Kyle Larson claimed his seventh win of the NASCAR Cup Series season in Sunday’s Round of 12 playoff elimination race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
Larson suffered from early electrical issues that forced his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team to change the battery and alternator belt on his car.
But the regular season champion quickly climbed back into contention. And off the race’s final restart with eight laps to go, Larson muscled past Denny Hamlin – who had already advanced into the Round of 8 via his win at Las Vegas – for the lead before going on to the win.
Non-playoff drivers Tyler Reddick and Chris Buescher finished second and third, respectively. Kyle Busch and Hamlin rounded out the top five.
In post-race comments to NBC Sports, Larson admitted some trepidation over the electrical problems and that he was aware they’d put him below the cutline to advance for a period of the race.
“Obviously, I had a pretty good idea,” Larson said. “I’d gone through it here a few years ago in the (No.) 42 (car). When you think you’re good and all of a sudden, you’re running, like, 40th, you’re like, ‘Well, I’m down below the cutline!’
“I knew I was going to have some sketchy moments. I just had to pick my way through traffic and stay calm. And we had some good restarts there near the end. I was able to kinda use my tire damage to get under Denny and squeeze him out of real estate off of (Turn) 4 there.”
Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, William Byron and Alex Bowman were all eliminated from the playoffs.
Harvick’s exit came after his playoff feud with reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott resumed during the race’s final stage.
At Lap 55, contact from Harvick sent Elliott into the Turn 7 wall. At Turn 8, Elliott’s heavily damaged car appeared to move toward Harvick but instead clipped Cole Custer.
That sent Elliott and Custer spinning to trigger a caution. After the wreck, conversation over Elliott’s team radio centered on payback against Harvick.
But as it turned out, Elliott didn’t have to resort to those measures.
With 11 laps to go, as Elliott was lurking behind Harvick on the frontstretch, Harvick locked up at Turn 1 and slid into the SAFER Barrier.
Following Harvick’s crash, Elliott’s team radio promptly weighed in: “Karma.” “Yes sir, it is.”
When Harvick was released from the infield care center, he was asked by NBC Sports if his earlier contact with Elliott stemmed from their prior clash this postseason at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“Sometimes, real life teaches you good lessons,” Harvick said. He left the next question, ‘Are you guys even?’ unanswered.
Elliott, who finished 12th, later chimed in from pit road in post-race.
“Our team has a lot of fight and I’m super proud of that,” he told NBC Sports. “As far as Kevin goes, I just want to wish them a merry offseason and a Happy Christmas.”
Harvick’s crash set up the eight-lap run to the finish, where Larson got past Hamlin and then managed the gap to Reddick for the remainder.
Needing a win to advance, Byron made a valiant effort to keep up with Larson and Reddick heading to the checkered flag.
With 19 laps to go, contact from Reddick caused Byron to miss the backstretch chicane, which forced Byron to serve a stop-and-go penalty.
But with two laps left, Byron went off-course in the Roval’s infield section. He finished 11th, not enough to keep his postseason going.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Elliott
STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Busch
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Before Kyle Busch’s fourth-place finish Sunday, he had finished 32nd, 37th and 30th in his three previous Roval starts.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: One day after winning Saturday’s Xfinity playoff race on the Roval, engine failure saw AJ Allmendinger out Sunday after 57 laps. … Ryan Newman was the first to drop out Sunday after a crash at Lap 19 broke the rear-end housing on his car.
NOTABLE: Larson has now earned more wins this season than he had in his previous seven seasons at the Cup level.
NEXT: Sunday, Oct. 17 – Round of 8 opener at Texas Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET, NBC)