TALLADEGA, Ala. – Kyle Larson nearly got his elusive superspeedway win. On the final lap at Talladega Superspeedway, the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion went up to make a move for the lead on Erik Jones while also blocking a run from Kurt Busch. The ensuing move saw Larson make contact with Busch and lose his momentum. The move to the outside opened the door for Ross Chastain to take the win at the 2.66-mile venue.
Larson would go on to finish fourth for his fifth top-five finish of the 2022 season and his first top-five on a superspeedway in 31 career Cup starts on that track type. His 32 laps led were second only to his Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron on this day.
"I feel like I did a pretty near perfect job for me at a superspeedway until the last lap there," Larson said afterwards as he walked thru his thought process. "I should have, I think, just kind of faked going high, then went back low. I had that run. Ross helped me with that run. It kind of baited me into going to the outside.
"I was in the exact position I wanted to be in...I felt like I did a good job with patience and stuff. Made one small mistake there and it cost me the win."
Chase Elliott came home in seventh, while Alex Bowman grabbed a ninth-place finish. Elliott’s top-10 was his seventh of the year. For Bowman, the top-10 was his sixth of the season.
Byron finished 15th, but was able to grab his third stage win of the season as Hendrick Motorsports took four of the top-five spots in stage two. That came after all four cars were in the top 10 at the end of stage one. The driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 led a race-high 38 laps.
All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers now sit inside the top seven in the point standings as Elliott holds the points lead by 21 markers over Ryan Blaney with Byron in third, Bowman in fifth and Larson in seventh.
The Cup Series will run its 11th race of the 2022 season at Dover Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 1, at 3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Kyle Larson, No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 4th
Stage one: Larson lined up fifth to start the race and was working the inside lane as he maintained a spot in the top 10. The 2021 Cup Series champion spent the entire first fuel run in the top 10 – at a track where he has not finished better than sixth entering Sunday’s race. On lap 36, Larson pitted for fuel only and was leading the Chevrolet pack to the lead on lap 38. Larson held the point position for the next 13 laps with teammates William Byron and Chase Elliott riding right behind him. The dueling lanes led by Larson and Bubba Wallace would do battle prior to a wreck bringing out the first caution of the race and an end to the stage. The Elk Grove, California, native would finish the stage second to Wallace.
Stage two: Larson pitted under the stage break at lap 62 for four tires and fuel and he won the race off pit road to hold the lead on the lap 65 restart. He led the inside line with Byron and Elliott in a battle against a line led by Erik Jones before Jones dropped in front to lead the inside line. The No. 5 pitted under caution on lap 84 for fuel only and restarted in fourth on lap 86. A quick caution after the restart saw Larson in third and lined behind Elliott for the lap 90 restart. Another caution saw Larson stay out to line up fifth on lap 98. Larson was positioned behind Byron and Elliott in third when the lap 107 caution fell. The HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro stayed out to restart in third on lap 111 and maintained that position to close the stage.
Final stage: In between stages, Larson pitted for four tires and fuel and restarted in ninth on lap 126. Early in the final stage, the inside line didn’t have quite the same energy as it did earlier in the day and he dropped out of the top 10 for a spell. When the leaders dropped back down to the inside, the lane gained energy and Larson was back in the top 10 on lap 132. The formation of an outside lane on lap 149 saw Larson drop out of the top 10. The No. 5 pitted on lap 160 for right-side tires and fuel and cycled out to second behind Denny Hamlin. On lap 171, Larson took the lead as he made a move on Hamlin for the point position. Larson continued to hold the top spot while jumping lanes to protect the lead from Jones and Ross Chastain before staying locked in on the bottom. Jones took the lead from Larson on lap 182 and the two went side by side for the next couple laps. Jones retook the point position from Larson on lap 185 with Larson right behind him. On the last lap, Larson went up to make a move for the win on Jones and block Kurt Busch’s run to the lead but Jones went up as well. As a result, Larson got squeezed into Busch but the No. 5 was able to keep going to grab a top-five finish.
Chase Elliott, No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 7th
Stage one: Elliott took the grid from the 28th-place starting spot and worked the outside lane in the early-race run. By lap 9, the 2019 spring race winner at the sport’s biggest track had jumped into the top 15. On lap 24, he was in the top 10 and was running ninth as the lead pack broke away a bit. On lap 27, Elliott broke to lead the outside line with a push from Kevin Harvick and that led to the Dawsonville, Georgia, native into the top five. On lap 36, the No. 9 pitted for fuel only and when the stops cycled through he was running third behind teammates Kyle Larson and William Byron. He stayed committed to the bottom with his teammates through the end of the stage. The 2020 Cup Series champion finished the stage in sixth.
Stage two: Elliott pitted under the stage break for four tires and fuel at lap 62. He restarted the stage in third on lap 65 and rode on the inside line as teammates Larson and Byron were just ahead. The No. 9 pitted under caution on lap 84 for fuel only and restarted on lap 86 in third. Following a caution just after the restart, Elliott would line up alongside Byron for the lap 90 restart. Another quick caution saw the No. 9 stay out to restart third on lap 98. Elliott was positioned between Byron and Larson on the bottom and settled into second before a lap 107 caution came out. The driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro stayed out to restart in second on lap 111 and maintained that position to close the stage.
Final stage: In between stages, Elliott pitted for four tires and fuel and restarted in 10th on lap 126. Elliott used the outside lane to pick off some spots in the top 10 before dropping back to the inside with room opening between his teammates Larson and Byron on lap 132 to settle in ninth. The formation of an outside lane on lap 149 saw Elliott drop out of the top 10. Under green, the No. 9 pitted on lap 160 for right-side tires and fuel. He cycled out in 12th-place on lap 163 as the action went single file. On lap 171, Elliott rejoined the top 10. On lap 176, Elliott jumped to the outside with Ryan Blaney to make a run to the front and the energy of the line got Elliott up into the top six before the line stalled out for a spell before regaining its energy to make another run to the front. He was able to avoid the last-lap chaos to grab his seventh top-10 finish of the season.
Alex Bowman, No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 9th
Stage one: Bowman started the race from 27th-place and rode on the inside line in the early going. Riding in the draft, the Tucson, Arizona, native cracked the top 15 on lap 13. Bowman pitted on lap 35 without his Chevrolet teammates and used the fuel-only stop to gain some track position. While his teammates ran 1-2-3, Bowman went to work in the outside lane and was running 12th. By lap 53, he surged into the top 10 as he continued to work the outside. At the end of the stage, Bowman was scored in ninth.
Stage two: Bowman pitted under the stage break at lap 62 for four tires and fuel. He restarted the race in 12th on lap 65. He jumped back into the top 10 on lap 70 as he continued to make hay on the outside lane. The No. 48 pitted under caution on lap 84 for fuel only and restarted 11th on lap 86. Bowman was scored in 12th when a quick caution came out just after the restart. Bowman avoided a lap 90 caution and restarted ninth on lap 98. He wasn’t quite linked up with his teammates but he was on the bottom in fifth with just Kurt Busch between him and his other three stable mates when the caution fell on lap 107. The driver of the Ally Chevrolet Camaro stayed out under caution to restart fifth on lap 111. He ran fourth on the final lap of the stage before Martin Truex Jr. tracked him down and he finished the stage in fifth.
Final stage: In between stages, Bowman pitted for four tires and fuel and restarted in 14th on lap 126. He worked in the outside lane to open the stage but that lane quickly disappeared as the field went single file. That saw Bowman drop back to 22nd for about 15 laps before joining an outside lane that was formed by Denny Hamlin to get back into the top 15. The No. 48 pitted on lap 160 for fuel only and cycled out to 16th as single-file racing became the M.O. for part of the run. On lap 176, Bowman came up into the outside lane as it started to make some hay towards the front. A third line forming spread the field out and saw Bowman jump into 10th with three laps to go. He would avoid the last-lap chaos to finish ninth.
William Byron, No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 15th
Stage one: Byron took the green flag from the eighth position in row four and was working the outside line. He was behind Daniel Suarez on the inside lane in second place on lap 10 – a position he would hold for the next 26 laps. On lap 36, Byron pitted for two right-side tires and fuel and was running second when the pit cycle was complete. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native stayed committed to the bottom with his teammates and would finish the stage in fourth.
Stage two: Byron pitted under the stage break for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment at lap 62. He restarted the race second on lap 65. The fifth-year driver rode on the inside line with teammates Larson and Elliott in between him. The No. 24 pitted under caution on lap 84 for fuel only and won the race off pit road to lead the field for the lap 86 restart. Byron was scored as the leader when a caution fell just after the restart and stayed out to lead the field for the lap 90 restart. He controlled the field on the restart from the outside lane before moving down to the inside line with his teammates when a caution came out. The two-time 2022 Cup Series race winner maintained the point position going into the lap 98 restart and led his teammates around the track on the inside line. He stayed out under caution to maintain the control position on outside lane for the lap 111 restart before dropping in front of Elliott on the inside. That setup his teammates to be all lined up on the inside as Byron led. Scoring his third stage win of the season, the driver of the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro led the final 37 laps of stage two.
Final stage: In between stages, Byron pitted for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment before restarting in 11th on lap 126. Early in the final stage, the inside line didn’t have quite the same energy as it did earlier in the day and he dropped out of the top 10 for a spell before the leaders went back to the inside line for single-file racing. When that happened, the lane gained energy and Byron was back in the top 10 on lap 132. The formation of an outside lane on lap 149 saw Byron drop back out of the top 10. The No. 24 pitted on lap 160 for right-side tires and fuel and cycled out to fourth as cars went single file. When Larson made his move to the lead, Erik Jones and Byron went with him to put the No. 24 in third. Byron jumped up to the outside lane on lap 177 to grab a spot in front of Elliott. The lane started to stall out but Byron’s aggressive pushing of Jones saw it pick up energy towards the front. On the last lap, Byron got hung out on the outside as he looked to form another lane and dropped back to finish in 15th.