LONG POND, PA — Kyle Larson saw his three race win streak come to a heartbreaking close in dramatic fashion on Saturday afternoon from the Pocono Raceway. The Hendrick Motorsports driver cut a tire in the final corner on the final lap of competition and instead of being the first driver since 2007 to win four straight NASCAR Cup Series races, he had to settle for a ninth place run as a result.
His No. 5 Chevrolet limped home across the finish line for his 13th career top 10 result still.
On Sunday, there he was in the end after having front end damage early on to finish runner-up. It was his seventh top two result in the last eight races of the season.
“I don’t know. It’s surprising finish for us,” Larson said after not leading a single lap on Sunday afternoon. “Our HendrickCars.com Chevy was really loose for a majority of the race, then we got a lot of nose damage there on one of the restarts. Was off on speed. I felt like after that.
“Cliff and everybody did a really, really good job managing the race, coached me through saving fuel there at the end. Was hoping that the 18 was going to run out. I saw the 11 running out. I was, Okay, they’re teammates, they got to be close to running out.
“The 18 did pit a lap after us under caution. That actually probably won them the race. But, yeah, second-place finish, I thought we would be outside of the top 20. A lot of points throughout the race today; we’ll take it. Happy about the effort for sure all weekend.”
Larson, hit pit road under the final caution of the race on Lap 92 for debris. He and several others came down pit lane on Lap 93. Larson, took fuel only. William Byron, his teammate, took fuel and four fresh tires. That nearly won Byron the race. Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Preece, Chase Briscoe, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. joined them down pit road on that lap.
Kyle Busch pit a lap later.
Byron, took over the lead when Brad Keselowski pit for the final time on Lap 132. Unfortunately for Byron, he didn’t save enough and had him pit again for fuel on Lap 137. That handed over the battle for the win to Joe Gibbs Racing as they had Hamlin vs. Busch 1-2 at the moment.
Hamlin though ran out of fuel while leading coming to the white flag and had to pit himself. Busch, was now in the lead and had one lap more of fuel than second place Larson.
Larson, had to save enough to come home second and saw Busch win by over eight seconds. HMS’ six race win streak now comes to an end but they still get a second place finisher for the sixth time in the last eight races too.
For Larson, it was a rebound day as he had front end damage from running into the back of Hamlin on the first restart of the day.
“Seemed like every point of the race, everything that happened in the race, nothing went my way,” he said. “Restarts, just guys messing up in front of me, me getting shuffled out of the groove, bad lane choices on my part, everything didn’t go my way.
Cliff did a really good job keeping my head in it.”
Now, we got to Road America to where HMS should be among the favorites again. They went 1-2 in COTA, 1-2 in Sonoma and have won six of the last seven road course events in the Cup Series.