Kyle Larson earns first ever Sprint Cup win at Michigan

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Kyle Larson earns first ever Sprint Cup win at Michigan
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Aug 28, 2016, 9:00 PM

Luck finally fell Kyle Larson’s way, as the Ganassi driver won his first Sprint Cup race in his 99th career start.

Race winner Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Race winner Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Race winner Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Race winner Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, spins

On Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, Larson beat Chase Elliott to the line by 1.479-second. 

“Parked It,” Larson screamed. 

Brad Keselowski finished third followed by Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin and polesitter Joey Logano. 

Larson became the second driver to win his first career Cup race at Michigan. Dale Jarrett pulled off the feat in this race in 1991. Larson finished second four-times before breaking through on Sunday and breaks a winless streak for Ganassi Racing dating back to Talladega 2013 with Jamie McMurray. 

Parking it for Clauson

Larson dedicated his victory to Bryan Clauson’s family. Clauson, 27, died as a result of injuries sustained during an accident in Belleville Midget Nationals on Aug. 6.

“Man, I was tearing up that whole last few laps,” Larson said. “I had a feeling it was finally go to happen. This one’s for the Clauson family. We’re really missing Bryan. We miss him. We parked it for him – that’s really cool. We had a lot of work to do after the first third of the race.”

Early trouble for Kyle Busch

The first yellow flag was a scheduled competition caution by NASCAR on Lap 20. However, when the race returned to green on Lap 26, Kyle Busch lost control of his car coming through Turns 3 and 4 and spun off the corner into the grass near the entrance of pit road.  

“Did I mention how much I absolutely adore this place,” Busch radioed to the 18 team.

“It could be worse buddy, this race isn't in the Chase," crew chief Adam Stevens replied.

Busch restarted 39th, one lap off of the pace. Kevin Harvick led the field to green and remained at the point until he was passed by Martin Truex Jr. on Lap 57. Ryan Blaney was forced to pit on Lap 61 with a flat right front tire. He was running sixth — and recovered to the same position 11 laps later as other drivers came to pit road. For the 19th race this season, Truex had issues on pit road after his jackman dropped the jack early on Lap 64. He cycled out to eighth but was 11-seconds behind the leader. 

Harvick regained the lead on Lap 65 before Elliott took the point for the first time on Lap 66. Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson took turns at the lead before the next round of green flag pit stops began. Johnson had issues with fueling on pit road and dropped to fifth. The third caution was called for debris on Lap 120 with Elliott in the lead.

“You guys are going to have to bail me out here,” Elliott told his crew as he ran a half-second behind Larson on Lap 145. The pit crew responded by finishing their stop ahead of the No. 42 team on Lap 155. Ten laps later, he was sixth — two positions and three-seconds ahead of Larson.

Closing laps

Elliott cycled to the lead again on Lap 169 after Austin Dillon pitted. He retained a commanding advantage over Larson before NASCAR called the fourth caution with 14 laps remaining for debris. Elliott, Larson, Keselowski, Blaney and Carl Edwards remained on the track. Harvick was the first car to pit, took two tires and lined up sixth with Hamlin, Johnson, Kenseth and Dillon rounding out the top 10. 

Keselowski gave Larson a huge push on the Lap 191 restart and moved into second with Elliott in third, Blaney in fourth and Harvick fifth. Larson held a one-second lead with seven to go and picked up the pace from there for his first win -- and first Chase berth. 

“It feels good," Larson added. "I didn’t think after I let the down the last few weeks we would get in."

The victory also marks the first for crew chief Chad Johnston since joining the No. 42 team this year.

"It means a lot for me, it means a lot for Kyle,” Johnston said. "It’s been a rough few years for me – I haven’t performed like I wanted to. I came over and we didn’t start of the year like I wanted but we found speed throughout the year and the kid has a ton of talent. Just so proud of all these guys. I think you’ll see more to come from Kyle Larson."

A big day for CGR

Team owner Chip Ganassi was just as elated as his driver, saying in Victory Lane, "We hung in there with our team. We’ve been building over the years. He came on board and did a great job. The team rallied around him. I can’t say enough about the kid and the job he’s done over the last couple years. It’s just been a nice, gradual coming up through the pack. We couldn’t  be more happy with Kyle right now.

"This is really, really big. We’ve been on the cusp for so many years. We got Jamie (McMurray) in (the Chase) last year and now with Kyle. I’m kind of speechless to tell you the truth. All these people work so damn hard and if you go winless for so long, it’s really, really difficult. Only one person wins in this sport. It’s like golf – there’s just one winner. We’re just really proud to be here in Victory Lane right now."

A weekend of first-time winners

With Larson’s victory, the sport celebrated three first-time winners for the first time in NASCAR history. Michael McDowell won his first Xfinity race at Road America on Saturday while Brett Moffitt earned his first victory here at Michigan.

Harvick retains a 25-point lead over Keselowski in the standings. Chris Buescher experienced engine issues earlier in the race and finished 35th but still has a 23-point lead over 31st-place David Ragan.

Cla#DriverManufacturerLapsTimeLaps Led
1 42  Kyle Larson  Chevrolet 200   41
2 24  Chase Elliott  Chevrolet 200 1.479 31
3 2  Brad Keselowski  Ford 200 2.064 14
4 21  Ryan Blaney  Ford 200 4.108  
5 4  Kevin Harvick  Chevrolet 200 4.559 33
6 48  Jimmie Johnson  Chevrolet 200 4.773 37
7 19  Carl Edwards  Toyota 200 6.371 1
8 1  Jamie McMurray  Chevrolet 200 6.722  
9 11  Denny Hamlin  Toyota 200 7.748  
10 22  Joey Logano  Ford 200 7.791 24

CLICK HERE for complete race results

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