BROOKLYN, Mich. — Three times, Kyle Larson needed to outrace the rest of the contenders on late restarts.
That’s a task he’s proven he can handle at Michigan International Speedway.
Larson took control on a restart with five laps remaining and held off Chase Elliott on Sunday for his second NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season. The finish was similar to the race at Michigan last August, when Larson took the lead on a restart with nine laps left en route to his first Cup win.
Larson won this year at Fontana and has five seconds. He also was second in the All-Star race, which doesn’t count in the standings.
“We’ve been so close to so many other wins,” the 24-year-old Larson said. “This is our second Cup win of the year, but we’ve had six second-place finishes. All in all, it’s a good season so far and we’ll continue to keep building on what we’ve got.”
It was the third Cup win of Larson’s career and 14th by Chip Ganassi Racing. Elliott was second in both Michigan races last year, and again this time.
He’s winless in 56 career Cup races, but he’s fifth in points this season.
“We had a couple of opportunities to get the lead, and unfortunately, it just didn’t work out, but we’ll move on. Congratulations to Kyle,” the 21-year-old Elliott said. “He had a fast car today and we’ll try to go get ’em next week.”
Joey Logano finished third. He beat Elliott in last June’s race at MIS. Then Elliott was leading the August race comfortably before a yellow flag gave Larson a boost.
This time, there were three cautions toward the end. The first was for debris and Larson beat Kyle Busch on the inside for the lead on the restart with 15 laps to go.
Then Clint Bowyer went into the wall, bringing out another caution flag. Larson was first off that restart too, only to be slowed by another caution after a multicar incident on the backstretch that included Danica Patrick being knocked off the track and into the wall.
Finally, with five laps remaining, the race restarted, and Larson took the lead on the outside. He won by 0.993 seconds in his No. 42 Chevrolet.
Martin Truex Jr. won the first two stages of the race but finished sixth, ceding the points lead to Larson. Truex has 10 stage victories this year. Nobody else has more than four.
Truex and Larson were 1-2 in the points standings coming into the race, and Truex was second to Larson in qualifying Friday. Their dominance carried over to the race Sunday, at least at the start. They were the only drivers to lead during the first half of the 200-lap, 400-mile race.
Denny Hamlin, who won Saturday’s Xfinity event, finished fourth Sunday, followed by Jamie McMurray and Truex. Busch ended up seventh, followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jimmie Johnson, who started at the back after going to his backup car, finished 10th.
His type of track
Larson’s three Cup victories have all come at 2-mile tracks, although there are some differences between racing at MIS and Fontana.
“Michigan and Fontana are very, very similar in shape and size, but the racing surface is way different,” Larson said. “Fontana’s rough and bumpy, and it’s wore-out surface — you have to really, really take care of your tires and move around, find different lanes that work. Here at Michigan, your tires don’t wear out quite as bad, not nearly as bad, and your line doesn’t move around a ton, but it’s really fast, got a lot of grip.
“They’re both a lot of fun.”
From the front
This was the fifth time in the past eight races at Michigan that the pole winner also won the race. It has happened three times in the Cup Series this year — Larson also did it at Fontana, and Stenhouse pulled it off at Talladega last month.
Still, Larson didn’t feel he had the dominant car Sunday.
“The 78 (Truex) was by far the class of the field, I thought,” Larson said. “I thought the 18 (Busch) was next best, the 20 (Matt Kenseth) was better than I was on the long run. I thought we were probably a third- or fourth-place car, and then to come out a winner, it makes it that much more exciting, I guess.”
Back in the pack
Brad Keselowski finished 16th and is still winless in Cup races at his home state’s track. This was his worst finish since June of 2011 and snapped a streak of six straight top-10 finishes at MIS.
There’s been some chatter about Keselowski’s future lately, but he said recently he’d have no reason to want to leave Team Penske. A team spokesman confirmed this weekend that Paul Wolfe, Keselowski’s crew chief, has signed an extension with Penske.
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