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Jennifer Fisher | NASCAR Digital Media

Larson gives credit where credit is due: ‘(Gibbs) is obviously really good’

PLYMOUTH, Wis. — “Nice try, Kyle!”

Whether the fan meant it honestly or mockingly, shouting out as soon as Kyle Larson exited his No. 17 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, the exclamation at least stands as a true statement.

Larson finished P2 in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Road America, coming up 0.858 seconds short behind winner Ty Gibbs in overtime. Larson still won both stages and led a race-high 31 of 48 laps, including the second-to-last go-around. But when the white flag waved, Gibbs pushed his No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota into the shadows of Larson’s car.

“(Gibbs) did a good job of getting me to have to kind of change my angles up there those first couple of corners,” Larson said. “Then, I overshot (Turn) 3 just a little bit and wasn’t able to get the wheel turned like I needed, and yeah, he got by.”

RELATED: Watch the final Ty Gibbs-Kyle Larson battle

Without any unfair contact.

“The most important thing was to win,” Gibbs said. “But luckily, he just got wide enough for me to get around him.”

ELKHART LAKE, WISCONSIN - JULY 02: Ty Gibbs, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, and Kyle Larson, driver of the #17 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Henry 180 at Road America on July 02, 2022 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Logan Riely | Getty Images

Gibbs held off the defending Cup Series champion in the following nine turns. The victory marked No. 4 this season and No. 8 overall for the 19-year-old, who’s a decade younger than his runner-up. Gibbs is the Xfinity Series championship favorite, sitting second in the point standings but holding the most wins in the garage.

Larson, meanwhile, was making his first start in the Xfinity Series since 2018, when he won four of his six part-time races that year. He owns 12 career wins at the second-tier level, paired with 109 starts now.

“I wasn’t thinking at all about his championship while I was racing,” Larson said. “You know, he passed me clean, so I didn’t feel like it would have been right for me to go and move him out of the way. When he protected in (Turn) 12, I could have easily just shoved him through there and won the race. But I didn’t think that’d be the fair way to win.”

RELATED: Xfinity Series results from Road America

Gibbs was out front for just five laps throughout the HENRY 180. After beginning in second, he held the position through Stage 1 on Lap 10 and then fell back to 22nd in Stage 2 come Lap 20. The race went three laps past regulation. Gibbs fired off alongside Larson on the final restart.

“I just want to learn and be the best driver I can be,” Gibbs said, “and I want to be the best driver ever.”

In order to be the best, of course, he has to beat the best. Continuously.

Larson has two more Xfinity Series starts on tap this season with JR Motorsports – Watkins Glen International (Aug. 20) and Darlington Raceway (Sept. 3). And he’s already looking forward to a rematch with Gibbs.

“He’s obviously really good,” Larson said. “Watching, I feel like you can tell a good race-car driver by from the road courses and he’s always ran really well on the road courses since he started, so I knew he was gonna be really good. I hope to get to race him on an oval.”