Kyle Larson captured his second straight victory at Michigan International Speedway, regaining the points lead over Martin Truex, Jr.
In a repeat from his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory last August, Kyle Larson held off Chase Elliott for his third career win at the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan Sunday.
Larson led a race-high 96 laps for his second straight victory at Michigan after starting from the pole. His car sponsor, Disney Pixar’s Cars 3 also capped off opening weekend topping the box office at $53.5 million.
In an interview with Fox Sports reporter Matt Yocum, Larson said the restart with 15 laps to go helped him with lane choice 10 laps later and thanked Ryan Blaney for helping him get to victory lane.
“Ryan gave me a heck of a push and got to thank him a lot,” Larson said. “I knew the Penske cars took off good and was glad to see him behind me. For us to withstand a few restarts with tough competitors was important and can’t thank my crew. My Cars 3 Chevrolet was really, really fast and it was cool to win it. Great Father’s Day present for myself and my dad (Mike) was here today and looking forward to celebrating with them.”
Larson passed Kyle Busch in turn one with 15 laps to go despite restarting on the slower low line and never looked back.
The pass marked Busch’s fifth race he’s been passed for the final lead change.
Busch finished eighth as he and Joe Gibbs Racing remained winless after 15 races.
After a multi-car collision that collected Daniel Suarez and Danica Patrick in turn two on lap 191, Larson had to conquer one last restart with five laps to go.
As a result of Larson choosing the outside lane, it was smooth sailing for Larson, clearing Denny Hamlin right out of the gate as the rest of the field scrambled for track position.
Hamlin dropped to fourth and came up short of third-place finisher Joey Logano.
Hamlin said Larson pinned him down low and derailed his chances of winning, adding the low groove was a struggle for several drivers.
“Kyle was doing his job and I was doing my job (on the restart),” Hamlin said. “We had a shot but the low groove was very tough to get it to going. Everyone up there was a sitting duck. Kyle got the lead one time which was pretty impressive but definitely nothing I could do. We had a really fast car all day and it was stellar. We only had one bad stop and it set us back to 10th or 12th and it took us all day to get back up front but proud effort nonetheless.”
Logano said he’s proud of the team’s valiant effort after finishing third, his best in the last six races.
“We outperformed our car and I’m proud of that,” Logano said. “My team needed a momentum change and they did what they had to do. It looked like we were going to finish around 10th, we had some good restarts, (crew chief) Todd (Gordon) had some good strategy and the pit stops were good.”
Logano said his crew kept finding ways to build momentum despite not having the fastest car.
“That’s what we got to do and that’s what this team typically does,” Logano said. “We outperform what we got a lot of times. That’s what put us in position to almost win the race. I’m just happy nothing went wrong at Michigan, we’ve had a rough struggle the last five, six weeks so it’s nice to click off a top-5 and get that momentum build back up.”
Points leader Martin Truex, Jr. continued his stage dominance by winning the first two, adding his stage wins total to 10 this season.
Truex, Jr. appeared to be on his way of winning all three stages like he did at Las Vegas in March but after avoiding a spinning Ryan Sieg, the complexity of the race changed.
During a restart on lap 155, Truex, Jr.’s car was off the pace entering one and dropped to ninth. Truex, Jr. never regained the lead and finished sixth, losing his lead in the standings to race winner Larson.
Larson said the team continued to fight after having eight top-two finishes this season and regaining the points lead from Truex, Jr.
“We’ve been so close to so many other wins and this is our second Cup win of the year,” Larson said. “We’ve had six second-place finishes and could’ve had 30 more bonus points but all-in-all good season so far and we’ll continue to keep building on what we got.”
Larson leads Truex, Jr. by five points after Sunday’s victory.
For the third time of his career, Elliott finished second, all at Michigan. The race also marked his third straight top-five finish.
Elliott said he’s proud of the effort after being nervous about his performance prior to Sunday’s race.
“From where we started and ended, I’m proud of the effort,” Elliott said. “I think we overachieved from what we had but happy to have a solid day and put ourselves in position relying on late-race restarts. I had a couple of opportunities to get the race lead, unfortunately it didn’t work out but we’ll move on. Congrats to Kyle, he had a fast car and we’ll try to go get him at Sonoma.”
The Cup drivers will go from the fast ovals to the winding right turns at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California June 26 for its first of two road course races of the season.
Busch will seek for retribution as he previously won at Sonoma in 2015. Busch is also the last active driver to win after defending winner Tony Stewart and 2014 winner Carl Edwards retired after last season.