Larson dominates for third Truck career victory at North Wilkesboro

In his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start in two years, Kyle Larson made the most of the opportunity by scoring a dominant victory in the third-ever running of the Tyson 250 at North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, on Saturday, May 20.

The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion from Elk Grove, California, led two times for a race-high 138 of 252 over-scheduled laps, including the final 15, and prevailed in an overtime shootout amid a series of late carnages to win in the series return to North Wilkesboro while piloting the No. 7 Chevrolet Silverado RST for Spire Motorsports.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, Corey Heim won his second consecutive pole position in recent weeks after posting a pole-winning lap at 112.096 mph in 20.072 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Carson Hocevar, who posted the second-fastest qualifying lap at 111.629 mph in 20.156 seconds and was the fastest during Friday’s lone practice session.

When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Heim launched ahead with the lead on the outside lane before he quickly transitioned to the inside lane entering Turn 1. With the field behind running two lanes deep, Heim was able to cycle back to the frontstretch and lead the first lap ahead of Hocevar as William Byron, Ty Majeski and Bret Holmes were scored in the top five.

During the second lap, Heim retained the lead over Hocevar and Byron while Kyle Larson, who was piloting the No. 7 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Silverado RST for Spire Motorsports, had fallen back to 12th as he was struggling for grip on the outside lane. Shortly after, Colby Howard, who started in the top five and was running sixth in the early stages, lost spots to Grant Enfinger and Christopher Bell before settling in front of Kaden Honeycutt in eighth place. Amid the early battles through the first five laps, Heim continued to lead by eight-tenths of a second over Hocevar while third-place Byron trailed by more than a second.

Through the first 10 scheduled laps, Heim was leading by eight-tenths of a second over Hocevar followed by Byron, Majeski and Bret Holmes while Grant Enfinger, Bell, Howard, Kaden Honeycutt and Christian Eckes were in the top 10. Behind, Matt DiBenedetto was in 11th ahead of Kyle Larson, Ross Chastain, Hailie Deegan and Tyler Ankrum while Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes, Bubba Wallace, rookie Jake Garcia and rookie Rajah Caruth occupied the top 20, with rookie Nick Sanchez running in 21st. Meanwhile, Zane Smith, who did not post a qualifying lap due to his truck failing pre-race inspection three times, was up in 24th.

On Lap 23, the first caution of the event flew when Timmy Hill turned across the front nose of Johnny Sauter, which sent Hill spinning into Turn 4 as he was dodged by oncoming traffic. By then, Heim, who started to approach lapped traffic, among which included Stewart Friesen, had retained the lead by half a second over Hocevar as Majeski moved up to third. Byron fell back to fourth in front of Bell, who carved his No. 61 Toyota Tsusho Toyota Tundra TRD Pro into the top five over Holmes while Enfinger, Howard, DiBenedetto and Larson were in the top 10.

During the first caution period, names that included Byron, Bell, Colby Howard, Christian Eckes, Tyler Ankrum, Jake Garcia, Lawless Alan, Sauter, Chase Purdy, rookie Daniel Dye, Chris Hacker and Friesen pitted while the rest led by Heim remained on the track. Amid the pit stops, Sauter was penalized for speeding on pit road.

When the race restarted on Lap 31, Heim retained the lead followed by Hocevar while Enfinger battled Majeski and DiBenedetto for third place. Majeski and DiBenedetto would overtake Enfinger as the Alabama native fell back to fifth while stuck on the outside lane before settling in front of Holmes and Larson as the field fanned out, bumped and jostled for positions.

Then on Lap 43, Hocevar seized an opportunity entering Turn 2 as he overtook Heim and assumed the lead for the first time. Hocevar then started to extend his advantage to more than a second over Heim while Larson worked his way up to third as he trailed by more than two seconds. Behind, Majeski and DiBenedetto were in the top five while Bell and Byron, both of whom pitted during the first caution period for fresh tires, moved up to sixth and seventh.

At the Lap 50 mark, Hocevar extended his advantage to more than two seconds over Heim followed by Larson, Majeski and Byron while Bell, Eckes, DiBenedetto, Chastain and Honeycutt were running in the top 10. A few laps later, however, Byron and Bell moved up to third and fourth on fresh tires with Larson moving up to second while Heim fell back to fifth.

During the event’s caution period on Lap 57, where Hailie Deegan spun in Turn 1 amid contact with Johnny Sauter, Hocevar surrendered the lead to pit as he led a bevy of competitors to pit road while the rest led by Byron and Friesen remained on the track.

With seven laps remaining in the first stage, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Byron retained the lead over Howard and Friesen as the field fanned out again for on-track positions. A lap later, however, the caution quickly returned when Timmy Hill, who was running towards the rear of the field, got loose entering Turn 1 and clipped Deegan before spinning and coming to a stop sideways between Turns 1 and 2 with damage to his truck. During the caution period, a few drivers, including Jake Garcia, Honeycutt and Hill pitted while the rest led by Byron remained on the track.

When the race restarted with a single lap remaining in the first stage, Heim, who restarted alongside Byron on the outside lane on the front row, capitalized on fresh tires to overtake Byron’s No. 51 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Silverado RST through Turns 2 and 3. The momentum was enough for Heim to cycle his No. 11 Safelite Toyota Tundra TRD Pro back to Turn 4 and capture the first stage victory and his third of the 2023 season on Lap 70. Byron settled in second followed by Bell, Howard and Hocevar while Friesen, Zane Smith, Larson, Chase Purdy and Ankrum were scored in the top 10.

Under the stage break, names that included Byron, Howard, Friesen, Purdy, Chris Hacker, Sauter, Kris Wright and Holmes pitted while the rest led by Heim remained on the track.

The second stage started on Lap 80 as Heim and Bell occupied the front row. At the start, Heim rocketed with the race leader on the inside lane while Hocevar battled Bell for second in front of Larson, Zane Smith and DiBenedetto. With the field battling amid two tight-packed lanes during the proceeding laps, a three-wide action and contact occurred between Chris Hacker, Connor Jones and Kris Wright, with all three battling for spots in the top 30. Amid the tight racing, Heim retained the lead by three-tenths of a second over Hocevar.

By Lap 90, Heim was leading by three-tenths of a second over Hocevar while third-place Bell trailed by a second. Larson and Zane Smith occupied the top five ahead of DiBenedetto and Majeski while Ross Chastain, Ankrum and Ben Rhodes were in the top 10. Behind, Bubba Wallace was in 11th ahead of Enfinger, Nick Sanchez, Eckes and Byron.

At the Lap 100 mark, Heim continued to lead by more than a tenth of a second over a hard-charging Larson, who overtook Bell and Hocevar less than 10 laps earlier, while Zane Smith retained fifth. Meanwhile, Byron was mired in 12th behind Wallace, Eckes was in 15th ahead of Matt Crafton and Friesen was back in 18th.

A lap later, however, Larson battled and overtook Heim to assume the lead for the first time as the leaders approached lapped traffic. Hocevar would overtake Heim for second a few laps later while Bell trailed in fourth place by more than a second.

At the halfway mark on Lap 125, Larson extended his advantage to more than three seconds over Hocevar while third-place Zane Smith trailed by four seconds. Heim and DiBenedetto were in the top five followed by Heim, Wallace, Chastain, Enfinger and Byron while Majeski, Bell, Crafton, Friesen, Rhodes, Purdy, rookie Taylor Gray, Honeycutt, Howard and Garcia occupied the top 20.

Eight laps later, the caution flew when Dean Thompson, who got bumped by Rajah Caruth entering Turn 1, spun in Turn 2 amid contact with Josh Williams. During the caution period, the field led by Larson peeled off the track to pit for fresh tires. Following the pit stops, Larson exited first followed by Zane Smith, Hocevar, DiBenedetto, Heim and Chastain.

When the race restarted with a single lap remaining in the second stage, Larson peeked ahead with the lead alongside Hocevar and amid two tight-packed lanes through Turns 1 and 2. Despite being locked alongside Hocevar through Turn 2, Larson was able to muscle ahead and clear the field through Turns 3 and 4 as he claimed the second stage victory scheduled for Lap 140. Hocevar settled in second followed by Zane Smith, Heim and Byron while DiBenedetto, Enfinger, Chastain, Wallace and Ankrum were scored in the top 10.

Under the stage break, a few names that included Majeski and Holmes pitted while the rest led by Larson remained on the track.

With 99 laps remaining, the final stage started as Larson muscled ahead with the lead ahead of Zane Smith and Hocevar. As Larson retained a steady advantage over Hocevar, Heim moved back up to third while Zane Smith fell back to fourth while battling Enfinger and Byron. As the on-track battles ensued, the caution returned with 95 laps remaining when Josh Williams, who was battling Kris Wright, Spencer Boyd, Connor Jones and Tanner Gray, was bumped by both Wright and Jones as Williams was turned off the front nose of Gray through the backstretch. Williams then clipped the barriers towards the pit road entrance before spinning across the track towards the inside wall.

With the race restarting with 88 laps remaining, Larson muscled ahead with the lead over the field as Hocevar made his way around Grant Enfinger for second.

With 75 laps remaining, Larson was leading by more than a second over Hocevar and more than three seconds over third-place Heim while Zane Smith and Bell were in the top five. Enfinger was back in sixth ahead of Byron, DiBenedetto, Wallace and Crafton while Ankrum, Friesen, Taylor Gray, Chastain and Purdy were mired in the top 15.

Then with 67 laps remaining, the caution flew when Deegan bumped and sent Dean Thompson for a spin in Turn 1 as Thompson backed his No. 5 Thompson Pipe Group Toyota Tundra TRD Pro into the outside wall and sustained significant rear-end damage. In the ensuing chaos, Deegan slapped the outside wall while trying to regain her momentum while Kris Wright hit both the wall and Thompson’s damaged truck while trying to lock up his front tires. During the caution period, the field led by Larson pitted and Larson retained the lead after exiting first followed by Heim, Hocevar, Byron, Zane Smith and Enfinger. During the pit stops, Zane Smith was sent to the rear of the field for speeding on pit road.

With the race restarting with 59 laps remaining, Larson retained the lead on the inside lane as Heim made his way to second over Hocevar. Two laps later, the caution returned when Eckes bumped and sent Ben Rhodes for a spin in Turn 1, though Rhodes managed to keep his No. 99 Kubota Ford F-150 off the outside wall.

During the proceeding restart with 51 laps remaining, Larson retained the lead ahead of Heim while Byron was locked in a battle with Hocevar and DiBenedetto for third. The caution, however, returned a lap later when Ankrum, who was locked in a tight three-wide battle against Eckes and Purdy within the top 15, got shoved and squeezed into the outside wall through Turn 2 as he slapped the wall. Ankrum’s incident ignited a chain reaction as Rajah Caruth ran into him along with Rhodes and Zane Smith, with all four competitors wrecking while the rest of the field scattered to avoid the carnage. During the caution period, Chastain and Deegan pitted while the rest of the field led by Larson remained on the track.

With the race restarting with 35 laps remaining, Larson rocketed with the lead followed by Heim while Hocevar battled and overtook DiBenedetto for third. As the laps proceeded and with late battles ensuing around the circuit, Byron made his way up to fourth over DiBenedetto while Larson extended his advantage to a second over Heim.

With 28 laps remaining, the caution returned when Connor Jones came to a stop on the track, a move that resulted in NASCAR holding Jones for two laps in the pits as a penalty. During the caution period, Wallace, Chastain and Deegan remained on the track while the rest led by Larson pitted. Amid the caution period, Colby Howard was penalized for speeding on pit road.

During the following restart with 23 laps remaining, Wallace retained the lead while Majeski, the first competitor with fresh tires, carved his way up to second as the field fanned out and jostled for late positions. Wallace would continue to lead on old tires over Majeski as the event reached its final 20-lap mark.

Then with 15 laps remaining, the battle for the lead intensified as Larson, who carved his way back up to second, intimidated Wallace for the top spot. After bumping and remaining in a tight side-by-side match against Wallace during the proceeding laps, Larson managed to reassume the lead for good with 12 laps remaining as Majeski challenged Wallace for second.

Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Larson was leading by a second over Majeski as Wallace trailed by more than a second. Four laps later, the caution flew when Eckes spun in Turn 3 after making contact with Chase Purdy. Eckes’ spin was enough to send the event into overtime.

When the field restarted for the first overtime attempt, Larson rocketed with the lead on the inside lane while Wallace spun the tires on outside lane, which jumbled the field and allowed Majeski to move to second followed by DiBenedetto. As the field fanned out through the first two turns, Larson started to pull away from Majeski and his rivals.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Larson remained as the leader by more than six-tenths of a second over Majeski. With the clean air to his advantage, Larson was able to cruise away from the field and cycle back to the frontstretch to claim the checkered flag and win by nine-tenths of a second over Majeski.

With the victory, Larson notched his third career victory in the Craftsman Truck Series and his first since winning at Eldora Speedway in July 2016. He joined Mike Bliss and Mark Martin as the only competitors to win a Truck event at North Wilkesboro Speedway and he recorded the second Truck career victory for Spire Motorsports.

The victory occurred nine days after Larson was announced to drive the No. 7 entry for Spire Motorsports in place of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman, who remains injured with a fractured vertebra stemming from a sprint car accident in late April.

“[That was] A really fun track there, especially in the truck,” Larson said on FOX. “You can use the apron and such, and both ends there. [I] Had a good time. That was a lot of fun on the long runs there, lapping trucks. Huge thank you to [crew chief Kevin] Bono [Manion], everybody on this team.

I wasn’t supposed to run [this event]. Unfortunately, Alex [Bowman] got hurt and allowed me the opportunity to run this. Thanks to everybody at Spire Motorsports for allowing me to race their truck, HendrickCars.com, [Cup owner] Rick Hendrick for also letting me run.”

Majeski finished in second place for the second time this season followed by Matt DiBenedetto while Hocevar and Bubba Wallace finished in the top five. Heim, the pole-sitter, ended up in sixth place while Crafton, Chase Purdy, Ross Chastain and Enfinger finished in the top 10.

There were six lead changes for five different leaders. The race featured 12 cautions for 85 laps. In total, 25 of 36 starters finished on the lead lap.

Following the 10th event of the 2023 Craftsman Truck Series season, Corey Heim leads the regular-season standings by seven points over Ty Majeski, 16 over Zane Smith, 41 over Grant Enfinger and 60 over Christian Eckes.

Results.

1. Kyle Larson, 138 laps led, Stage 2 winner

2. Ty Majeski

3. Matt DiBenedetto

4. Carson Hocevar, 16 laps led

5. Bubba Wallace, 13 laps led

6. Corey Heim, 75 laps led, Stage 1 winner

7. Matt Crafton

8. Chase Purdy

9. Ross Chastain

10. Grant Enfinger

11. William Byron, 10 laps led

12. Chris Hacker

13. Stewart Friesen

14. Daniel Dye

15. Bret Holmes

16. Christopher Bell

17. Kaden Honeycutt

18. Tanner Gray

19. Lawless Alan

20. Hailie Deegan

21. Taylor Gray

22. Kris Wright

23. Jake Garcia

24. Colby Howard

25. Christian Eckes

26. Tyler Ankrum, two laps down

27.  Spencer Boyd, two laps down

28. Josh Williams – OUT, Water pump

29. Connor Jones – OUT, Electrical

30. Nick Sanchez, 39 laps down

31. Timmy Hill, 41 laps down

32. Zane Smith – OUT, Accident,

33. Ben Rhodes – OUT, Accident

34. Rajah Caruth – OUT, Accident

35. Dean Thompson – OUT, Accident

36.  Johnny Sauter – OUT, Electrical

Next on the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season is another North Carolina event as the series will travel southeast from North Wilkesboro to Concord to compete at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The event is scheduled to occur next Friday, May 26, at 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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