Kyle Larson held off a hard-charging Tyler Reddick in the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway to claim the checkered flag at the historic track and advance to the Round of 12 in the Playoffs.
It was the third win of the season for the Hendrick Motorsports driver and 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion and the 22nd of his career. The victory was not without its struggles, however, including a brush with the wall and a transmission that was temporarily stuck in neutral.
“This has been one of my favorite tracks my whole career, and I’ve been really, really fast here my whole career. I just usually get in the wall,” Larson said. “And finally we have the Next Gen car that’s tough enough to allow me to hit the wall. So I was able to make some mistakes and get a win. Adding this trophy to the collection is gonna be amazing.
“I messed up once and it (the transmission) got hung in neutral, and I slid and hit the wall, and I think bent the toe link a little bit, so it was kind of a struggle from there. Definitely had to fight it more than I was earlier, but we kept our heads in the game. That was really important. This race is all about keeping your head in it.”
Reddick, after leading 90 laps in his 23XI Racing Toyota, had to settle for second place.
“Kyle and I were pretty close the majority of the day, honestly, and he just got ahead of us there on pit road,” Reddick said, “but all in all, this is the day that we needed to have.
“Really just thankful for the hard work from my pit crew, from the team, everyone at the shop,” he continued. “Days like this, with a car like this, we haven’t been able to get a second-place finish out of it, so really glad we were able to do that, and it was a really good points day on top of that, as well.”
It was a good day for half of the Playoff drivers as eight of them finished in the top 10 with Chris Buescher in third, followed by William Byron (fourth), Ross Chastain (fifth), Brad Keselowski (sixth), Bubba Wallace (seventh) and Ryan Blaney (ninth). Non-Playoff drivers, Chase Elliott and Erik Jones finished eighth and 10th, respectively.
But several of the playoff drivers had disappointing finishes.
Denny Hamlin was dominant early, leading 177 laps and sweeping Stages 1 and 2 but made a green flag pit stop on Lap 274, thinking he had a loose wheel. This caused him to lose a lap, and then, on Lap 331, he was collected in a five-car crash that also included Michael McDowell and Christopher Bell, and Hamlin finished the race one lap down.
Kevin Harvick was another victim of circumstance. While heading to pit road a caution was brought out by Newman after he spun in Turn 4 just as Harvick was attempting to pit. But the red light came on, closing pit road and Harvick was assessed with a penalty and was sent to the back of the field for the restart, relegating him to a 19th-place finish.
Martin Truex Jr. lost four spots after contact with the wall in Stage 1 and in Stage 2 his day went from bad to worse as he had to make an unscheduled pit stop due to a loose wheel, losing two laps.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was caught speeding on pit road and had to serve a pass-through penalty on his first green-flag pit stop.
The remaining Playoff drivers finished as follows:
Joey Logano -12
Hamlin – 25
William Byron currently leads the point standings by 1 point over Kyle Larson.
The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs continue next week on Sunday, Sept. 10 at Kansas Speedway on USA with radio coverage on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.