The young guns are starting to take over NASCAR this year and last weekend was no exception.
Kyle Larson, 24, (no relation) was victorious in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity race, and then backed up his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup pole position to win Sunday’s Auto Club 400. Larson was born in Elk Grove, Calif., and is now referred to as “The California Kid.”
It was only a matter of time before Larson went to victory lane in 2017. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver finished second in the three previous races leading up to the Auto Club 400. Larson ran his first Cup race in the 2013 in Charlotte, and has raced successfully as he progressed through the NASCAR series. He was the 2013 Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year and moved full time into the Cup series in 2014, also winning the Cup series Rookie of the Year. His first win came last year at the Pure Michigan 400. Larson now has two wins, 46 top 10s, and two poles in his short career.
“This is just amazing. We have been so good all year-long, three seconds in a row. I’ve been watching all the TV (with his critics saying) like, ‘He doesn’t know how to win,” Larson said. “But we knew how to win today, so that was good.”
It looked like an easy victory for the California native as Larson held the top spot for more than half the event. However, Martin Truex Jr. gave Larson all he could handle as he led 73 laps and, at one point, held more than an 8-second lead. Truex seemed like the man to beat but several late-race cautions led to his downfall when he opted to stay on the track while others pitted for new tires.
Truex fell to fourth while Larson cruised to victory.
“I thought we had as good a car as Larson all day,” said Truex. “It really seemed like whoever got out front had an advantage. Sometimes you make the right calls, sometimes you don’t. It sucks when you have to play defense in these things.”
Last year, Toyota dominated the first half of the Cup season. This year, there have been five different winners from five different organizations. Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing Ford), Brad Keselowski (Penske Racing Ford), Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing Toyota), Ryan Newman (Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet), and Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet).
The five winners have essentially locked themselves into the playoffs. If the playoffs were to start today, the remaining 11 drivers would come from the Cup point standings. Ryan Blaney, 23, Erik Jones, 20, and Trever Bayne, 26, are currently in qualifying positions to make the playoffs.Some notables not in the playoff picture yet include Jimmy Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Matt Kenseth.