FOX NASCAR Insider
DARLINGTON, S.C. – Kyle Larson earned the first victory of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs Sunday night by leading the final 55 laps at Darlington Raceway, launching him into the second round.
But for Larson, winning while riding a 17-race winless streak was just as big for his mojo as it is for the postseason.
“It’s just good to get a win and hopefully we can build on this and put together some solid weeks back to back to back,” Larson said. It’s been quite a while since we had a string of good weeks. We’ve had a stressful year, but we have overcome many obstacles. We are ready to face the challenges of the next nine week. The Hendrick Motorsports driver had been close to winning at Darlington three times. Several playoff drivers – including Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Christopher Bell – stumbled, but they have races at Kansas and Bristol remaining in the opening round.
Here are the takeaways from the playoff opener where Larson crossed the finish line ahead of six other playoff drivers – Tyler Reddick, Chris Buescher, William Byron, Ross Chastain, Brad Keselowski and Bubba Wallace.[and]Larson Finally Darlington Winner
The Hendrick Motorsports driver had come close at Darlington, having finished runner-up three times at the track.
He had to run the car on the edge to finally get that win in his 12th Darlington start in his career, and he slapped the wall a few times, pushing hard to remain in contention as well as keep the lead.
“I dragged the wall a few times – got into it kind of hard a couple of different times,” Larson said. “Thankfully,
vehicles are strong enough to allow for mistakes such as that without ruining your day. “
Reddick also hit the wall.
“There’s a couple of times on those restarts when the caution followed that I was pushing pretty hard – probably harder than I needed to and definitely probably didn’t help the cycles
. … Reddick stated that he had crossed the [these] line. I’ve never been so close to the wall and done it so quickly. “
Hamlin, Harvick Disappointment
Hamlin led 177 laps but had to pit under green with what he thought was a loose wheel with about 94 laps remaining.[on the tires]The team told Hamlin they didn’t see anything wrong with the wheel. Hamlin: “It was close enough that it didn’t really matter.” “I felt like I was in a [the edge] crash. “I had to bring it back and turn the day upside-down. Larson admitted that he didn’t cry for Hamlin who finished 25th.
“He had a great vehicle so I was happy when I saw him coming down pit road because he would give the rest us a chance to win,” Larson stated. “He was really strong.
I was surprised at how good he did throughout the entire run in the leading position. He is the best driver in Darlington. Harvick had bad luck as a caution was issued just before he crossed the pit-road line. He ended up finishing 19th. He ended up doing the latter and finished 19th.
“The caution came out and the light was on, and I didn’t think I could turn right
,” Harvick said.
Harvick is two points below the playoff cutline, while Hamlin, thanks to sweeping the stages, still is 27 points above the cutline.[almost]NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs: Cook Out Southern 500 Highlights
Wallace rallied after a slow pit stop and then a wreck with Joey Logano to finish seventh. Wallace improved his standings by one point. He was eight points behind the cut-off line. “I’m grateful to the team for standing by me despite all the mistakes I made. “They didn’t disappoint us and brought us back to a Top-10 finish. “
The 23XI Racing driver should feel good as the next race in the round is Kansas, where he won a year ago and finished fourth in the spring.
Wallace knows that he might not get favors from drivers he had contact with at Darlington, although he’ll hope they made his life difficult enough Sunday that the message was sent.
“The important thing to learn here is to not make enemies race one when you’re in the playoffs because they make it hell – so I deserved everything I got throughout the night,” Wallace said.
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. Bob Pockrass has been covering motorsports for decades, including 30 Daytona 500s. He also worked at ESPN, Sporting News and NASCAR Scene magazine. Follow him on Twitter @[to avoid the line], and sign up for the
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