RICHMOND, Va. — Kyle Larson has seen possible wins slip away late in the race a couple of times in the first six NASCAR Cup Series races this year.
He saw a potential win Sunday almost slip away early in the race.
Larson overcame contact with Daniel Suarez on pit road during the second stage that damaged his right front fender and hurt his handling — damage that his team eventually was able to fix and allowed him to capture his first win of 2023.
“I was just hoping and praying the damage was the reason why I got slow,” Larson said. “I was hoping that they could fix it and our car could go back to normal. I was surprised how bad I was after that.
“I thought before that pit stop we were going to cruise to a Stage 2 win. I was just mad at the situation.”
Takeaways from a Cup race at Richmond where Larson’s Hendrick teammate Josh Berry had a career day with a second-place finish, Ross Chastain finished third, Christopher Bell in fourth and Kevin Harvick in fifth.
Larson Win Caps Emotional Week
Larson led 63 laps at Las Vegas and 201 laps at Phoenix earlier this year and came up empty. He said he watched some videos of his 2021 championship season just to get himself in a winning mindset this week.
“So good to get a win, and hopefully many more,” Larson said.
Larson’s victory capped a solid week for Hendrick Motorsports, which pretty much won its appeal to penalties issued a few weeks ago from louvers confiscated at Phoenix. An appeals board Wednesday rescinded the points penalties (100 regular-season points and 10 playoff points).
“It’s not just a black-and-white situation because there was enough communication to justify why we showed up to the racetrack in Phoenix the way we did,” team vice chairman Jeff Gordon said.
‘Good to get a win, hopefully many more’
Kyle Larson reflects on capturing the checkered flag at Richmond Raceway for his first win of the season.
His victory came with interim crew chief Kevin Meendering atop the box — the appeals board upheld the four-race crew-chief suspensions and the $100,000 fines to each of them. It was the first victory as a crew chief for Meendering, who did not seem to click when he was crew chief for Jimmie Johnson for a winless half-season in 2019.
The win also came on what would have been the 43rd birthday of Ricky Hendrick, the son of team owner Rick Hendrick who drove a paint scheme similar to the one that Larson drove. Ricky was among 10 people who died in a Hendrick plane crash in October 2004.
“When you know what Ricky’s impact could have been on our company and the people and the 5 car and that paint scheme and what that means to the whole company, it’s very rewarding to know that we’re still kind of thinking of him and paying tribute to him as often as we can,” Gordon said.
Chastain Not Taking Blame For This One
As they battled among the top 5 late in the race, Ross Chastain was running the inside lane while Christopher Bell tried to get to his outside with William Byron in the outside lane. Bell and Byron ended up having contact, sending Byron spinning.
Byron, who led a race-high 117 laps, was most perturbed with Bell.
‘If he wants to, call me a wrecking ball’
Ross Chastain indicated he didn’t feel he triggered a wreck and did not have any contact with Christopher Bell.
“It looked like the 20 [of Bell] got in and over-cooked the corner and had the fronts locked up and I was a victim,” Byron said. “I was just doing a normal restart. … It sucks.”
After getting out of his car, Bell at first was mad at Chastain.
“I was trying to protect the inside as much as I could and Ross did what Ross does and puts us three-wide at the last minute,” Bell said.
Bell then tweeted after watching the video to apologize to Byron:
And Chastain? He said he didn’t touch Bell and seemed a little flabbergasted that he was having fingers pointed at him.
“I didn’t touch anybody and I got inside the 20 entering Turn 1,” Chastain said. “That’s all I saw.”
Berry Career Day
Josh Berry, in his fourth race filling in for Chase Elliott (broken leg), rebounded from an early spin to finish second.
It was even a bigger accomplishment considering practice and qualifying was rained out Saturday, meaning Berry had no track time with the car at Richmond.
“To come here and start in the back, no practice, qualifying, get spun out, work through the field like that [and finish] second place, it’s pretty cool,” Berry said.
Toyota Owners 400 highlights
Kyle Larson was able to use a strong finish for his second career win at Richmond.
Berry drives full-time in the Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports.
“I love his approach, and it’s turning into results, which I’m sure it’s turning into confidence for him as he continues to go to each track that he is going to be behind the wheel of the car,” Gordon said.
Berry might have just one or two races left in the No. 9 before the return of Elliott, whose six-week recovery timeline would have him back in two weeks at Martinsville or three weeks at Talladega.
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.
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