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Kyle Larson Tames Darlington

Image: HHP/Chris Owens

In the NASCAR Cup Series, there are three crown jewel races that drivers want to win. The Daytona 500, The Coca-Cola 600, and the Southern 500. Daytona is the peak of NASCAR. The Coca-Cola 600 is NASCAR’s longest race length-wise. The Southern 500 is a race that is soaked in tradition. The Southern 500 was annually held on Labor Day weekend from 1950 to 2003. It was once again held on Labor Day weekend starting in 2015. This past weekend was the start of the NASCAR Playoffs. Now is the time for drivers to step up and show the field what they can do. But one past Cup Series Champion rose above the others and finally earned a victory at Darlington.

Larson Earns a Sweet Victory at Darlington:

For years, Kyle Larson has been so close to winning not only at Darlington, but the Southern 500. In his 11 previous Darlington starts, Larson had an average finish of 10.18. This included four consecutive Top-3 finishes from September of 2018 to September of 2021. It’s well documented that Larson is excellent at Darlington. But has always had terrible luck when closing out races at Darlington. In 2018, Larson led 284 laps but lost a shot at the victory on the final pit stop. This past weekend, Larson qualified 18th but had a fast car during practice. Right from the green flag, it was obvious that Larson could make his way through traffic. By the end of the first stage, Larson made his way up to third, thanks to pit strategy. If anyone was going to win this race, they were going to have to go through Denny Hamlin.

Hamlin had the dominant car of the race, and he made that obvious very early. He would go on to win both stages of the race and it looked like it was going to be another Darlington win for Hamlin. After a late race pit stop, Hamlin made the call to his crew with 95 laps to go that he had a loose wheel. This took Hamlin out of contention. Larson finally gained control of the race with 50 laps to go and never looked back. Kyle Larson finally earned his first Darlington victory, and his first Southern 500. This is a huge win for Larson and Hendrick Motorsports. Now Larson is locked into the Round of 12 of the playoffs. But unfortunately, there is another Hendrick driver that is making headlines for the wrong reason.

Alex Bowman vs. Daniel Suarez:

For the past few months, it has been well-documented that Alex Bowman and Daniel Suarez have had several run-ins with each other. Most notably, at Circuit of the Americas. On a late race restart, Suarez was spun around thanks to a chain reaction that was started by Bowman. On the cool-down lap, Suarez let his frustrations known to Bowman while entering pit road. This cost Suarez $50,000. Fast forward to this past Sunday, on a late-race restart, Bowman and Suarez were racing hard with each other once again. Bowman blocked Suarez once before going into turn one, and once again, which resulted in a multi-car accident. Later, Bowman would acknowledge that he was wrong in blocking twice. This small rivalry might continue to brew in the future, especially this coming race weekend.

What to Expect from Kansas:

For years, Kansas has been known as the craziest intermediate track on the schedule, and there’s a good reason for that. Every Kansas race in the next-gen era so far has been fantastic. The expectations for this coming race on Sunday are very high. In the last 15 Kansas races, nine of those have been won by Toyota, including the last three. It would not be a shocker to see if all of the Joe Gibbs Racing or 23XI Racing cars up front on Sunday. Last season, it was former 23XI driver, Kurt Busch, and Bubba Wallace swept the Kansas races for 23XI last year. If there is one driver to keep an eye on, it would be Tyler Reddick. Reddick was fast at Darlington, finished second, and has been fast in recent weeks.

Current Playoff Standings:

1st: Kyle Larson: Advanced to The Round of 12.

2nd: William Byron: +45 points above the cutline.

3rd: Tyler Reddick: +30 points above the cutline.

4th: Chris Buescher: +27 points above the cutline.

5th: Denny Hamlin: + 27 points above the cutline.

6th:  Martin Truex Jr: +25 points above the cutline.

7th: Kyle Busch: +20 points above the cutline.

8th:  Brad Keselowski: +18 points above the cutline.

9th: Ryan Blaney: +16 points above the cutline.

10: Ross Chastain: +13 points above the cutline.

11th: Joey Logano: +3 points above the cutline.

12th: Christopher Bell: +1 point above the cutline.

13th: Bubba Wallace: -1 point below the cutline.

14th: Kevin Harvick: -4 points below the cutline.

15th: Ricky Stenhouse Jr: -4 points below the cutline.

16th: Michael McDowell: -19 points below the cutline.

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