Homestead, FL – Under the sun at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson won the Dixie Vodka 400 in dominating fashion, leading 199 of the 267-lap race.
Larson, who drives the #5 Chevrolet Camaro and won the championship in 2021, earned his third win of the season and his first at Homestead.
“It means a lot. I don’t know what my career laps led here is, but I’ve never won here,” said Larson. “I got a list of excuses of why I’ve never won here. But hey, I got it done today”
Today’s race could have confirmed who would be joining Joey Logano in the Championship 4, which are the final four drivers who can compete for the NASCAR Cup Series championship. Logano secured a spot by winning last week’s race at Las Vegas.
However, Larson was eliminated from playoff contention in the Round of 12, so the final three spots are still up for grabs. As it stands, drivers Ross Chastain, Chase Elliott, and William Byron have the best shot based on standings. Next week’s race at Martinsville will ultimately determine everything.
Next-Gen cars never go out of style.— Jake Gibson (@JakeTheEmcee) October 23, 2022
The Dixie-Vodka 400 is a go! pic.twitter.com/SBYHOYleoX
Larson Makes His Presence Known
Stage One was a dominant performance by Larson, who finished with an eight-second lead over William Byron, who won the pole position on Saturday.
Sunday’s race at Homestead began with Byron and Christopher Bell joining other drivers in three-wide and four-wide pandemonium, shaking up positions early.
Early in the race, a caution flag was brought out as John Hunter Nemecheck suffered a flat tire and spun out on the backstretch. Nemecheck was driving in place of Bubba Wallace, who was suspended this week following his actions in Las Vegas.
John Hunter Nemechek, subbing for Bubba Wallace this week, spins and hits the wall. #NASCAR— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 23, 2022
📺 : @nbc pic.twitter.com/OJ8I0LYb4T
Chase Elliott secured eighth place in Stage One with a quick pass over Ryan Blaney, and with the extra bit of points gained, it helps his chances of staying alive in the playoffs.
The Wrath of Stage Two
Denny Hamlin, who began Stage Two in ninth place, quickly fell back to 15th, telling his pit crew that the car felt a bit too tight.
Car issues late in Stage Two forced playoff-hopeful Chase Briscoe into pit road, then into the garage, ending his day. Briscoe and his #14 Ford Mustang smashed the wall with four laps to go, causing massive damage to the front end of his car, and bringing out a caution.
Chase Briscoe hits the wall.— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 23, 2022
Will it be the end of the day for the #NASCARPlayoffs driver? pic.twitter.com/fWSG09zCk8
With a DNF entry in this race, playoff-hopeful Briscoe will essentially have to win next week to have a shot at the Championship 4.
Through it all, Larson kept a steady lead over Martin Truex Jr, securing another stage win. At one point, he had a 5.5 second lead over Truex, primarily by driving right near the edge of the wall in the backstretch, keeping as much speed as possible into turn three of the 1.5 mile oval.
“Today, it paid off. The car was strong enough for me. I can get in the wall and it’s not gonna flatten your tire or mess up your aerodynamics,” said Larson. “Thankfully, this car played into my favor a lot. I do push the limits more than others.”
As the Sun Sets, Chaos Begins
Larson’s dominating lead was put to the test as strategies for every team began to change as the sun started to set, and cars slowly lost grip on the track.
With 56 laps to go, Ryan Blaney spun out exiting pit road, causing yet another caution. During this time, drivers Truex and Chastain were on pit road and remained on the lead lap, leading first and second upon the restart of the race.
Hamlin jumped out to the lead, with back-and-forth battles between Truex and Chastain for second place. Hamlin eventually started to fall back, giving Truex, driver of the #19 Toyota Camry, sole possession of the lead for the time being. All the while, Larson slowly crept up to second, passing Chastain with 31 laps to go.
The turning point of the race was a caution with 23 laps left, as Tyler Reddick slammed his car into the inside wall on the backstretch.
On the ensuing pit stop under caution, Truex spun out in pit road, entering his pit stall facing the opposite way. According to Truex after the race, the sunlight blocked his vision as he missed his pit lane mark, locked his brakes, bumped into Larson who was right behind him, and spun out.
“From my perspective, I was running my pit road speed. I’m running my lights and trying to stay on them as soon as I can. I think I had a few feet from my front bumper to his,” said Larson. “He started to peel off and then he slammed on the brakes, I hit him, and I didn’t have any time to react.”
No one from Truex’s pit crew was hurt in the incident, and his car was still serviced, but he lost a lot of lap time in the process.
Contact on pit road. @MartinTruex_Jr goes backwards into his pit box. pic.twitter.com/jtkuKys3DF— NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 23, 2022
On the restart with 17 laps to go, Larson regained the lead and never gave it up, securing the win.
“I was thankful for the caution. I thought I was gonna catch Martin very quickly, looking at my lap times,” said Larson. “I was happy for the caution just to give myself an opportunity for a restart, and it worked out. I’m grateful for a fast car.”
Larson joins two other winning drivers from this weekend at Homestead. Ty Majeski won the Baptist Health 200 (Camping World Truck Series) on Saturday evening, and Noah Gragson from the Contender Boats 300 (Xfinity Series) won on Saturday afternoon.
For both the Xfinity and Cup Series, NASCAR will head to Talladega. The first race on the slate is the Dead on Tools 250 on Saturday, October 29th at 2 PM, and the latter race is the Xfinity 500 on Sunday, October 30th at 2 PM. For the Camping World Truck Series, their championship race is in two weeks at Phoenix- the Lucas Oil 150 on Friday, November 4th at 10 PM.
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