CONCORD, N.C. – Kyle Larson led four times in Sunday’s 400-mile race at Auto Club Speedway for a total of 28 laps, including the final seven, to earn his 17th career NASCAR Cup Series trophy.
The victory is Larson’s 11th with Hendrick Motorsports, including winning six of the last 10 races dating back to last year. The California native has now won 29% of his races in 38 starts with the 14-time championship organization.
“It's always fun here to win in the home state,” reigning champion Larson said after climbing from his winning No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. “Didn't feel great in practice yesterday. Cliff (Daniels, crew chief) and everybody made some good adjustments overnight, and the car handled a lot better. There were definitely some guys that were quicker than us, but they had their misfortunes. (We) just kept our heads in it all day.”
Chase Elliott, William Byron and Alex Bowman all had strong showings in today’s 200-lap race but separate misfortunes in the final stage led to less-than-desirable results.
Bowman and Elliott finished 25th and 26th, respectively.
Byron, who raced inside the top five for most of the first two stages, finished 34th.
Take a closer look at how the Hendrick Motorsports teammates fared in the second race of the season.
KYLE LARSON, NO. 5 HENDRICKCARS.COM CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Larson qualified for the 200-lap event 13th but an electrical issue the team had to address before the green flag moved him to the rear of the field for the start of the race. The reigning champ flexed his muscle and was 19th lap by three, 13th at lap 14 and ninth at the lap-19 restart after visiting pit road for fresh tires and fuel during a competition caution. He raced between the eighth and 11th positions through lap 53. After restarting 10th coming out of the race’s third caution, Larson netted five spots in the first stage’s closing laps to take the green-white-checkered flag fifth.
- After pitting during the stage break, Larson resumed racing from the third position on lap 66 and fell to seventh by lap 90. He restarted eighth at the lap-97 restart following a caution period, where his No. 5 HendrickCars.com Camaro ZL1 received fresh tires and fuel, but leapfrogged his way to second at lap 106. With 20 laps remaining in the second stage, two cautions slowed the race where Larson went from second to fifth to finish out the stage.
- At the start of the race’s final 70-lap stage, Larson restarted 13th after experiencing a hiccup with his pit stop during the stage break. He rocketed to ninth at lap 146 and was seventh when a caution came out at lap 151. He restarted second and held that position until he took the lead at lap 167 and held it until the caution came back out six laps later. Larson restarted fourth and found himself back in the lead at lap 181. Another caution came out with eight laps remaining and he restarted on the front row with four laps to go. The Elk Grove, California, native fell to third but fought back hard to regain the lead and cross the finish line first.
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 NAPA AUTOPARTS CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- After rolling off the starting grid eighth, Elliott set sailed on his march to the front, moving into fifth at lap 10, second at lap 20 and into the lead at lap 23. He led the next 10 circuits before scraping the turn four wall that resulted in him losing five positions and spinning coming out of turn two at lap 38. During the caution period, the No. 9 team made repairs to the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Camaro ZL1 and restarted two laps down in 33rd, where he finished stage one.
- Elliott earned one of his two laps back by virtue of receiving the free pass during the stage break. He returned to racing one lap down in 32nd but a caution at lap 91 placed the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champ back on the lead lap since he was the first car one lap down. After arming his No. 9 Chevy with fresh tires and fuel, he was back in the mix at the lap-97 restart in 25th. He vaulted to 18th but fell to 23rd when a caution slowed the field with 20 laps to go in the second stage. Routine service and more repairs to the No. 9 Chevy during a pit stop put Elliott 27th at the restart. He was able to notch three positions before the second stage concluded.
- A speedy pit stop during the stage break placed Elliott 20th at the start of final 70-lap stage. He catapulted to 14th by lap 148 and restarted seventh with 44 laps to go after a scheduled pit stop under caution. He jumped to third at lap 166 and was second at another restart at lap 178. While racing for the lead two circuits later, Elliott was squeezed into the wall and lost a lot of positions, dropping to 24th with 10 laps to go. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native spun at lap 192, visited pit road for repairs and returned to the track, taking the checkers in 26th.
WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Byron started the race from the 10th position and quickly drove his No. 24 Axalta Camaro ZL1 toward the front. He was seventh at lap five, fifth at lap 12 and second at the first restart of the 400-mile race at lap 19. For the remainder of stage one, Byron raced with the leaders, running between the second and third positions before closing out the stage in third.
- After receiving routine service on the No. 24 Chevy during the stage break, Byron restarted fourth, visited pit road at lap 92 under caution and made his move to the lead at lap 100. He held point until 20 laps to go in the stage where an issue with replacing the left-front tire on a pit stop moved him to 17th at the lap-116 restart. Byron advanced seven spots to 10th when the green-white-checkered flag waved at the end of stage two.
- The Charlotte, North Carolina, native began the final stage 11th and leapfrogged to fifth with 50 laps remaining in the race. However, at lap 151, Byron made contact with the No. 8 that halted his and the No. 24 team’s day. Byron finished 34th.
ALEX BOWMAN, NO. 48 ALLY CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- After taking the green flag from the 14th position, the 2020 Fontana race winner fell to 16th at lap 10 before moving into 13th at lap 22 and 12th three circuits later. Bowman restarted seventh after the race’s second caution period but fell to 14th before picking off positions one by one. He was 13th at lap 46, 12th at lap 48 and 11th at lap 53. The Ally Racing pit crew performed a speedy stop under caution that slated Bowman eighth at the lap-58 restart. He advanced two positions to sixth at the conclusion of stage one.
- Bowman started stage two in sixth after receiving routine service to his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet during the break. He netted one position after the second stage’s first 10 laps but fell to 10th at lap 86. Bowman raced between the ninth and 10th spots through lap 110 when a caution slowed the field with 20 laps to go in the second stage. He returned to racing in 14th when action resumed and advanced to 11th when the second stage ended.
- The Tucson, Arizona, native began the final stage in eighth at lap 130 and quickly moved to fifth 18 laps later. Over the course of the next 20 circuits, Bowman raced between second and sixth before restarting third on the lap-178 restart. While racing with the frontrunners, Bowman made contact with the wall while running the top lane and immediately pitted for repairs. He returned to the racing surface three laps down and finished the race by taking the checkered flag in 25th.