Kyle Larson Prevails for First Career Sprint Cup Victory at Michigan

It was a picturesque Sunday afternoon in the Irish Hills at Michigan International Speedway, and Kyle Larson found victory lane for the first time in his Sprint Cup Series career by winning the Pure Michigan 400. In doing so, he clinched a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Larson’s win is his first in 99 career races in the NSCS, and is the first for Chip Ganassi Racing since Jamie McMurray won at Talladega in 2013, ironically also breaking a 99-race winless drought. But this win was the biggest and most meaningful win of Larson’s career.

His longtime friend Bryan Clauson, 27, passed away a couple weeks ago. Clauson’s trademark phrase was “Parked It!” whenever he would win a race and stand in victory lane. Larson echoed Clauson’s words by screaming those same words with elation over the radio once he crossed the start/finish line at the 2-mile oval track in Brooklyn, Mich.

“I was teared-up that whole last few laps, because I could just feel it,” Larson told NBCSN post-race with his No. 42 team after leading 41 laps and taking the lead from runner-up Chase Elliott on the final restart with nine laps to go. “It was finally going to be it.”

“We had a lot of work to do for that first third of the race, and got it done. Thanks to everyone on this team. [Crew chief] Chad [Johnston] and the pit crew and everybody. We messed up that last stop but we made it back.”

“This one is for the Clauson family. We really miss Bryan. We’re going to miss him. We parked it for him.”

Elliott finished runner-up for the second straight race at MIS. “That’s a couple races in a row in just a few short months here at this place we had a really good car, had an opportunity,” Elliott told NBCSN post-race. “That’s one thing I try really hard to do is make the most of opportunities when they’re presented. Obviously I didn’t do a very good job of that here both trips. Need to do my restarts a little better. That’s obviously not a strong point.

He is 11th in the Chase standings and will qualify for the playoffs barring an unforeseen disaster.

Michigan native Brad Keselowski finished third, with Ryan Blaney finishing fourth and Kevin Harvick rounding out the top five after leading 33 laps in the Pure Michigan 400.

Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, McMurray, Denny Hamlin and polesitter Joey Logano rounded out the top ten when the checkered flag flew. Some notables included Kurt Busch (12th), Matt Kenseth (13th), Kyle Busch (19th), Martin Truex Jr. (20th), Tony Stewart (21st), Alex Bowman (30th, engine issues) and Chris Buescher (35th, engine issues).

Next week, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Darlington Raceway for the famed throwback weekend and Southern 500. Almost every car will have a special paint scheme to commemorate the legends that have driven in NASCAR throughout the years.

Be on the lookout for a complete preview of the weekend at Darlington. I will be going through my favorite paint schemes and also previewing the weekend on victory lane. P.S. – the race at MIS was fun to attend, and I hope to go again next year. Happy move in, Spartans!