Larson rallies for win as NASCAR play-off field set
Kyle Larson claimed his fourth NASCAR win of the year, taking out the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Saturday.
Some desperate drivers ran up front at Richmond International Raceway, doing anything they could to score the victory they needed to qualify for the NASCAR play-offs starting next weekend.
In the end, they all went home disappointed, as Larson – already safely qualified for the postseason – claimed the chequered flag.
It was Larson's fourth victory of 2017, and his fifth career win.
"I got the greatest team out here and definitely the best pit crew – they were money all night," Larson told NBCSN.
"This is incredible to have four wins with still 10 races left in the season."
The race set the 16-driver field for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup play-offs, which begin next Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.
Martin Truex Jr., the series leader heading into the play-offs, appeared to be sailing to an easy victory with a handful of laps remaining when a caution came out to set up overtime. In the round of pit stops before the restart, Larson's team got him off pit road first, with Truex just behind him.
Larson bolted out to the lead on the first lap of overtime, and when Denny Hamlin and Truex tangled on the second lap, sending Truex into the wall, Larson won the race.
Five drivers desperately needing a win to qualify for the play-offs, Joey Logano, Erik Jones, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez, all raced in the top 10 late in the race chasing the chequered flag. Larson's victory ruined their efforts.
The race's third stage featured a bizarre incident. After a caution for Danica Patrick's spin, NASCAR opened pit road. But as cars dove down the track to hit the pits, they found an ambulance blocking the entrance. Several cars were damaged in the incident.
"Well, we're all just kind of coming to pit road and I see an ambulance sitting there," Matt Kenseth told NBCSN. "Not really sure why pit road was open with an ambulance sitting there."
Earlier in the race, Truex won the second segment to pick up yet another stage win, his series-leading 18th of the season. He now enters the postseason with 53 play-off points, 20 ahead of second-place Larson. Kyle Busch won the first stage.