DOVER, DE (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson is moving on to the third round of the NASCAR Playoffs after winning Sunday’s Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway.
Larson beat Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr by 1.578-seconds, leading the last 78-laps and 154-laps overall. The victory was the sixth of Larson’s career and first points-paying race in over two seasons. Larson did win the non-points paying NASCAR All-star race, and it’s $1-million-dollar payday, this past May.
“What a day,” exclaimed Larson. “This Clover Chevy was really good. After the first stage I kind of changed my driving style up and I felt like I made the car better at the same time, and it really benefitted our long runs. That’s as good as I’ve ever been around cutting the bottom here. Just a great combination here. Good to be fast in practice and then be good again in the race and get the win.”
Larson took the lead thanks to a blistering pit stop by his No. 42 Clover Chevrolet crew following the races second stage, which was won by Truex.
“It’s pretty neat to do what we did today, to dominate that whole second half there,” said Larson. “The pit crew did a great job to get us out as the leader and kind of control the race from there. Just hats off to everybody back here. This is awesome. It’s been a long time since we won a points-based race. We won the All-Star Race earlier this year, which was great, but we wanted to win a points race, and we did it when it mattered.”
“I told the guys on the pit box, barring a late caution that I felt the race was going to be won on that last restart, so anything we could do to make sure we had control of the race and could come off Turn 2 with the lead was going to put us in our best opportunity to win,” said Chad Johnston, Larson’s Crew Chief. “To me that race was won off of pit road by the guys on pit road.”
The victory no only locks Larson into the third round but also gives his Chip Ganassi Racing crew some breathing room going into next weekends race at Talladega Superspeedway, which has a history of multi-car crashes that can change the complexion of the race and ultimately the playoffs.
“It’s going to be nice to not necessarily relax these next two but not have to worry about Talladega quite as much,” said Larson. “There’s still two more opportunities to get stage points, get a win.”
“Obviously you can breathe a little bit easier going into Talladega, being we all know what Talladega is like,” said Johnston. “I think we still have to try to put points on the board, whether it’s bonus points or race win points. There’s a lot of guys that have five, six wins and a lot of bonus points that are going to roll over to that next stage, so anything we can do to close the gap on that, obviously with Martinsville being in that last round, that’s not the greatest place for us, but we feel like Texas and Phoenix are places we can win at.”
Truex was frustrated he didn’t win as well as with lap traffic during the races last green-flag stint.
“We got the lead there, Stage 2, got that stage win, and then had a pit stop issue and lost track position, then we just — the whole third stage we were behind,” said Truex. “We were catching him at the end; we got close, but yeah, just unfortunate there. We win and lose as a team. The guys will clean it up, I’m sure, and it’s cool to come home second after that as hard as it was to pass today.”
Hendrick Motorsports Alex Bowman finished third followed by Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick. Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin finished the real in 15th.
The next race for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is at Talladega Superspeedway on October 13th.