Kyle Larson First Time Sprint Cup Winner at Michigan

Kyle Larson
Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images

The next generation of NASCAR's superstar drivers was on full display Sunday at Michigan International Speedway as twenty-four year old Kyle Larson beat out 20-year-old rookie Chase Elliott to score his first-career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory in the Pure Michigan 400.

Larson snatched the lead away from Elliott on a restart with nine laps to go and hit his marks over the final laps to beat Elliott by nearly 1.5 seconds for his first win in 99-career series starts and secure himself a spot in the field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Brad Keselowski finished third, followed by rookie Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick.

Larson, the 2014 Sprint Cup Rookie if the Year, dedicated his first victory to his friend Bryan Clauson, who died on Aug. 7 from injuries suffered in a sprint car accident.

"I was teared-up that whole last few laps because I could just feel it. It was finally going to be it," said Larson. "This one is for the Clauson family. We really miss Bryan. We love you guys. We're going to miss him. We parked it for him, so that's really cool.

"We had a lot of work to do for that first third of the race, and got it done."

Larson's victory, coupled with wins by Brett Moffitt in the Michigan truck series race and Michael McDowell in the Xfinity Series on the road course at Road America, marks the first time in NASCAR's history that first-time winners claimed victory on the same weekend in all three series.

The victory also snapped a 99-race winless drought for owner Chip Ganassi, dating back to Jamie McMurray's victory at Talladega in October of 2013, and the first win for the No. 42 team since Juan Pablo Montoya won at Watkins Glen in August of 2010.

The team is now locked into the Chase for the second year in a row.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"] "It's really, really big," said Ganassi of Larson's victory. "We've been on the cusp for so many years. We got Jamie (McMurray) in there last year and now getting Kyle in, we couldn't be happier. I'm kind of speechless to tell you the truth.

"(Larson) hung in there with our team. We were building. We've been building over the years. He came on board and did a great job. The team rallied around him. I can't say enough about the kid and the job he's done over the last few years and it's been a nice gradual coming-up through the pack. And I couldn't be more happy with Kyle right now."

Larson had been tantalizing close to his first victory before, only to see it slip away in the final laps – finishing second at Dover after a heated battle with Elliott and coming in third at Martinsville.

In the Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway – a non-points qualifying race for the Sprint All-Star race, Larson battled Elliott right to the finish line to transfer to the all-star event and held the lead in the vent until hitting the wall with two laps to go.

On Sunday, Larson almost gave the race away again after losing to lead to Elliott following a round of pit stops 44 laps to go, falling to fourth on the restart.

Under green and out in the clean air, Elliott pulled away to open up a 2.5-second lead as Larson fought his way back to second place, but too far back to mount a challenge on Elliott.

But fortune favored Larson, as the yellow flag came out with 14 laps left after Michael Annett cut a tire and hit the wall, giving Larson one last shot to catch Elliott.

The race resumed with nine laps to go with Elliott leading the field to the green on the outside of Larson, followed by Keselowski and Blaney.

Restarts had been Elliott's Achilles heel all day – losing the lead to Larson on an earlier restart on lap 126 – and again on the final start, Elliott spun his tires and lost momentum. Larson, meanwhile, also spun his tires, but got a fortuitous push from Keselowski that allowed him to pull ahead.

Kyle Larson (R) leads Elliott on the final restart
Jerry Markland/Getty Images

By the time the leaders entered the backstretch, Larson was out to a 10-car lead while Keselowski, Elliott and Blaney fell in line nose to tail. Just a lap later, Elliott ducked under Keselowski coming out of turn two and moved into second, looking to chase down Larson.

Now just a few miles away from his first career victory, Larson ran to perfection through nine nail-biting laps, but hit his marks in every turn and easily beat out Elliott to the checkered flag.

For Elliott, Sunday's runner-up finish was frustratingly similar to his second-place finish at Michigan back in June, where he lost the lead to race winner Joey Logano after spinning his tires on a restart with 50 laps to go.

"Bummer again here," said Elliott. "I hate to let my guys down is the biggest thing. For the second time this has happened. I made a mistake early on in the race. I asked my guys to bail me out, and they did. Unfortunately, I didn't do my part again.

"That's a couple races in a row in just a few short months here at this place we had a really good car, had an opportunity. That's one thing I try really hard to do is make the most of opportunities when they're presented. Obviously I didn't do a very good job of that here both trips. You just got to recognize your mistakes, look at the positives I guess and move on down the road."

Though Elliott lost out on both his first win and a secured spot in the Chase, he still remains in the running for one of the final three spots in the Chase field, 27 points ahead of 17th points.

Jimmie Johnson finished sixth, followed by Carl Edwards, McMurray, Denny Hamlin and Logano.

Race Results

Pos. # Driver Make Start Laps Led Status Points
1 42 Kyle Larson Chevy 12 200 41 Running 45
2 24 Chase Elliott Chevy 5 200 31 Running 40
3 2 Brad Keselowski Ford 18 200 14 Running 39
4 21 Ryan Blaney Ford 7 200 0 Running 37
5 4 Kevin Harvick Chevy 4 200 33 Running 37
6 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevy 2 200 37 Running 36
7 19 Carl Edwards Toyota 9 200 1 Running 35
8 1 Jamie McMurray Chevy 8 200 0 Running 33
9 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota 3 200 0 Running 32
10 22 Joey Logano Ford 1 200 24 Running 32
11 16 Greg Biffle Ford 22 200 1 Running 31
12 41 Kurt Busch Chevy 19 200 0 Running 29
13 20 Matt Kenseth Toyota 13 200 8 Running 29
14 5 Kasey Kahne Chevy 11 200 0 Running 27
15 47 AJ Allmendinger Chevy 25 200 0 Running 26
16 3 Austin Dillon Chevy 17 200 1 Running 26
17 31 Ryan Newman Chevy 10 200 1 Running 25
18 27 Paul Menard Chevy 20 200 0 Running 23
19 18 Kyle Busch Toyota 16 199 0 Running 22
20 78 Martin Truex Jr Toyota 14 199 7 Running 22
21 14 Tony Stewart Chevy 15 198 0 Running 20
22 13 Casey Mears Chevy 28 198 0 Running 19
23 10 Danica Patrick Chevy 23 198 0 Running 18
24 6 Trevor Bayne Ford 24 198 0 Running 17
25 43 Aric Almirola Ford 26 198 0 Running 16
26 7 Regan Smith Chevy 31 198 1 Running 16
27 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Ford 29 198 0 Running 14
28 44 Brian Scott Ford 30 197 0 Running 13
29 23 David Ragan Toyota 32 196 0 Running 12
30 88 Alex Bowman Chevy 6 195 0 Running 0
31 95 Michael McDowell Chevy 35 195 0 Running 10
32 83 Matt DiBenedetto Toyota 34 195 0 Running 9
33 46 Michael Annett Chevy 36 195 0 Running 8
34 98 Cole Whitt Chevy 37 194 0 Running 7
35 34 Chris Buescher Ford 21 193 0 Running 6
36 55 Reed Sorenson Chevy 39 193 0 Running 5
37 32 Jeffrey Earnhardt Ford 40 192 0 Running 4
38 30 Josh Wise Chevy 38 192 0 Running 3
39 38 Landon Cassill Ford 33 174 0 Suspension 2
40 15 Clint Bowyer Chevy 27 160 0 Running 1

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