Kyle Larson Wins At Martinsville Speedway After 10 Years Of Tryingby Hunter Thomas April 16, 2023 1 comment
MARTINSVILLE, Va. – It took Kyle Larson 10 years to win at Martinsville Speedway, and on Sunday, he did so by passing Joey Logano in the closing laps of the NOCO 400 to finally earn his first grandfather clock.
With track position being so important, teams gambled towards the end of the race. Drivers took four fresh tires in the final pit stops, while others only took two tires or no tires. Larson’s team took two and with only 30 laps remaining, he drove around Joey Logano to pull off the eventual race-winning move.
“Yeah, just huge congratulations to this whole 5 team and Hendrick Motorsports,” Larson said. “I feel like Cliff (Daniels, crew chief) and everybody did a great job all day on pit road making the right calls, having great pit stops, and then it all kind of worked out for me there at the end. We had a great car. That was the best my car had been I think being able to get out front and manage.”
Martinsville Speedway is historically not the best facility for Larson. Sunday’s win marks his first in 17 NASCAR Cup Series starts at the track, and while he finished second last fall, his average finish is only 18.2 at Martinsville. In fact, prior to Sunday, Larson didn’t even have a spot in his house for the traditional grandfather clock that the winner of the race is awarded.
“I like to charge the center,” Larson said. “I like to roll momentum, and that’s just not what this place is like. But thanks to Cliff Daniels and everybody for making me feel like I know what I’m doing sometimes around here. So I just can’t believe it. I’m glad my family is here too, Katelyn and the kids. I’m sure they’re trying to get down here to the infield, but this is amazing. I honestly have never thought I would win here so I don’t have a spot picked out either for the clock, so I’ll have to make some space for sure.”
Joey Logano finished second in the Team Penske No. 22 Verizon 5G Ford; however, the road to a runner-up finish wasn’t easy. Logano was slated to start the race in 15th, but he had to drop to the back of the pack prior to the start of the race due to a leak in the water tank. During the 400-lap race, Logano even went down a lap twice, but Logano battled hard, and pit strategy placed him at the front of the pack at the end of the race.
“Solid recovery for what the start of the race looked like,” Logano said. “We went down a lap twice, two times. At one point in the race I would have been just happy to finish on a lead lap.”
Logano tried his best to keep Larson at bay, but in the end, he just didn’t have the car to hold him off.
“I tried holding off Larson as long as I could, but overall there’s days when you are mad about second,” Larson said. “Today is not one of those. Today is when you are pretty stoked that you finished a little better than I thought we were going to.”
Martin Truex Jr. finished third in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota. Truex battled a loose car all day long, and he didn’t appear to be a contender, but in the final stage, Truex became one of the fastest drivers. He was picking everyone off in the closing laps, and if the race had been a little longer, he may have had an opportunity to challenge Larson for the lead.
“We had kind of a crazy day with the Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry TRD, but really just got a little bit lucky there getting back on the lead lap midrace and kept working on our car,” Truex said. “We were just so loose all day long, and then finally at the end we got it a whole lot better. So it was fun at the end passing a lot of cars and getting up there, but still needed to be a little bit better, but overall, you know, proud of everybody for sticking with it and just grinding one out today.”
Denny Hamlin and Chase Briscoe rounded out the top-five. Aric Almirola finished sixth, followed by Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Bubba Wallace and Chase Elliott who returned to the track for the first time since his snowboarding accident.
There were 10 lead changes among nine drivers. Pole-sitter Ryan Preece led a race high of 135 laps. His Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Briscoe led 109 laps.
Preece won Stage 1, and his teammate, Kevin Harvick won Stage 2.
There were only five cautions for 50 laps. No cautions were for multicar accidents. The NASCAR Cup Series will visit Talladega Superspeedway for the GEICO 500 on Sunday, April 23. Live coverage of the race will broadcast on FOX at 3 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Barrett Goodson/TheFourthTurn.com