By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service
Kyle Larson continued his streak of superiority Sunday afternoon winning the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway – his third consecutive win, following three consecutive runner-up finishes. He hasn’t finished worse than second place in a NASCAR Cup Series race since May 2.
It’s a high performance mark the series hasn’t seen in more than a decade when former Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson won four straight points-paying races in 2007. Larson’s win Sunday was his third straight points-paying victory but he also won the All-Star Race $1 million-to-win exhibition last week at Texas Motor Speedway.
Larson’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet led Ross Chastain and Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet across the Nashville finish line by 4.335-seconds. He paced the field by as much as 5 seconds in the closing 10 laps of this inaugural event. And that fourth winner’s trophy is a series best on the season.
There were 14 lead changes among seven drivers, but only two other drivers led double digit laps – Chase Elliott (13) and Kyle Busch (10).
“It was a great day,” Larson said, smiling at the understatement. “We never really had to run behind people, so I don’t know if one of my teammates got out front again, it probably would have been hard to pass them.
“This Valvoline Chevrolet was really good. It cut the middle of the corner really well and our pit crew did an awesome job again. I just hope we can keep it going.”
Larson led 264 of the 300 laps at the 1.333-mile Nashville track in the first NASCAR Cup Series race in the city since 1984. The effort marked the fourth time this season Larson’s led at least 200 laps in a race and the fifth time he’s led more than half the total laps in a race.
Only 17 races into the 36-race season, Larson has already eclipsed his previous season-best laps led. He’s been out front 1,426 laps. His previous season-best total was 1,352 laps led in 2017.
Larson, who now has 10 career NASCAR Cup Series wins, has led 82 percent of all laps run during this current three-race winning streak. His Hendrick teammate Elliott – who was disqualified for having four loose lug nuts – won Stage 1 and Larson answered with the Stage 2 victory – his 12th of the season, which is double that of any other driver.
Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron looked to give the team its fifth straight 1-2 finish, rallying from the rear of the grid. He was running second until the final 10 laps when Chastain got around him. Byron finished third, followed by polesitter Aric Almirola and his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick.
The fourth-place finish was Almirola’s best of the season. Harvick’s fifth place run was his best in the last six races.
“We had a good car, just, my goodness, we don’t have anything for those Chevrolets right now,” said Almirola, who drives the No. 10 SHR Ford. “They’re making grip and they’re getting up off the corner. It’s so hard to race with them.
“But,” Almirola added, “We have made huge strides to close the gap. Our race team is doing a great job scrounging and scrapping to build better race cars and it’s nice to come here and run up front, run in the Top-5 and at least be in the mix.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Daniel Suarez, Kurt Busch, Christopher Bell and Joey Logano rounded out the Top-10. It marked Stenhouse’s second Top-10 of the season and the third for Suarez in the new No. 99 Trackhouse Racing team, which hosted co-owner, superstar performer Pitbull, at Nashville.
NASCAR Cup Series championship leader Denny Hamlin had to pit for fuel with two laps remaining dropping from a Top-10 result. He finished 22nd – the second time he’s finished outside the Top-10 in the last six races and now holds a slim 6-point championship lead over Larson.
The NASCAR Cup Series moves to Pocono (Pa.) Raceway for a doubleheader weekend. Race one will be next Saturday (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Explore the Pocono Mountains 350 (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) completes the weekend.
NASCAR Cup Series Race – Inaugural Ally 400
Sunday, June 20, 2021
1. (5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 300.
2. (19) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 300.
3. (4) William Byron, Chevrolet, 300.
4. (1) Aric Almirola, Ford, 300.
5. (12) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 300.
6. (14) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 300.
7. (22) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 300.
8. (30) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 300.
9. (25) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 300.
10. (3) Joey Logano, Ford, 300.
11. (2) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 300.
12. (28) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 300.
13. (29) Ryan Newman, Ford, 300.
14. (8) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 300.
15. (24) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 300.
16. (23) Michael McDowell, Ford, 300.
17. (18) Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, 300.
18. (26) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 300.
19. (9) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 300.
20. (21) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 299.
21. (13) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 299.
22. (35) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 299.
23. (15) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 299.
24. (11) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 298.
25. (36) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 298.
26. (34) Josh Bilicki, Ford, 298.
27. (32) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 298.
28. (31) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 295.
29. (37) Joey Gase(i), Chevrolet, 295.
30. (7) Cole Custer, Ford, 252.
31. (16) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, Accident, 227.
32. (20) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, Brakes, 197.
33. (33) Chad Finchum(i), Toyota, Rear End, 157.
34. (38) David Starr(i), Toyota, Brakes, 126.
35. (27) Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 79.
36. (17) Chris Buescher, Ford, Accident, 77.
37. (10) Ryan Blaney, Ford, Accident, 53.
38. (39) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, Accident, 0.
39. (6) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 300.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 113.792 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 30 Mins, 23 Secs. Margin of Victory: 4.335 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 11 for 60 laps.
Lead Changes: 14 among 7 drivers.
Lap Leaders: A. Almirola 0;K. Busch 1-5;K. Larson 6-45;K. Busch 46-48;A. Almirola 49;K. Busch 50-53;K. Larson 54-79;C. Elliott 80-92;K. Larson 93-137;K. Busch 138;K. Larson 139-176;C. Briscoe # 177-181;K. Larson 182-218;R. Chastain 219-222;K. Larson 223-300.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Larson 6 times for 264 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 13 laps; Kyle Busch 3 times for 10 laps; Chase Briscoe # 1 time for 5 laps; Ross Chastain 1 time for 4 laps; Kurt Busch 1 time for 3 laps; Aric Almirola 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 1,5,99,18,3,47,2,22,21,11
Stage #2 Top Ten: 5,3,14,24,18,11,47,10,4,1