Larson wins Nationwide race at Charlotte
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Kyle Larson showed he could beat NASCAR’s big boys in the Nationwide Series.
Now he hopes to do the same on the Sprint Cup circuit.
Larson raced to his second Nationwide Series victory of the season Saturday, holding off Sprint Cup drivers Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“It was nice looking in the rear view mirror and seeing them get smaller and smaller,” Larson said. “It’s not often the 22 and 54 cars are getting smaller in your mirror.”
The 21-year-old Larson, also the winner at Fontana, passed Keselowski on the 118th lap in the 200-lap race and led the rest of the way.
Keselowski was second, followed by Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brian Scott.
It was Larson’s first victory at Charlotte.
The win came on care owner Chip Ganassi’s 56th birthday, and one week after Sprint Cup teammate Jamie McMurray won the All-Star race.
“It sounds like he is having a great month,” Larson said about Ganassi. “I know he’s really excited about the Indianapolis 500 and I think Jamie and I both have a good chance to win here” on Sunday at the Coca Cola 600.
Larson said the win will give him some momentum heading into the Coca-Cola 600, but admitted there isn’t much he can carry over from the Nationwide race.
“It’s a different race in Sprint Cup,” said Larson, who has never won at the top level. “On Sunday we will start in daylight and go through the night.”
Larson had to beat Harvick on a restart with 29 laps to go and was never challenged after that.
That left Keselowski and Busch battling for second.
Keselowski joked that “Kyle (Busch) and I had a great race” but said he simply couldn’t come close to catching Larson.
“We just didn’t have enough to run with him,” Keselowski said.
Chase Elliott surrendered the Nationwide points lead after finishing 37th when a broken suspension caused his car to crash into the outside wall on Lap 86.
Regan Smith, who finished seventh, took the points lead — five points ahead of Elliott Sadler.
Busch was the heavy favorite coming in after winning the previous three Nationwide races at Charlotte and eight times overall at the track in the series. He started on the pole and bolted out of the gates to an early lead.
But after a caution on lap 23, Matt Kenseth beat Busch off the restart and Busch eventually fell back to 11th and never challenged for the lead again. It capped a tough day for Busch, who crashed his primary Sprint Cup car earlier in the day and will have to start the Coca-Cola 600 from the rear of the field.
Keselowski passed Kenseth on Lap 93 before getting caught in lapped traffic and getting passed by Larson on Lap 118.
Only 12 cars finished on the lead lap, and the leaders had to battle lapped traffic throughout the race.
“It was a pain when one is low and one is high and you have to zigzag in between them,” Busch said.
Said Keselowski: “It was a very difficult but that is part of the deal when you run the Nationwide Series.”