR NASCAR Cup Series

By Summer Bedgood, Managing Editor

Martin Truex Jr. may have dominated and won the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway on Sunday. 

But not before Kyle Larson had something to say about it. 

With the last 100 laps of the race going caution free in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race, teams had to go through a couple of cycles of green flag pitstops before the checkered flag flew. This would be one of few opportunities to try and make up some ground on Truex, since it seemed unlikely anyone was going to be able to run him down on track. 

On the final stop of the day, Larson’s crew capitalized, getting the No. 5 Chevrolet on and off pit road faster than Truex, shrinking the margin between them and Truex’s No. 19 car, and giving Larson one last shot at stealing the victory and earning his second win of the season. 

When the field cycled back around with a little less than 40 laps to go, Larson was just over two seconds behind Truex, and ran him down in a matter of laps. 

Larson was able to make it all the way up to Truex’s bumper, but only ever peeked to the inside of the No. 19 car in an attempt to pass. Eventually, as the two drivers weaved their way in and around lapped traffic — including one daring move from Larson where he made a three-wide pass in the middle between Ryan Newman and Tyler Reddick — Larson began to lose ground, and would finish the race over 2.5 seconds behind the leader. 

“I was surprised that I was able to get to him,” said Larson post-race. “I caught him really; like, I closed on pit road and then I caught him pretty quickly once we were on track. I closed right in, and actually had an opportunity to get by him in the middle of (Turns) 1 and 2, but I thought I’d stay patient and maybe get him to use his stuff up. He was just a little bit better than I was in the long runs. So, just wish maybe I could have taken advantage of that opportunity, but thought it was going to play out a little differently.”

Though Larson was unable to lead a lap during the race, the No. 5 team earned their fifth top-five finish of the season, following three consecutive weekends of results outside the top 15. 

“We definitely needed to get a good finish,” said Larson. “I thought we were going to get one last week and I messed that up. Three bad weeks in a row, and to come back and contend for a win and finish second and get good stage points after speeding at the end of the first stage, too, yeah, it was a good day.”

Now, the series heads to Dover International Speedway this weekend, a place where Larson has found success before, winning the Drydene 400 back in October of 2019. 

“I’m pumped to get there,” Larson said. “I think it’s this aero package maybe, too. Yeah, Dover is just an awesome place, suits my style. Can move around quite a bit. It’s fast, aggressive, and I love it. Ready to get there, and hopefully be one spot better.”

Dover will be the 13th race of the 36-race season, with the Playoffs beginning when the series returns to Darlington on September 5th. Larson is already locked into the Playoffs by virtue of his win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway earlier this season, provided there are not more than 16 winners in the regular season. If that happens, Larson may have to rely on points to make it into the postseason.

There have already been 10 different winners in 12 races this season, with Truex the only driver to have gone to victory lane more than once in 2021. 

The 2021 Drydene 400 will take place on Sunday, May 16 at 2:00PM ET and can be seen on FS1.

Photo Credit: NKP

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