Kyle Larson’s pit gamble comes up three laps short because of rain at Michigan

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The Quicken Loans 400 officially wouldn’t be declared over for another 20 minutes, but Kyle Larson already had weighed in on its ending via Twitter.

A torrential downpour came just a few minutes too late Sunday for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver, whose crew chief Chris Heroy gambled on stealing a win and a provisional berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Michigan International Speedway.

source: Getty Images
Getty Images

With his fuel tank nearly empty, Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet remained on the track during the race’s final caution and inherited the lead on Lap 128 when Carl Edwards (who also was nearly out of fuel) pitted.

Despite being saddled with much older tires, Larson easily fended off Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the lap 130 restart and was comfortably ahead of Kurt Busch three laps later when Heroy called his driver into the pits.

Three laps later, the caution flag flew for rain with Busch in the lead, and he was declared the winner when the red flag flew for the fourth time because of rain, ending the race after 138 of 200 scheduled laps.

Larson finished 17th, roughly seven spots worse than he might have if he’d stayed out. Heroy, who was shown smiling and gesturing toward the sky on the FS1 broadcast as the rain began to fall, told his team on the radio that he could live with the gamble — and so could Larson.

“Yeah, we could see weather coming there off of (Turn) 4 and just praying that it would get here in time for me to stay out and be in the lead when the rain did hit,” Larson said. “Hey, I applaud my guys for trying.  We are pretty deep in points so we have to take risks like that to make the Chase.  I’m happy with the call, just wish the rain would have come three laps sooner.”

Larson is ranked 18th in the points standings, 39 points behind 16th-ranked Ryan Newman. The Chase for the Sprint Cup’s 16-driver field will be filled by race winners and then remaining slots will be set by points, which means Newman holds the last provisional berth with 12 races remaining in the regular season.