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Steve O’Donnell talks Kyle Larson’s ‘wild ride’, explains final lap caution call

NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell joined SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Monday morning to discuss Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway in detail, particularly how NASCAR officials viewed and officiated the final-lap wreck.

Chase Elliott notched his first victory of the year Sunday after 15 different drivers led laps. The Hendrick Motorsports driver claimed the victory under caution following an incident involving David Ragan, William Byron, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jeffrey Earnhardt and Larson evolved into a wreck near the middle of the field. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver was hit on the outside, contact that sent his No. 42 Chevrolet careening toward the inside retaining wall and ultimately flipping down the apron.

Larson exited the car under his own power and was later checked and released from the infield care center (along with the others involved in the wreck), and NASCAR officials will take a closer look at that wreck this week.

RELATED: Larson: ‘Longest flip I’ve ever had’ 

“A lot of work goes into it even prior to the race in the wind tunnel, looking at what the liftoff speeds were,” O’Donnell said of Larson’s car getting into the air. “We’ll have to look at a couple of things; the initial impact of the car on the side around the right rear. Maybe that contributed to the air getting under the tire there, as it headed toward the wall. We’ll look at all that.

“We’ll certainly make any adjustments we need to. We obviously want to keep the cars on the ground, but on the good news front glad to see Kyle was alright. Talked to him after the race and he was certainly shaken up from the wild ride, but he was in a good spot.”

Shortly before that wreck occurred, Stenhouse Jr.’s solo spin sent his No. 17 Ford into the outside wall at the back of the lead pack. NASCAR did not throw the caution immediately upon impact, but made the decision to put out the yellow shortly after.

“Our desire for the fans is to always, always finish under green,” O’Donnell said. “You want to let the race play out as much as we can, and that starts almost with (Erik Jones’) 20 car (spinning) going into (Turns) 3 and 4. Do you throw that caution or do you hold off and see if that car is able to roll off? Certainly, if he was stalled out on the apron, that caution comes out, but we saw that he was able to drive off. So, that’s kind of our philosophy in the closing laps.

“When it comes to the 17 hitting the wall and going down to the apron, then what we’re looking at is does he have the ability to fire the car back up and drive off or not and is there anything on the track? We’re going 200 miles per hour, so to quickly look at that takes a few seconds. By the time that happens, cars are out in 1 and 2 … his car doesn’t roll off so we throw the caution. That caution flag was almost the exact time when the (Larson) incident started unfolding on the backstretch as well. Even if there was no incident on the backstretch, that caution would have come out.”