Monday, April 15, 2024

Kyle Larson hangs on in wild Darlington Xfinity finish

The last time Kyle Larson raced in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Darlington Raceway, he was in a thrilling finish as last-lap contact with Sheldon Creed allowed Noah Gragson to sneak by for the win. Eight months later, his duel with John Hunter Nemechek also caused the two to tangle coming to the finish; this time, however, as Nemechek slid into the inside wall, Larson pulled away to score the win.

The two were the class of the field as they combined to lead 103 of 147 laps and split the first two stage wins. Nemechek, who comprised 57 of those led circuits, held first for much of the final segment including the final restart with seven laps to go.

Larson closed in on Nemechek on the last lap before getting side by side on the backstretch. Slight contact between the two entering turn three caused Larson to brush the wall. Exiting the final corner, Larson was sandwiched between Nemechek and the barrier, and a bump with the latter caused him to ricochet back into Nemechek which shot him into the inside retaining wall.

After re-firing his damaged car, Nemechek crossed the line in fifth.

“Just disappointed a little bit from the standpoint of how that ended up there,” said Nemechek. “Overall, we gave it a shot and still had a shot to win off of turn four. Fast car, top five to show for it when it probably should have been Victory Lane or second.”

For Larson, it is his fourteenth career Xfinity win and continues his streak of winning at least once in every season that he raced in the series save for his rookie season in 2013.

“We were picking off cars really fast and had some lane selections work out for me,” Larson commented. “We were just bouncing off each other a little bit. I don’t know what happened in three. It seemed like he tried to get behind me to shove me into the corner. It kind of hooked me right, and I hit the wall, and I was trying to stay away from him and get off of four.”

Among those who passed Nemechek after his crash was Austin Hill in fourth, rebounding after a bizarre crash in which he and Richard Childress Racing team-mate Creed spun at exactly the same time on lap 68. Creed was unable to make up the lost ground and finished twenty-fifth, continuing an Xfinity tenure plagued by misfortune.

Carson Hocevar finished sixth in Spire Motorsports‘ Xfinity début. Three spots behind him, Sam Hunt Racing enjoyed a strong day as both of their cars scored top tens with Kaz Grala in ninth and Corey Heim tenth.

Race results

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 3 10 Kyle Larson* Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 147 Running
2 17 7 Justin Allgaier JR Motorsports Chevrolet 147 Running
3 5 00 Cole Custer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 147 Running
4 10 21 Austin Hill Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 147 Running
5 1 20 John Hunter Nemechek Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 147 Running
6 25 77 Carson Hocevar* Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 147 Running
7 13 8 Josh Berry JR Motorsports Chevrolet 147 Running
8 4 1 Sam Mayer JR Motorsports Chevrolet 147 Running
9 26 26 Kaz Grala Sam Hunt Racing Toyota 147 Running
10 24 24 Corey Heim* Sam Hunt Racing Toyota 147 Running
11 9 18 Sammy Smith Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 147 Running
12 15 27 Jeb Burton Jordan Anderson Racing Chevrolet 147 Running
13 23 48 Parker Kligerman Big Machine Racing Team Chevrolet 147 Running
14 19 51 Jeremy Clements Jeremy Clements Racing Chevrolet 147 Running
15 20 78 Anthony Alfredo B.J. McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet 147 Running
16 12 11 Daniel Hemric Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 147 Running
17 27 92 Josh Williams DGM Racing Chevrolet 147 Running
18 21 91 Ross Chastain* DGM Racing Chevrolet 147 Running
19 30 3 Ty Dillon* Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 147 Running
20 14 25 Brett Moffitt AM Racing Ford 147 Running
21 31 35 Patrick Emerling Emerling-Gase Motorsports Chevrolet 147 Running
22 28 7 Stefan Parsons JR Motorsports Chevrolet 147 Running
23 35 6 Brennan Poole JD Motorsports Chevrolet 147 Running
24 8 31 Parker Retzlaff Jordan Anderson Racing Chevrolet 147 Running
25 7 2 Sheldon Creed Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 147 Running
26 33 45 Jeffrey Earnhardt Alpha Prime Racing Chevrolet 147 Running
27 16 39 Ryan Sieg RSS Racing Ford 146 Running
28 34 53 Matt Mills* Emerling-Gase Motorsports Ford 146 Running
29 36 08 Gray Gaulding SS-Green Light Racing Ford 146 Running
30 29 28 Kyle Sieg RSS Racing Ford 146 Running
31 22 44 Sage Karam Alpha Prime Racing Chevrolet 144 Running
32 37 38 Joe Graf Jr. RSS Racing Ford 140 Accident
33 32 43 Ryan Ellis Alpha Prime Racing Chevrolet 74 Accident
34 11 9 Brandon Jones JR Motorsports Chevrolet 68 Accident
35 2 19 Ryan Truex Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 68 Accident
36 6 16 Chandler Smith Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 67 Accident
37 38 02 Blaine Perkins Our Motorsports Chevrolet 35 Suspension
38 18 98 Riley Herbst Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 29 Accident
DNQ 4 Garrett Smithley JD Motorsports Chevrolet
DNQ 66 Chad Finchum MBM Motorsports Ford
DNQ 74 Dawson Cram CHK Racing Chevrolet
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for points
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