Larson holds off vets to win at Charlotte
May 24, 2014, Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com
Twenty-one-year-old shows poise, control in taking History 300
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CONCORD, N.C. — Once Kyle Larson made a breathtaking pass for the lead just past the midpoint of Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series History 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the outome was all but decided.
Larson led the last 56 laps and 82 of the last 83 to win for the first time at Charlotte, the second time this season and the second time in 43 starts in the series.
Larson passed Brad Keselowski in traffic on Lap 118 and stayed out front the rest of the way, save for one circuit during a cycle of green-flag pit stops that ran from Lap 140 through Lap 144. Ultimately, Keselowski finished second after a heated late-race battle against polesitter Kyle Busch for that position.
“It was about perfect for us,” Larson said of his afternoon at the track. “It was nice looking in the rear-view mirror and seeing them get smaller and smaller each lap. It’s not very often that you see the 22 (Keselowski) and the 54 (Busch) get smaller in your mirror.
“So it just shows how great of a car we had. The pit crew did an awesome job every stop we had. We had a great green-flag stop, too, so hats off to everyone on the team for making this win possible.”
With Chase Elliott running over debris and hitting the wall on Lap 87, leading to a 37th-place result, Smith took over the series lead by five points over Elliott Sadler, who came home 12th, the last driver on the lead lap.
Elliott dropped to third in the standings, 28 points behind his JR Motorsports teammate.
“Kyle and I had a great race — Kyle Busch,” Keselowski said. “Kyle Larson was just gone. He was pretty fast, just little bit better than us both in the corners and the straights… We need a little bit more, but we we’re running good, we’ve got a lot to be proud of, and we’ll move on.”
Busch fought a loose handling condition for most of the race and summed up his run succinctly.
“I was wrecking loose all day — just trying to hang on,“ Busch said, whose car was transported back to the Joe Gibbs Racing shop for repairs after hitting the wall in Thursday’s practice. “I was lucky to finish.”
In heavy traffic, Larson whipped past Keselowski on Lap 118, holding his No. 42 Chevrolet wide open in spectacular fashion through Turns 3 and 4 as Keselowski's Ford was blocked by lapped cars in the lower lanes.
“I thought, if I could catch Brad in a bad spot in traffic, I could use it (the high line) to my advantage, and that’s kind of what happened,” Larson said. “I saw a lot of lapped traffic ahead of us, and he had yet to try the top, or as high as I was going.
“He got kind of hung up behind them, and I had a clear lane up above. It may not have looked that clear on TV, but there was quite a bit of room up there for me. It was a pretty awesome move… That was kind of the move of the race.”
With Keselowski saving fuel during the latter stages of the long green-flag run, Larson opened an advantage of nearly four seconds, but Keselowski whittled three seconds off the margin by pitting under green on Lap 141, two laps earlier than Larson.
On fresh tires, Larson stretched his lead back to more than two seconds before NASCAR called a caution on Lap 169 for debris in Turn 3. All lead-lap cars came to pit road for four tires on Lap 171, with Larson retaining the top spot, trailed by Harvick (who gained one position), Keselowski and Busch (who picked up two spots on the exchange of pit stops).