DARLINGTON, S.C. – It came down to the last straightaway off of the last corner of the last lap in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway but in the end, it was Kyle Larson who emerged victorious. He completed a comeback that saw him overcome a pit road speeding penalty before the final stage for the win in the No. 10 Chevrolet.
John Hunter Nemechek led Larson coming to the white flag. After getting side-by-side, the two made contact into turn three with Larson getting position on the outside going into turn four. The two again made contact coming off of turn four with Larson pinned right against the fence. That contact saw Nemechek go sideways, while Larson was able to keep it straight to the start/finish line for the win at the South Carolina track.
"It feels good," Larson told FOX's Regan Smith of the win, which was his 14th in the Xfinity ranks. "Exciting fashion there, too, in the end. We had a really, really good car the whole race. I made a mistake and sped on pit road. I knew we were going to have time to get to the front if we got a caution. We were picking cars off really fast.
"I had some lane selections work out for me. I could really work that line in (turns) one and two and get runs in the center of (turns) one and two. I was able to pack air on him and get to his inside. Just side drafted really tough there. Again, it was like we were just bouncing off each other a little bit. … What an exciting race there."
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The victory was Larson’s first in any series at Darlington after several near misses and he led 46 laps on the day. He entered this race with three runner-up finishes in the NASCAR Cup Series at this track and he nearly won the fall Xfinity race at the 1.366-mile venue. However, contact on the last lap of that race saw him go from first to fifth.
The 30-year-old won the opening stage. He led nearly all of stage two before Nemechek got by him on the last lap. Following pit stops under caution, Larson had to go to the rear of the field for speeding on pit road. He restarted 31st on lap 99, was back into the top 15 on lap 106 and in the top 10 on lap 116. Larson climbed to seventh when a caution came out with 22 laps to go. The Elk Grove, California, native came down for tires and fuel and left the pits in the fifth position for the lap 132 restart. Prior to a caution coming out with 11 laps to go, he was up to fourth.
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Electing to stay out for what would be the final restart with seven laps to go, Larson chose the inside lane behind Nemechek. He was able to follow Nemechek to get clear of the outside lane, setting the stage for the thrilling finish between the two drivers.
Later this year, Larson will compete in two more Xfinity Series races but in the No. 17 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Those races will take place at Sonoma Raceway (in June) and Darlington (in September).