Kyle Larson had been known since his superb rookie year in 2014 as the NASCAR Sprint Cup ‘nearly man’. 4 2nd place finishes, 5 3rd place finishes, and several other near misses had cursed the Chip Ganassi Racing driver, but finally in the Pure Michigan 400, Kyle Larson won his first Sprint Cup race.
For much of the day, Larson battled with another young star, rookie Chase Elliott. On the final restart, both drivers spun their tires, but Larson got just enough momentum to take the lead, and from there drove perfectly to break a 99 race winless streak for his team, and seal his place in the 2016 Chase.
Behind Larson and Elliott, Brad Keselowski drove a strong race to finish 3rd and continue his excellent season. Ryan Blaney was another rookie to impress, finishing in 4th, whilst Kevin Harvick came home 5th after making a late stop on the final caution in a bid to win.
Larson’s victory has huge implications on the rest of the Chase grid. Ryan Newman now moves provisionally outside of the Chase, with Jamie McMurray on the bubble 15 points ahead of him. Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon are also not safe yet, both being less than 30 points clear of the cutoff line.
However, this could all change again should Chris Buescher fall out of the top 30 in points. A difficult run for him in 35th means that rival David Ragan is just 7 points behind the rookie, and should this gap be overhauled, Ryan Newman would be back in a strong position to make the final 16, with Kasey Kahne now 37 points behind him.
With just 2 races to go before the Chase gets underway, next weekend’s throwback race at Darlington for the Southern 500 should be something special, especially with the drivers running classic liveries to commemorate the legends of the past.
Image – NASCAR.com