Kyle Larson extends NASCAR championship lead after surviving Talladega
Kyle Larson hit the wall 20 laps into the GEICO 500 on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, suffered a battery failure, and still managed to extend his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship lead with a 12th place finish.
That’s the kind of season it’s been so far for the 24-year-old.
Larson drew the short stick on Lap 15 when a chain reaction sent him into the backstretch SAFER barrier. Even though he only slapped the wall, the damage was severe enough to cut a tire three laps later and send him into the Turn 1 wall.
The damage from that contact forced him to give up some of the all-important aerodynamics needed to win at NASCAR’s largest track.
The whole thing began when pole-sitter and early leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ran over some debris that covered his grille. He gave up the lead to Brad Keselowski and unsuccessfully tried to file in behind the new leader. Chase Elliott also got by him for second and Stenhouse had to cut in right in front of Larson, which sent him reeling into the wall.
“I don’t know if the 17 had trash on his grill or what, but it looked like he was trying to duck in behind people to get something off his grill,” Larson told Autoweek after the race. “I was just trying to check up and fall in line behind him on the backstretch. It was just a chain reaction. I think maybe Jamie (McMurray, teammate) was behind me (he was) and just tagged us and got us sideway into the wall.”
Larson had enough speed to score stage points after the second segment of the race but was forced to pit on Lap 114 for to address a battery issue. That cost
him a lap and he wouldn’t get it back until 19 laps to go when the big 18-car crash delayed the finish.
All told, he restarted 25th with 15 laps to go and recovered to the tune of a 12th place finish.
“We got the lucky dog late in the race and made a decent day out of it,” Larson said. “I was definitely slower with our body damage so that was a bummer. Everyone worked hard on the car all day. Every time we came down pit road, we had to repair something. So it wasn’t a terrible way to finish the day all things considered.”
Larson leaves Talladega with a 54 point advantage over Martin Truex Jr., which is actually 12 points more than what he entered with. Now he heads to Kansas Speedway next weekend, a track he believes could result in his second win of the season.
“I’m really excited about Kansas,” Larson said. “Our mile and a half program has been solid this year and it’s a good track for me. I’m thinking we’ll have a good run.”