How often have you heard a driver start whooping in celebration with half a lap to go in a race? That was Kyle Larson on Sunday, and it was hard to blame him — even if spotter Derek Kneeland had to urge him to stay calm through the final two turns.
Yes, Kyle Larson won Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400, and perhaps no one was more surprised than he was to win his third consecutive race at the 2-mile track.
“We didn’t have the best car,” crew chief Chad Johnston said, “and you usually don’t win without the best car at Michigan.”
But there was Larson at the end, launching the most perfect restart of his career, vaulting from fourth to first in NASCAR Overtime and somehow driving past prohibitive title contender, championship favorite and race leader Martin Truex Jr.
All of this came one day after Larson finished second at the prestigious Knoxville Nationals dirt race — which Ganassi OK’d, a rare sprint car race the day before a Monster Energy Series event. The “drive anything, anywhere” mentality has endeared Larson to both longtime fans of NASCAR and longtime fans of dirt racing, and perhaps helped sharpen his prodigious skill behind the wheel.
Larson came into Michigan in a “slump” by his lofty standards, finishing outside the top 20 for three consecutive races from a variety of issues. Truex Jr. won twice during that stretch, opening up a massive lead in playoff points.
That black No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota appeared poised to claim its fifth win this year. One final restart rewrites the entire story.
And that restart. It was championship-caliber. Judging by the pomp surrounding the victory — Larson hooting and hollering, that epic burnout, Ganassi pounding members of his own team in jubilation — this is a win that feels like it will have a lasting impact on the entire team.
The grin on Larson’s face says don’t ship that championship to Colorado just yet.