DARLINGTON, S.C. — Kyle Larson won Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway after bumping challenger John Hunter Nemechek during a fierce battle on the final lap.
Larson recovered from a pit road speeding penalty that dropped him from the lead pack to 31st and moved into position to challenge for the win in the closing miles.
He and Nemechek raced hard on the final lap, running side by side and touching. Nemechek almost lost control but managed to challenge Larson in the final turn before Larson bounced off the wall and hit Nemechek. Larson raced under the checkered flag as Nemechek lost control of his car.
MORE: Darlington Xfinity results, driver points
“I thought it was good, hard racing, for sure,” Larson said. “I was nervous about what would happen in (Turn) 3. I’m trying to stay right to him so I could arc and drive in as hard as I could. That got us both out of shape. It was a lot of fun. Turns 3 and 4 — it was crazy.
“I hit the wall so hard in the center of (Turns) 3 and 4. I was hoping I wasn’t broke. I was plowing tight and watching my mirror and trying to get away from him. I hit the wall, and he got to my door at the same exact time, and it kind of shot him and wrecked him.”
Nemechek also called the final lap “good, hard racing. I’m smiling ear-to-ear internally let’s put it, for the hard racing we had today, how him and I raced each other. I’m disappointed with a fifth-place finish with the car we had today and not being in Victory Lane. I’ll let that disappointment drive me and, hopefully, go win some more races.”
A debris caution with 22 laps to go in the race eliminated Nemechek’s three-second lead over Justin Allgaier and bunched the field.
The restart found Nemechek, Allgaier, Cole Custer, Austin Hill and Kyle Larson at the front.
Nemechek jumped out to a lead on the green flag, but another caution brought the field together again.
Allgaier finished second and was followed by Cole Custer, Austin Hill and Nemechek.
The win was the 14th Xfinity victory for Larson, who won at Darlington for the first time in any series.
Much of the field was involved in a multi-car crash on Lap 67. With the field bunched after a restart, contact between Sheldon Creed and Nemechek in Turn 3 sent Creed into a spin, and cars behind them were swept into the accident. A dozen cars were impacted in a crash that looked Talladega-like. Nemechek drove away from the accident with no significant damage.
Stage 1 winner: Kyle Larson
Stage 2 winner: John Hunter Nemechek
Who had a good race: Sam Mayer led 34 of the race’s first 40 laps. … Kyle Larson, dropping in from the Cup Series, had one of the afternoon’s best cars and emerged victorious on a tough final lap. … John Hunter Nemechek took charge during the final stage but lost the win on the last lap.
Who had a bad race: Riley Herbst slapped the outside wall on Lap 12 and parked after completing 29 laps. … Anthony Alfredo, Sage Karam and Stefan Parsons had encounters with the wall on Lap 61. … Chandler Smith, Brandon Jones and Ryan Truex picked up considerable damage in a huge Lap 67 crash and left the race.
Next: The Xfinity Series moves on to Charlotte Motor Speedway for a May 27 race at 1 p.m.
#NASCAR … Was that last-lap duel with Kyle Larson just good hard racing or something else? Here is what John Hunter Nemechek said. pic.twitter.com/WhXt4in2nW
— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) May 13, 2023