CONCORD, N.C. – It was a tale of two races for Kyle Larson at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series annual Memorial Day weekend race at the 1.5-mile track.
Larson rallied from numerous mishaps in the first half of the race – starting at the back after not qualifying following a practice incident, two pit road penalties, hitting the wall, a fire in his pit stall and a spin late in stage two – to get the lead on lap 354 from Ross Chastain. Despite having to go to the back six times, he was two laps away from scoring the win until Chase Briscoe spun off of turn one while trying to get to the lead to bring out the caution on lap 400 and set up an overtime finish.
Crew chief Cliff Daniels, who did a masterful job helping the team reset after a tough first half, called for two tires and Larson won the race off of pit road. From there, the 2021 Charlotte oval winner was able to hold off Ross Chastain but the hard-charging Austin Dillon on four fresh tires made the action go four wide on the first overtime attempt and contact ensued to bring out the caution. The 29-year-old driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 would restart the second OT attempt in 13th and finish the race in ninth for his eighth top-10 of the season and led 51 laps on the evening.
"The first half was a struggle for all of us, but I was especially frustrated with myself," Larson said. "To rebound from that and have a shot to win there late was something to be proud of. Our team fought really hard, so I'm happy with that."
All told, Larson had a race-high 197 green-flag passes on the evening, according to NASCAR statistics. With the two overtimes, the race clocked in at 413 laps and 619.5 miles long.
Denny Hamlin won the event to become the third driver to post two wins this season.
Alex Bowman would rally late to go from a lap down prior to the overtime attempts to finish 10th for his ninth top-10 finish of the season. The result also kept him perfect on 1.5-mile tracks this year with four top 10s and he is now the only driver to accomplish that this season.
The end of stage two saw Chase Elliott and William Byron involved in separate incidents. Elliott, who won stage one for his third stage win of the season and led 86 laps, hit the wall in turn four after sliding in front of Daniel Suarez for second and went for a spin on lap 188. The damage turned out to be too much for the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to continue and he would be scored in 33rd. Elliott still holds the points lead by 34 markers over Ross Chastain.
Byron would get caught up in a big wreck on lap 193 that was triggered from a spin by Ryan Blaney that would stack the field up on the frontstretch. The driver of the No. 24 Liberty University Patriotic Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 simply had nowhere to go and suffered two much damage to continue on this night.
The Cup Series will next head to WWTR for the first time ever and for the 15th race of the 2022 season. That race will be on Sunday, June 5, at 3:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Kyle Larson, No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: Ninth
Stage one: The defending race winner started 36th after not making a lap in qualifying following a practice incident. By lap 12, he was in the top 20 and at the caution on lap 19, he was 18th. Larson reported that he was "tight loading into corner, little loose off." The defending race winner would restart in that spot on lap 23. When the caution fell on lap 34, Larson was running 11th and he reported that the adjustments on the last stop didn’t help that much. The No. 5 pitted for service but was penalized for removing equipment from the pit box and had to drop to the rear. Larson came back down pit road to check to make sure the left front tire was tight and restarted 31st on lap 39. Once again, the reigning Cup champion wasted no time moving back up the field as he got to 17th before the yellow came out on lap 47. He reported that the car "felt good in traffic." Larson stayed out under yellow to restart 14th on lap 51. Larson got into the wall on lap 53 but the team said over the radio that the contact was not like he was in practice. He was in the top 10 at the time of the lap 62 caution but was penalized on the pit stop for equipment interference and had to restart 33rd. He would ride the remainder of the stage in the back on scuff tires and finished 29th.
Stage two: During the stage break, Larson pitted for service and would restart 25th on lap 108. He would make quick gains into the top 20 before stalling out for a bit in 19th. Pitting after the lap 127 yellow flag, there was a fire in Larson’s pit stall following his stop and he had to pit again to check if there was a lingering small fire. He would restart 30th on lap 132 and got up to 23rd after the lap 147 caution. Crew chief Cliff Daniels had Larson stay out to restart second on lap 152. Unfortunately, the strategy play did not pay dividends as cars with fresher rubber dropped Larson to 10th until he spun off of turn four on lap 167. The Elk Grove, California, native would pit for service and restart 30th on lap 171 as the team talked about “resetting” for the second half of the race. The driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was back in the top 15 on lap 185. Two cautions late in the stage jumbled things up a bit and Larson finished 14th in the stage.
Stage three: The team was ready to reset after an eventful two stages and the No. 5 had a lengthy pit stop after Aric Almirola made contact with tires that tire carrier R.J. Barnette had. That saw Larson restart 22nd on lap 209. By lap 215, Larson was back in the top 15 and running 13th following a lap 221 incident for Kevin Harvick. He would stay out during the 12th caution of the evening and restart 10th on lap 225 after reporting that the car was "barely too tight." Larson was running 12th at the time of the 13th caution and pitted for service. The No. 5 crew made big gains on the stop as he picked up five spots to restart seventh on lap 259. On lap 261, he passed Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for a spot in the top five. On lap 264, he worked around Chris Buescher to grab fourth. Nearly 10 laps later, Larson passed fellow California driver Tyler Reddick for third. Larson would finish the stage in third for his first stage points of the evening and said over the radio, "I'm good enough to win now."
Stage four: Under the stage break, Larson pitted and maintained his third-position with Reddick and Ross Chastain restarting ahead of him on lap 308. Larson pulled a crossover move on Cole Custer to regain third after losing it on the restart and then went after second but was unable to corral the position until Reddick pitted with a flat tire. Under the lap 341 caution, he pitted from second and left the pits in the same position. Ahead of the lap 346 restart, Larson lined up on the outside of Chastain and stayed in that position following a caution that came one lap later. On the lap 353 restart, Larson would again line up on the outside of the driver of the No. 1. Larson moved to the inside and was able to take the lead from Chastain on lap 354. By lap 365, Larson would open up a lead of over 1.1 seconds on Chase Briscoe. During the run, he started running the wall to try and gain a little more speed around the 1.5-mile track as Briscoe was chipping away at the deficit. Larson continued to move around a bit as Briscoe made gains on his lead. With five laps to go, Larson’s lead was under 0.2 seconds. After losing the lead for a lap, Larson slid by Briscoe on the high side to get back to the lead with three to go. Larson was holding the lead, when Briscoe drove hard into turn one for the point position and ended up spinning to bring out the 17th caution and set up a NASCAR Overtime finish. The No. 5 team pitted for two right-side tires and edged out Chastain off pit road to hold the lead coming to the first OT restart. Larson chose the inside lane for the restart with Chastain to his outside. Larson got a good launch and a push from Joey Logano but a hard-charging Austin Dillon with four fresh tires made the front of the field go four wide and a wreck ensued. Larson went spinning off that melee but was able to keep his car mostly clean. Under caution, he would pit and line up 13th for the second OT attempt. He would finish the race in ninth.
Alex Bowman, No. 48 Ally Patriotic Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 10th
Stage one: Bowman lined up ninth for the 400-lap event and was running 10th when the caution fell on lap 19. This season’s Las Vegas Motor Speedway winner lost three spots on pit road and restarted 13th on lap 23. He rejoined the top 10 on lap 27 with a pass on Chase Briscoe for the position and was running there when the yellow flew on lap 34. The No. 48 pitted for service and restarted 10th on lap 39. Early in the run, Bowman was moving up as he passed his teammate William Byron and others to get into the top five before another caution fell on lap 47. After staying out under yellow, Bowman restarted third on lap 51 and passed Denny Hamlin for second two laps later. He would lose the position to teammate Chase Elliott and be sitting in third before the lap 62 caution and reported he was too loose in the corners. The Tucson, Arizona, native got out of the pits third ahead of the lap 68 restart but would drop to fourth just after the race resumed. He would lose some positions during the run but was able to grab two stage points with a ninth-place finish in the stage.
Stage two: Bowman’s No. 48 crew had trouble removing the right front tire under the stage break and that saw him restart in 31st on lap 108. The 29-year-old would methodically move forward from the back over the first run of the stage and got to 21st by the time the caution flew on lap 127. After his service on pit road, Bowman would restart 23rd on lap 132 and would be scored in 25th during the lap 147 caution. He would restart 22nd on lap 152 and jumped into the top 15 after 10 laps. At the time of teammate's Kyle Larson caution on lap 167, he was scored 13th. Bowman would stay out under caution to restart 10th on lap 171 but he would fall back to 20th in the first 10 laps of the run as the older tires did not agree with his No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Two cautions involving teammates jumbled the lineup up late in the stage and Bowman would finish 15th in the stage.
Stage three: Bowman hit the pits during the stage break and would restart 17th on lap 209. He would be scored 16th when the lap 221 caution came out for Kevin Harvick and stayed out under the 12th caution of the night. Bowman reported that he felt like they were "better, just a little stuck." For the restart on lap 225, the seven-time Cup winner would line up 12th but struggle during the outset of the run as he dropped to 22nd. When the 13th caution fell, he was running 21st due to a building loose condition and pitted for service. On the lap 259 restart, he was in 14th. While battling for position, Bowman lost some momentum and ended dropping back to 18th as former Cup champions Kyle Busch, Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. went by. The driver would finish the stage in 18th.
Stage four: During the stage break, Bowman pitted for service and had to go to the rear for equipment interference. That penalty set Bowman up to restart 21st on lap 308. After 10 laps in the run, he had gained six spots to run 15th. He would run in that position (give or take a spot) over the next stretch until the caution came out for Tyler Reddick on lap 341. Following pit road service for tires, fuel and a round of adjustments, Bowman would restart 15th on lap 346 and be scored in 16th when the caution came out a lap later. He was one of handful of cars to pit under caution for tires and would restart 14th on lap 353 and made that fresh rubber work early in the run to move up to 11th. Bowman made an unscheduled pit stop after making some small contact with the wall on lap 380 was scored in 21st. Bowman took the wave around under the lap 400 caution to restart overtime in 16th. The melee on the first overtime attempt saw Bowman move up to 12th. He would pit under caution for tires and fuel to restart the second OT attempt in 11th and he finished the race in 10th.
William Byron, No. 24 Liberty University Patriotic Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 32nd
Stage one: The two-time winner in 2022 started from the fifth position. On lap 15, Byron passed polesitter Denny Hamlin to grab fourth place. A strong pit stop where the No. 24 pit crew picked up two spots saw the 24-year-old restart on the front row along side Kyle Busch on lap 23. Byron would lose the position to Bubba Wallace and move back to third before a caution came on lap 34. The driver reported that the car was a little tight with the right rear but expected to get more free with the sunlight. The No. 24 came down pit road for service and restarted seventh on lap 39 – the second car on fresh tires – and was back in the top five when the lap 47 caution came out. He stayed out under yellow and restarted fourth on lap 51 – the same position he would have at the time of the lap 62 caution. The team put on its scuff set of tires from qualifying and got Byron a spot on the front row for the lap 68 restart. He would maintain second until Tyler Reddick passed him on lap 85. Byron had a moment on lap 93 after he got loose but was able to make a great save. The lost momentum, though, would eventually take him out of the top 10 as Denny Hamlin passed him on the last lap for a stage point.
Stage two: Byron brought the No. 24 Camaro to pit road during the stage break for tires, fuel and air pressure adjustment to restart 11th on lap 108. A lap later, he would rejoin the top 10 and moving up to seventh with pass on Hamlin. When the yellow was flying on lap 127, he was scored in sixth. A lengthy stop under caution after an issue on the right side put Byron in 18th for the lap 132 restart and he would get to 14th when the lap 147 caution came out. He would restart 18th on lap 152 after stopping for tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native would pick off a few spots early in the run as he got back to 13th and was scored in 12th after teammate Kyle Larson’s spin brought out a caution on lap 167. Crew chief Rudy Fugle would keep Byron out under caution to restart ninth on lap 171 and pick off one spot on the first lap of the run. Byron would pit under the lap 188 caution to restart 18th on lap 192. He got caught up in a big wreck on lap 193 following Ryan Blaney’s spin and that brought his night to an end.
Chase Elliott, No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 33rd
Stage one: Elliott took the grid from 13th for the start of the race and at the time of the lap 19 caution, he was running 11th. Solid work from the No. 9 pit crew saw the 2020 champion gain three spots on pit road to restart eighth on lap 23. Following the restart, Elliott picked up two spots in the initial laps to move up to sixth and was running there when the caution fell on lap 34. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native pitted under the yellow and restarted 11th on lap 39. He would rejoin the top 10 on lap 40 as he picked off three spots on the restart and would be in seventh following the lap 47 caution. Elliott would stay out to restart sixth on lap 51 and methodically picked off spots, including passes on teammates Alex Bowman and William Byron as he got to second at the time of the lap 62 caution. A speedy stop for the No. 9 team got Elliott the lead for the lap 68 restart. He would lead the remainder of the stage to score his third stage win of the season.
Stage two: During the stage break, Elliott pitted from the lead and was able to maintain the spot in the pits after receiving tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. He would lose the lead on lap 111 to Ross Chastain but was in hot pursuit of the lead when the caution was displayed on lap 127. Once again, Elliott’s pit crew got him the lead in the pits and he would restart from the point position on lap 132 and would maintain that until the lap 147 caution for rookie Austin Cindric. Elliott would pit from the lead and win the race off pit road but would restart third on lap 152 after two cars stayed out, making him the first car on fresh tires. Elliott drove by Ryan Blaney and his teammate Kyle Larson on the inside lane to take back the lead immediately. Under caution on lap 167, Elliott stayed out to keep the lead for the lap 171 restart when he lined up on the outside. He struggled to get going on the start and lost the top two spots to Chastain and Daniel Suarez. After sliding in front of Suarez for second, Elliott hit the wall and went for a spin off of turn four on lap 188. The contact led to concern if the body on the right rear was jacked. The team worked to replace the rear toe link on the No. 9 following the incident but ultimately Elliott’s night was over.