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Open Wheel ace Kyle Larson serves notice on NASCAR

by Pete McCole
Sunday, April 14, 2013

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Kyle Larson serves notice
Getty Images for NASCAR
Open-wheel ace Kyle Larson has put all other NASCAR drivers on notice: he’s coming, and he isn’t slowing down for anyone.

On Sunday, Larson held off a furious charge from Sprint Cup veteran Joey Logano in a three-lap green-white-checker finish to score his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory in just his fifth series start, winning the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Rockingham Speedway.

Brendan Gaughan was third, followed by Johnny Sauter and Chase Elliott.

Larson led a total of 187 laps, including the last 22, and benefited from a great jump on the final restart to beat out Logano, who himself was making just his second career start in the trucks.

“I saw (Logano) get the lucky dog, and I knew he has to be on new tires, so I was definitely worried,” said Larson. “I could see him getting closer and closer in the mirror, just hoping we could get to the white flag, and we got that yellow. I’m usually not the best on restarts, I’m surprised I got that good a start. But I was able to beat him into (Turn 1) and then hold him off for the win.”

Larson, just 20 years old and a development driver for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, already has a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship under his belt and is steadily proven he can hang tough with the big boys.

Larson has made more than his share of headlines so far this season, first finishing second in the season-opening ARCA Series race at Daytona, then following it up with a controversial finish in the Whelen All-American Series event when he punted race leader C.E Falk III to win to race.

All that was tame compared to his Nationwide Series debut, where his Chevrolet was launched into the Daytona frontstretch catchfence, tearing his car in half and sending 30 spectators to the hospital.

Then just last month at Bristol, Larson nearly won his first Nationwide Series victory, challenging Kyle Busch for the lead in the closing laps. Running second, Larson chased Busch down and refused to back down, going door to door with the all-time Nationwide win leader, finishing second by inches at the line.

This time, it was Larson’s race to lose, but not before Logano made him work for it.

Driving a truck owned by defending Sprint Cup Champion and Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski, Logano started seventh and stayed in the top 10 for much of the race until a loose wheel began to slow him up, eventually falling a lap down with 33 to go.

Just five laps later, Chris Jones spun to bring out the sixth caution flag, and Logano – the first truck one lap down – got back on the lead lap and pitted for tires.

Restarting 18th with 22 laps to go, Logano and his fresh tires sliced through the field, catching Sauter for second place with just seven laps to go.

Larson had the advantage, maintaining a one-second lead over the final laps before Timothy Peters and Ryan Sieg tangled on the frontstretch with three laps to go, sending the race into overtime.

With Logano restarting on the outside, Larson brought the field to green flag and got a good jump as Logano spun the tires, opening a five truck-length advantage.

Logano rallied again, closing in to right behind Larson’s bumper coming off turn two on the final lap. Logano tried the high side coming through turn four before pulling a cross-over maneuver, but Larson held firm on the outside and beat Logano by two truck-lengths at the finish.

“I just got beat,” said Logano of the final restart. “I spun the tires. When that caution came out, I thought ‘this is just where I want to be’, because I was a couple of tenths faster than Kyle (Larson). Just got beat on the restart.  It was my fault – cost these guys a race.”

Ron Hornaday, Jr. got caught up in a late-race incident with Darrell Wallace, Jr., spinning the rookie into the outside wall under the final caution flag. Hornaday was sent to the tail end of the longest line and then summoned by NASCAR after the race.

Results

Pos Driver Car # Make Start Laps Laps Led Status
1 Kyle Larson 30 Chevrolet 3 205 187 Running
2 Joey Logano 19 Ford 7 205 0 Running
3 Brendan Gaughan 62 Chevrolet 9 205 0 Running
4 Johnny Sauter 98 Toyota 11 205 1 Running
5 Chase Elliott 94 Chevrolet 4 205 0 Running
6 Matt Crafton 88 Toyota 5 205 0 Running
7 Jeb Burton 4 Chevrolet 1 205 0 Running
8 Ryan Blaney 29 Ford 6 205 0 Running
9 Erik Jones 51 Toyota 36 205 0 Running
10 Miguel Paludo 32 Chevrolet 18 205 0 Running
11 John Wes Townley 7 Toyota 26 205 0 Running
12 Ty Dillon 3 Chevrolet 14 205 0 Running
13 Joey Coulter 18 Toyota 17 205 0 Running
14 James Buescher 31 Chevrolet 2 205 17 Running
15 Ron Hornaday Jr 9 Chevrolet 16 205 0 Running
16 Max Gresham 8 Chevrolet 15 205 0 Running
17 Dakoda Armstrong 60 Chevrolet 8 204 0 Running
18 Tim George Jr 5 Ford 30 203 0 Running
19 German Quiroga Jr 77 Toyota 23 203 0 Running
20 David Starr 81 Toyota 25 203 0 Running
21 Brennan Newberry 14 Chevrolet 24 203 0 Running
22 Ryan Sieg 39 Chevrolet 12 203 0 Running
23 Bryan Silas 99 Ford 31 202 0 Running
24 Tyler Young 6 Chevrolet 22 201 0 Running
25 Clay Rogers 92 Chevrolet 28 199 0 Running
26 Timothy Peters 17 Toyota 20 198 0 Accident
27 Darrell Wallace Jr 54 Toyota 10 197 0 Accident
28 Johnny Chapman 07 Chevrolet 32 196 0 Running
29 Caleb Holman 75 Chevrolet 21 195 0 Running
30 Tyler Reddick 52 Toyota 13 195 0 Running
31 Jennifer Jo Cobb 10 RAM 34 187 0 Running
32 Todd Bodine 13 Toyota 19 180 0 Accident
33 Norm Benning 57 Chevrolet 35 175 0 Running
34 Chris Jones 93 Chevrolet 29 167 0 Accident
35 Jeff Agnew 27 Chevrolet 27 141 0 Handling
36 Mike Harmon 84 Ford 33 131 0 Accident

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