Kyle Larson drove to a dominant victory in Sunday’s Drydene 400 at Dover, snapping a two-year, 75-race winless streak and securing him a spot in the Round of 8 NASCAR playoffs.
Larson moved into the lead after his pit crew turned in a fast stop during the Stage 2 break, putting him ahead of Stage 2 winner Martin Truex Jr. As we have seen time and time again this season, the race was essentially decided on pit road, with a slow stop by Truex’s Joe Gibbs Racing squad shuffling him back to sixth for the Stage 3 restart. Larson then drove away from the field throughout Stage 3, crossing the finish line a decisive 1.578s ahead of Truex.
“After the first stage, I kind of changed my driving style up and I felt like I made the car better at the same time, and it really benefited our long runs,” Larson said post-race. “That’s as good as I’ve ever been around cutting the bottom here. Just a great combination here. Good to be fast in practice and then be good again in the race and get the win.”
At one point, Truex was nearly six seconds adrift from Larson, but the No. 78 Toyota driver was able to trim the gap, showing a slightly stronger pace than the No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 driver in the latter half of Stage 3. But even with some help from lapped traffic (which always plays a major role at the Monster Mile), Truex still wasn’t able to get close enough to challenge for the top spot.
“We were catching him at the end, got close, just unfortunate there,” Truex said-post race. “We win and lose as a team and the guys will clean it up for sure.”
Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin looked strong in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota early on, but faded to third by the time the checker came out. While the two Toyota drivers were disappointed to miss out on the victory, they know points are important at this stage in the playoffs and were nonetheless happy with a Top 3 result.
With NASCAR heading to Talladega for the next round of the playoffs, the championship-contending drivers were keen to score points at Dover, as plate tracks can often produce unpredictable results.
“Every week is about getting most points you can, so a positive day for us.,” Truex added.
Mechanical problems took out a handful of playoff drivers, with Chase Elliott’s No. 9 Camaro blowing an engine on Lap 8 and two Team Penske cars, driven by Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney, suffering separate problems that shuffled them to the back of the pack. Logano was classified 34th and Blaney was classified 35th.
Full results of the Drydene 400 at Dover can be found here. The 1000 Bulbs 500 from Talladega will go green on Sunday, September 13th.