DARLINGTON, S.C. – Kyle Larson nearly completed a comeback for the ages in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway.
The driver of the No. 17 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro rallied back from trouble in stage one that left him two laps down to take the lead coming to the white flag. But final lap contact between Larson and Sheldon Creed opened the door for Noah Gragson to take the victory away.
Larson would finish in fifth as the contact slowed him down on the final lap.
MORE: Larson to start seventh in Sunday's NASCAR playoff opener
"It was a lot of fun," Larson said after the race. "I was just trying to be patient as I caught those two, catch them racing and hopefully get by both of them. Was able to get by Noah (Gragson) when they got side-by-side off of (turn) two and I could see Sheldon (Creed) was really loose in front of me, so I was just trying to stay patient behind him.
"Coming to the white (flag), I didn’t want to get to his inside on the front stretch because I knew what happened would happen. I was trying to plan it so I could be behind him but I had such a good run off of (turn) four that I had to make the move. He saw my door and got me really loose and I had to chase it up the track and got into him.
"It was just a lot of fun from all of seats and crazy to be a part of a finish like that."
MORE: Larson to favorable Round of 16 for fast start to '22 playoffs
After qualifying seventh in the 147-lap race, Larson was up to third place within the first 20 laps. However, a cut tire on the backstretch in the closing laps of stage one left him two laps down, in 36th at the end of the stage.
The 30-year-old driver would stay one lap down for all of stage two and wait out a weather delay. He gt the free pass position at the start of the final stage, working his way up to 11th prior to the final caution on lap 129. Pitting four tires, he came off of pit road in eighth and wasted no time driving to the front in the final 14 laps.
With 10 laps to go, he was running in third and in pursuit of Creed and Gragson for the lead. The reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion passed Gragson for second with four to go and got the lead coming to the white flag before the dramatic finish unfolded.
PHOTOS: See the day for the No. 17 at Darlington
Saturday’s start at Darlington was the fourth for the No. 17 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro entry in the Xfinity Series. Larson drove the No. 17 entry at Road America in July - the first of the three originally announced races. He scored the pole position and finished second. Alex Bowman drove the Camaro at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in July to a runner-up position. William Byron took his turn at Watkins Glen International in August and won the pole position. He was in contention late in the race before late-race contact derailed his bid for a victory.
The Elk Grove, California, native won behind the wheel of the No. 88 JRM Chevrolet Camaro at Watkins Glen last month. He has 13 wins in the Xfinity Series. In five career Xfinity Series starts at Darlington, Larson has two top-five finishes and five top-10s.