ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Kyle Larson finished second at Road America in Hendrick Motorsports’ first NASCAR Xfinity Series start in 13 years.
Driving the No. 17 Chevrolet Camaro, Larson took the white flag with the lead but Ty Gibbs was in close pursuit. Larson got wide on the final lap of the overtime finish and that was enough for Gibbs to take advantage of in turn three as he would make the pass for the top spot and the win at the Wisconsin road course.
"It really started with my final corner coming to the white (flag)," Larson said. "I didn’t get through there very good and got a little bit tight and missed my apex and was a little late to throttle. He had a run on me down the front stretch.
"Obviously, I had to protect the inside and he just got my angles messed up for those two corners. He did a really good job executing and I didn’t. Bummer, but really fun race there all race long."
PHOTOS: See the No. 17 Chevrolet Camaro on track
Larson said he gave no thought to roughing up his competitor to get the lead back since he wasn’t raced that way at the 14-turn, 4.048-mile venue.
"He was able to pass me without laying a bumper on me at all," Larson said of Gibbs. "When he passed me clean, I felt like I should not use him up like we’ve seen others do when they get passed for the lead late. He ran me clean and I was going to run him clean. Just didn’t work out for me."
Much of the race was the Larson show as he had the pole position for the event, led a race-high 31 laps and took down two stage wins. A three-wide move to get to the point position on lap 37 looked to be the move of the day until a caution came out on for Cole Custer prior to the white flag being taken in regulation.
Saturday’s race at Road America marked the organization’s first start in the series since 2009. In its history, Hendrick Motorsports has tallied 26 wins in the series. The No. 17 car number that is being run for three Xfinity events carries a special significance to the Hendrick Motorsports family as it was the number that the late Ricky Hendrick drove over two seasons in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series from 2000 to 2001. The paint scheme is based on the truck he drove those seasons, including in his win at Kansas Speedway. Before the race, the crew on the No. 17 truck that Hendrick drove gathered for a photo with Larson in front of the Xfinity car.
Following Road America, Hendrick Motorsports will enter the No. 17 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro in two more Xfinity events this season. Alex Bowman is set to drive the car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course on July 30 and William Byron will pilot the ride on Aug. 20 at Watkins Glen International. Kevin Meendering will serve as the crew chief for those efforts. The main impetus behind the program was to get drivers more seat time on road courses and tracks with unique configurations.
Saturday’s start was Larson’s first in the Xfinity Series in nearly four years. He has 12 career Xfinity Series victories but none have come on a road course. The Elk Grove, California, native is slated to run another road course race – at Watkins Glen – in a JR Motorsports car. He will also drive for JRM at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 3 in the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro. Byron will drive for JRM in two weeks at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 16.