Kyle Larson sprinted away from the rest of the field on the final restart and won Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Larson entered the race with a history of zero Cup wins at Homestead. His best previous finish was a second in 2016, but he had scored four top-five runs in the past six races at the track.
With Larson, a non-playoff driver, winning the race, three spots remain open in the Championship Four for the Phoenix Raceway season finale. Joey Logano locked in the first spot by winning last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. After Sunday’s race, the three drivers above the cutline are Ross Chastain, Chase Elliott and William Byron. Below the cutline are Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Chase Briscoe.
Only two playoff drivers — Chastain and Hamlin — finished in the top 10 Sunday.
The race took an odd turn with 23 laps remaining after Tyler Reddick prompted the day’s fifth caution period by spinning out. Leader Martin Truex Jr. was bumped from behind by second-place Kyle Larson as they both rolled along pit road toward their individual pits. Truex slid backward into his pit stall, sending team members scrambling.
That sequence of events dropped Truex to 19th place and continued his season of frustration.
MORE: Homestead Cup results
MORE: Homestead Cup driver points
Larson was side-by-side with Hamlin for the ensuing restart. He won relatively easily as several drivers jousted for position behind him.
Truex said he and Larson were both to blame for the pit-road accident.
“It was really hard to see with the sun like that and all the stuff covering it (windshield),” Truex said. “I did see my box late for sure. Obviously, part of that was on me. I didn’t expect to get turned around. I’m glad nobody got hurt there.”
Larson, who was running down Truex when the caution flew, said Truex hit the brakes suddenly. “I was just going behind him, and he did a left and was hard on the brakes at the same time,” Larson said. “I ran right in the back of him. My team said he was late turning into his stall. If it was my fault, I’m sorry, but I don’t think it was. He was definitely the one I was going to have to beat.”
MORE: What drivers said Sunday at Homestead playoff race
Finishing behind Larson, who led 199 laps, were Chastain, AJ Allmendinger, Austin Dillon and Brad Keselowski. Truex rallied to finish sixth.
Larson’s victory came a week after he and Bubba Wallace engaged in on-track and off-track incidents at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Wallace was suspended one race by NASCAR for crashing Larson on track.
Just @DoorDash ‘d some Humble Pie for lunch. Ready to sit back and help @23XIRacing get it done today. 👊🏾 pic.twitter.com/5vYqFVTJkO
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) October 23, 2022
Chastain said his Trackhouse Racing team will push on to Martinsville next week and aim at a win.
“We’ve got a lot of knowledge in our shop, and I’ll lean on a lot of teammates, both in the GM camp and inside our shop of how to approach it, but I’m a racer,” he said. “We’re just going to race. Go practice as well as we can; we’ll go qualify as best we can. And I’m late all the time, so a grandfather clock (one of the Martinsville winner’s awards) might do me a little good for the rest of my life.”
Blaney, among the drivers searching for a spot in the final four, caused a caution in the final stage when he lost control of his car on the pit access road.
MORE: Late laps cost Ryan Blaney, William Byron, Denny Hamlin
Briscoe ran into major trouble four laps from the end of Stage 2 when he slammed the outside wall, causing right-side damage to his car. Briscoe had run poorly most of the race. He likely will need a win at Martinsville next week to make the final four.
With 85 laps to go, Hamlin made light contact with the outside wall while running in the top 10.
Pole winner Byron led the first 26 laps but fell off the frontrunning pace in the final stage. He finished 12th.
Larson led the last 43 laps of the first stage to win it and remained strong in the next stage to win it easily.
The race’s first caution flag flew on Lap 31 when John Hunter Nemechek, substituting for Wallace, spun off Turn 2 after hitting the outside wall.
Stage 1 winner: Kyle Larson
Stage 2 winner: Kyle Larson
Who had a good race: Kyle Larson scored his 19th career victory and became the fourth driver to win at least three races this year. He called Sunday’s run his best of the year. … Ross Chastain finished second for the second straight week. … AJ Allmendinger was third and has finished in the top 10 in his last six Cup starts. … Austin Dillon scored his fifth top-five finish of the year, a personal record. … Brad Keselowski’s fifth-place finish was his best of the season.
Who had a bad race: Chase Briscoe bounced off the wall, damaging the right side of his car and finishing last, severely damaging his hopes of advancing to the Championship Four. … Team Penske drivers Ryan Blaney (17th) and Joey Logano (18th) were mostly absent from the front. Logano already has a spot in the championship competition at Phoenix. Blaney is 18 points below the cutline.
Next: The final race in the Round of 8 is scheduled at 2 p.m. ET (NBC) Oct. 30 at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. That race will complete the Championship Four field for the Nov. 6 season finale at Phoenix Raceway.