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Race report

NASCAR Cup Darlington: Larson beats Reddick in playoff opener

Kyle Larson came out on top of a fierce battle with Tyler Reddick to win the NASCAR Cup playoff opener at Darlington.

Larson grabbed control of the race late in the final stage, when he was first off pitroad after the field came in during a caution caused by Ryan Newman spinning off at Turn 4.

Larson led on the restart with 51 of 367 laps remaining, then held on through two more late-race restarts.

Reddick moved into second on the final restart with 31 laps to go and initially challenged Larson for the lead, but the 2021 NASCAR Cup champion was able to edge him by 0.447 seconds to earn his first Southern 500 victory.

"Finally [we executed] from start to finish," Larson said. "Going 18th to third in the first stage, I didn't think that was possible but our car was really good when the sun was out. Just had to work on it. I messed up once and it got hung in neutral, and I slid and hit the wall, and I think bent the toe link a little bit, so it was kind of a struggle from there.

"Definitely had to fight it more than I was earlier, but we kept our heads in the game. That was really important. This race is all about keeping your head in it. I've been pretty hard on myself here the last couple months, but having a leader like Cliff [Daniels, crew chief], he really is good for my mind.

"What a great way to start the playoffs and hopefully we can keep it going."

Tyler Reddick, 23XI Racing, Jordan Brand Toyota Camry, Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Sport Clips Haircuts Toyota Camry, Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Mobil 1 Take 5 Ford Mustang, Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro, Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro, Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Menards/Richmond Water Heaters Ford Mustang

Tyler Reddick, 23XI Racing, Jordan Brand Toyota Camry, Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Sport Clips Haircuts Toyota Camry, Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Mobil 1 Take 5 Ford Mustang, Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro, Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro, Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Menards/Richmond Water Heaters Ford Mustang

Photo by: Matthew T. Thacker / NKP / Motorsport Images

Larson entered the playoffs as the sixth seed, with two wins notched up at Richmond and Martinsville both taken back in April, but heads to Kansas next weekend second in the playoff standings behind Hendrick Motorsports team-mate William Byron.

The key for Larson was to stay out of trouble, which is what several playoff drivers experienced in the race, including Denny Hamlin, who won both stages and led 177 laps.

But Hamlin’s night went wrong when he was forced to pit twice under green for what he thought was a loose wheel. He later got caught up in an accident and finished 25th.

Chris Buescher finished third, Byron took fourth and Ross Chastain rounded out the top five. With playoff contenders Brad Keselowski and Bubba Wallace in sixth and seventh respectively, it was the first non-playoff runner of Chase Elliott in eighth place.

Ryan Blaney, also in the playoffs, was ninth ahead of Erik Jones, who isn’t in the playoffs, who rounded out the top 10.

With two races remaining in the first round of the playoffs, Wallace, Kevin Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Michael McDowell are the lowest drivers in points without a win and in danger of being eliminated from further title contention.

It was an especially tough race for McDowell who failed to finish having been collected in a Kyle Busch wreck with 31 laps to go.

NASCAR Cup Darlington race results (367 laps)

 
 
       
Driver Info
 
 
 
   
Cla Driver # Manufacturer Laps Time Interval Pits Points Retirement
1 United States K. Larson Kyle Larson Hendrick Motorsports 5 Chevrolet 367 4:08'46.760   11 57  
2 United States T. Reddick Tyler Reddick 23XI Racing 45 Toyota 367 +0.447 0.447 11 51  
3 United States C. Buescher Chris Buescher RFK Racing 17 Ford 367 +0.898 0.451 12 36  
4 United States W. Byron William Byron Hendrick Motorsports 24 Chevrolet 367 +0.930 0.032 12 39  
5 United States R. Chastain Ross Chastain TrackHouse Racing 1 Chevrolet 367 +3.160 2.230 12 32  
6 United States B. Keselowski Brad Keselowski RFK Racing 6 Ford 367 +6.517 3.357 12 38  
7 United States B. Wallace Bubba Wallace 23XI Racing 23 Toyota 367 +7.586 1.069 12 30  
8 United States C. Elliott Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports 9 Chevrolet 367 +7.977 0.391 13 33  
9 United States R. Blaney Ryan Blaney Team Penske 12 Ford 367 +8.224 0.247 13 38  
10 United States E. Jones Erik Jones Legacy Motor Club 43 Chevrolet 367 +8.533 0.309 12 35  
11 United States K. Busch Kyle Busch Richard Childress Racing 8 Chevrolet 367 +8.887 0.354 13 31  
12 United States J. Logano Joey Logano Team Penske 22 Ford 367 +8.969 0.082 16 25  
13 United States A. Allmendinger A.J. Allmendinger Kaulig Racing 16 Chevrolet 367 +9.432 0.463 13 24  
14 United States A. Almirola Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing 10 Ford 367 +11.269 1.837 14 24  
15 United States C. Briscoe Chase Briscoe Stewart-Haas Racing 14 Ford 367 +12.093 0.824 12 22  
16 United States R. Stenhouse Jr. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing 47 Chevrolet 367 +12.742 0.649 15 22  
17
C. Hocevar Carson Hocevar Legacy Motor Club
42 Chevrolet 367 +12.991 0.249 13    
18 United States M. Truex Jr. Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing 19 Toyota 367 +13.444 0.453 15 19  
19 United States K. Harvick Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing 4 Ford 367 +13.558 0.114 13 25  
20 United States A. Dillon Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing 3 Chevrolet 367 +14.390 0.832 14 20  
21
T. Gibbs Ty Gibbs Joe Gibbs Racing
54 Toyota 367 +14.990 0.600 14 16  
22 United States C. Lajoie Corey Lajoie Spire Motorsports 7 Chevrolet 367 +15.157 0.167 13 15  
23 United States C. Bell Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing 20 Toyota 366 +1 Lap 1 Lap 17 17  
24 United States J. Haley Justin Haley Kaulig Racing 31 Chevrolet 366 +1 Lap 9.158 13 13  
25 United States D. Hamlin Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing 11 Toyota 366 +1 Lap 2.398 14 32  
26 United States T. Gilliland Todd Gilliland Front Row Motorsports 38 Ford 366 +1 Lap 0.939 13 11  
27 United States R. Newman Ryan Newman Rick Ware Racing 51 Ford 365 +2 Laps 1 Lap 14 10  
28 United States R. Preece Ryan Preece Stewart-Haas Racing 41 Ford 364 +3 Laps 1 Lap 16 9  
29 United States T. Dillon Ty Dillon Spire Motorsports 77 Chevrolet 364 +3 Laps 2.788 14 8  
30 United States J. Yeley J.J. Yeley Rick Ware Racing 15 Ford 362 +5 Laps 2 Laps 13    
31 United States A. Cindric Austin Cindric Team Penske 2 Ford 361 +6 Laps 1 Lap 15 6  
32 United States M. McDowell Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports 34 Ford 329 +38 Laps 32 Laps 11 5 Accident
33 United States A. Bowman Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports 48 Chevrolet 322 +45 Laps 7 Laps 12 4 Accident
34 Mexico D. Suarez Daniel Suarez TrackHouse Racing 99 Chevrolet 320 +47 Laps 2 Laps 12 3 Accident
35 United States H. Burton Harrison Burton Wood Brothers Racing 21 Ford 318 +49 Laps 2 Laps 10 2 Accident
36 United States B. McLeod B.J. McLeod Live Fast Motorsports 78 Chevrolet 210 +157 Laps 108 Laps 8 1 Engine

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