Photo: Alan Marler for Chevy Racing

Late Race Restart Ends Larson’s Chances at Redeeming Dover Win

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

In this race one year ago, Kyle Larson was in contention for his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win after leading 85 laps, but had to settle for second place after a late race battle with eventual race winner Matt Kenseth.

With a win already under his belt in 2017, Larson headed into Dover looking for some redemption and the weekend sweep after handily winning Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race on the one-mile concrete oval.

Starting the day in fifth place, Larson bided his time in the top-five for the first 50 laps before taking over the lead for the first time under caution and keeping his No. 42 Chevrolet at the front of the field for the next 31 laps before a nudge from the front bumper of Martin Truex, Jr’s Toyota knocked him out of the lead.

Larson would lose a handful of positions as a result, but recovered by the end of the first 120 lap stage to finish second to Truex.

When the green flag flew to start the second stage, Larson would get the jump to re-take the lead and stayed up front for 84 laps in that stage before clocking in fifth at the end of the stage at lap 240.

The final stage was more domination from Larson, as he re-took the lead at the start of the stage for another 83 laps added to his growing laps led total.

With 40 laps remaining, Larson was back in the lead after surpassing rookie Ty Dillon and was setting sail once again as the other contenders for the race win were well behind his Chevrolet as the laps wound down.

Just when it looked like a win was all but inevitable, the caution that Larson and his team did not want to see flew with two laps to go after David Ragan blew a tire and impacted the outside wall in Turn 2, forcing the race into overtime.

With Dover master Jimmie Johnson lined up on the front row with him when the green flag flew for the restart, it was Johnson that got the jump and took off before a nine-car crash broke out on the backstretch after the leaders had passed the overtime line, bringing out the final caution flag of the day and ending the race without Larson able to try and get back by him over the final lap and a half.

After the race, Larson was noticeably disappointed with another second-place finish at Dover, especially after leading the most laps on the day with 241 circuits up front.

“He (Jimmie Johnson) did what he had to do to get the best launch that he did,” said Larson. “We were both playing games a little bit. He just took off better than I did. I wasn’t really complaining about the restart. He did a good job. He’s a seven-time champion for a reason. He’s got a golden horseshoe somewhere; and he’s really good at executing. So, I’ve just got to get better at that. We had a dominant car all day. We had a couple of runs where we got off; maybe some bad tires or something. But we were able to rebound from those struggles.”

“I fought hard all race long. I felt like we were on defense the whole race. Even though I led a lot of laps, I felt like we were on defense. We’d be on two tires when everybody else was on four. Two left side tires I was able to lead a lot of laps. It needed to stay green there at the end. I was a lot better than Jimmie was. He just did a better job than I did on that last restart.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.