NASCAR

Texas NASCAR: Larson wins to secure final four playoffs place

Larson had to hold off multiple contenders over six restarts in the final 60 laps – and just edged his Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron by 0.459 seconds at the finish to earn his series-leading eighth win of the 2021 season.

After winning Stage 2, Larson continued to lead into the final part of the race, ahead of the flurry of caution periods that punctuated the final part of the race.

Chase Briscoe’s burst tyre brought the lead runners into the pits, with Larson continuing to lead, and the driver of the #5 continued to bat away plays for the lead as Joey Logano’s engine expired, Kurt Busch and Chris Buescher made contact, and Anthony Alfredo’s car caught fire after a clash with Briscoe – which brought out a brief red flag.

Once the race resumed, Denny Hamlin sustained a tyre rub which eventually became flat, pitching him into a spin to bring out another caution period.

Martin Truex Jr’s crash brought out the penultimate caution, before a battle between Briscoe, Buescher and Hamlin boiled over and produced the final yellow flag period – leaving Larson just needing to hold on for the final two laps to secure victory.

This win in the semi-final round of the playoffs at Texas Motor Speedway locks Larson into the Championship 4 at Phoenix, regardless of where he finishes in the next two races.

Larson, 28, has never previously had the opportunity to compete for the series title under NASCAR’s playoff format.

The win is the 14th of Larson’s career and first at Texas.

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro, Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry, Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Ford Mustang, Joey Logano, Team Penske, Ford Mustang

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro, Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry, Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Ford Mustang, Joey Logano, Team Penske, Ford Mustang

Photo by: Chris Graythen – Getty Images

“Yeah, this is unreal,” Larson said. “I knew we had a good shot to win today. Our car was amazing – that is probably the best 550hp package intermediate car we’ve had all year. Thanks to everyone at this No. 5 team.

“This is so cool. We get to race for a championship. This is crazy.”

Asked about hanging on during seven restarts in the final stage, Larson said, “I got good pushes from behind, really. Thankfully, I was just barely able to clear William every time into (Turn) 1 and not have to fight off of (Turn) 2.

“It was awesome. Hopefully, we can still get some more wins the rest of the year.”

Larson said despite being locked into the Championship, he does not intend to “lose focus” on winning at either Kansas or Martinsville.

“I love the West Coast. I love Phoenix,” he said. “We’ve always been fast there. I think we should have a good shot. Our team has been so strong. Might as well close it out now.”

Behind second-placed Byron, Christopher Bell ended up finishing third in the race – both drivers accompanying Larson in the top three having been knocked out of the playoffs in the previous round.

Brad Keselowski was fourth as Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five, ahead of Ryan Blaney.

Blaney’s final-round playoff hopes have been boosted with his sixth-place finish, sitting 17 points ahead of Chase Elliott in the cut-off zone – who finished seventh.

Stage 1 winner Kyle Busch crossed the line in eighth, ahead of Tyler Reddick, as Daniel Suarez completed the top 10.

With races at Kansas and Martinsville remaining in the semi-final round, the four drivers in the playoff standings in danger of missing out at a chance to compete for the championship are Elliott, Keselowski, Truex and Logano.

NASCAR Cup Series Texas race results – 334 laps

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