Charlotte NASCAR: Larson rallies to win chaotic playoff race

Kyle Larson survived a lost alternator belt to remain in contention before charging to victory in a chaotic NASCAR Cup playoff race at the Charlotte Roval.

Larson first noticed an electrical problem on his car early in Stage 2 and when he pitted under caution on lap 34, his team discovered he had lost an alternator belt.

Changing the battery provided a quick fix but the team formulated a plan to change the belt under additional stops. Once the work was complete, Larson’s car was as fast as ever.

He got inside leader Denny Hamlin off Turn 4, following the final restart on lap 102, and led the final eight laps to hold off Tyler Reddick by 0.782 seconds.

The win is Larson’s seventh of the 2021 season, the most of any driver so far this season, and has given him a big points advantage heading into the semi-final round of the NASCAR Cup playoff, which starts next Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

“I did not see us winning,” Larson said following an enormous burnout after winning. “I didn’t really feel that good early. We started to change some things and the team did a good job of letting me know what to do inside the cockpit to do better.

“Around that time, I noticed my battery was getting low and I was like, ‘Man, I’m not going to get knocked out of the playoffs like this?’ It wasn’t looking too good. Thankfully, everybody on our #5 car did a good job of staying calm.

“Cliff [Daniels, Larson's crew chief] did a great job of communicating with me on what was going on like getting the battery changed and whatever else it took. William was also good and it was a bummer not to see it work out for him.

“This is an awesome day for Hendrick Motorsports.”

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro HendrickCars.com

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro HendrickCars.com

Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images

Joining Larson in the semi-final round are Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr.

Eliminated from further title contention after the race were Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, William Byron and Christopher Bell.

Chris Buescher finished third in the race, Kyle Busch was fourth and Hamlin rounded out the top-five in a hectic end to the race.

The action erupted on lap 55, when Harvick punted Elliott into the Turn 7 wall. His #9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet required extensive repairs, but he managed to remain on the lead lap.

The race returned to green on lap 58 with Byron still leading from Austin Dillon and Hamlin, only for Hamlin to later miss the backstretch chicane on lap 70. The Joe Gibbs Toyota driver was forced to serve a stop-and-go penalty, which dropped from third to sixth.

Larson, Bell and Michael McDowell were among the first cars to make a green-flag pit stop on lap 74.

With 24 laps to go, a piece of Elliott’s rear bumper cover was dangling behind the car. It finally fell off and onto the track, prompting NASCAR to throw a caution on lap 87.

Most of the lead-lap cars pitted under the caution, but Hamlin elected to stay out and led the way when the race resumed on lap 90.

Another caution came out just three laps later, when Corey LaJoie slammed the Turn 2 wall in an incident that also caught out sportscar ace Joey Hand on his NASCAR debut. 

Following the restart, Harvick locked up his brakes entering Turn 1 on lap 99 and hit the wall hard, bringing an end to his race and playoff run.

 

The race returned to green on lap 102 with Hamlin still out front. He was followed by Larson, Reddick, Buescher and Logano - but couldn't hold off Larson, who hit the front for the first time in the race and was never headed thereafter.

Reddick moved to second ahead of Byron and Buescher, with Kyle Busch fourth and Hamlin on his old tyres dropping to fifth late on.

NASCAR Charlotte Roval - 109 laps

Cla Driver Manufacturer Time Gap
1 United States Kyle Larson Chevrolet 3:15'23.454  
2 United States Tyler Reddick Chevrolet 3:15'24.236 0.782
3 United States Chris Buescher Ford 3:15'32.763 9.309
4 United States Kyle Busch Toyota 3:15'34.746 11.292
5 United States Denny Hamlin Toyota 3:15'35.211 11.757
6 United States Matt DiBenedetto Ford 3:15'36.410 12.956
7 United States Joey Logano Ford 3:15'37.478 14.024
8 United States Christopher Bell Toyota 3:15'38.168 14.714
9 United States Ryan Blaney Ford 3:15'39.359 15.905
10 United States Alex Bowman Chevrolet 3:15'39.999 16.545
11 United States William Byron Chevrolet 3:15'41.764 18.310
12 United States Chase Elliott Chevrolet 3:15'42.613 19.159
13 Mexico Daniel Suarez Chevrolet 3:15'43.477 20.023
14 United States Bubba Wallace Toyota 3:15'43.970 20.516
15 United States Austin Dillon Chevrolet 3:15'44.403 20.949
16 United States Michael McDowell Ford 3:15'45.515 22.061
17 United States Erik Jones Chevrolet 3:15'46.563 23.109
18 United States Cole Custer Ford 3:15'47.235 23.781
19 United States Ryan Preece Chevrolet 3:15'47.629 24.175
20 United States Brad Keselowski Ford 3:15'48.017 24.563
21 United States Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Chevrolet 3:15'49.713 26.259
22 United States Chase Briscoe Ford 3:15'50.495 27.041
23 United States Ross Chastain Chevrolet 3:15'51.503 28.049
24 United States Aric Almirola Ford 3:15'51.884 28.430
25 United States Kurt Busch Chevrolet 3:15'52.514 29.060
26 Anthony Alfredo Ford 3:15'52.830 29.376
27 United States Joey Hand Ford 3:15'57.508 34.054
28 United States Josh Bilicki Chevrolet 3:15'57.926 34.472
29 United States Martin Truex Jr. Toyota 3:15'58.626 35.172
30 United States Quin Houff Chevrolet 3:16'11.790 48.336
31 United States Scott Heckert Ford 3:16'27.073 1'03.619
32 United States Timmy Hill Toyota 3:16'54.803 1 Lap
33 United States Kevin Harvick Ford 2:55'51.206 11 Laps
34 United States Garrett Smithley Ford 3:16'07.023 13 Laps
35 United States Corey Lajoie Chevrolet 2:45'10.636 16 Laps
36 United States Cody Ware Chevrolet 2:41'53.425 19 Laps
37 United States Justin Haley Chevrolet 2:01'38.161 43 Laps
38 United States A.J. Allmendinger Chevrolet 1:48'09.290 52 Laps
39 United States Ryan Newman Ford 31'36.676 90 Laps
 

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