Kyle Larson Wins at Fontana After Contact With Chase Elliott

Larson earns his first victory of the season after a late-race incident with teammate Chase Elliott.
Kyle Larson Wins at Fontana After Contact With Chase Elliott

New cars. New tires. New wheels. New faces in new places and a track that hasn't been held a race in two years. One thing that hasn't changed is Kyle Larson's driving prowess. The talented Hendrick Motorsports driver claimed his first victory of the season today at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

Larson held off multiple challengers in the final restart with just six laps remaining. Four Chevrolet drivers were battling for the win, but it was Larson that emerged at the victor over unlikely challengers Austin Dillon, Erik Jones, and Daniel Suarez.

Joey Logano rounded out the top five, leading a three-car train of Ford drivers as Aric Almirola and Kevin Harvick fought their way back to the front. The only Toyota driver to finish inside the top 12 was Kurt Busch, who came home in 8th place. Daniel Hemric and Ricky Stenhouse Jr rounded out the top ten on Sunday.

Larson led 28 of the 200 laps with a 0.195 second margin of victory. It is the 17th Cup win for Larson and his second at Auto Club Speedway. “It’s always fun to win here in my home state,” Larson said. “Hard work all weekend. I didn’t feel great in practice yesterday but Cliff Daniels and everybody on the team made great adjustments overnight. The car handled a lot better."

"There were definitely some guys that were quicker than us but they had their misfortune," he continued. "Just kept our heads in it all day. Long race. Restarts were crazy. The whole runs were crazy. It was definitely wild. Definitely cool to get a win here in California. Hopefully, we get on a streak.”

The race was filled with caution flags throughout the afternoon, as several drivers struggled to keep their cars pointed in the right direction. Kyle Busch was the first driver to go around, spinning out on Lap 15. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had several issues throughout the day, relegating him to a 14th place finish. Nearly all of the Toyota cars were dealing with overheating issues.

Chase Elliott scraped the wall on Lap 33 while leading, and that was just the start of his day. The Hendrick driver spun five laps later but eventually worked his way back up into the lead pack. Denny Hamlin had an overheating issue, and was planning to come to pit road when his teammate Christopher Bell spun on track, forcing him to drive through without a stop.

Tyler Reddick was strong early, dominating the first half of the race leading 90 laps as he swept the first two stages of the race. The Richard Childress Racing driver was having difficulty feeling his left leg, and nearly had to come to pit road because of it. He continued on before his No. 8 Chevrolet slowed on Lap 152 and collected William Byron. On the day where it looked like he could have his first win, he came home in 24th.

Brad Keselowski spun multiple times on Sunday, with the second one causing the most destruction. On Lap 158, the driver of the No. 6 Ford collected Bubba Wallace and Harrison Burton, who had nowhere to go. Ross Chastain spun on Lap 172 which set up a frantic 20-lap battle between Hendrick Motorsports teammates.

Larson was battling Logano for the lead when the reigning champ tried to get a side draft from the side of the No. 22 Ford. Elliott had a run and went to go to Larson's outside but Larson did not see him and moved up, putting Elliott into the wall. With just eight laps remaining, Chase brought out the 12th and final caution of the race. He finished in 26th and was furious with Larson on the team radio.

“What the (expletive) is he doing, man? It wasn’t even close! It’s probably going to break again before the end of the race. But I don’t really give a (expletive) who is leading the race.” After the race, Larson commented on their contact. “Joey did a good job on the bottom, and then we were side-drafting each other, and I’m not even looking in my mirror at that point because all I’m worried about is Joey and I’m looking out of my A-post window. I had a run, so I went to peel off, and as soon as I peeled off, my spotter is yelling, ‘Outside! Outside! Outside!’ And I had no clue he was even coming.”

The 2021 champion apologized again when the topic came back up. “It happened, and I hate that it did. I know they’re upset. But we’ll talk, and hopefully we’ll get on the same page. I would never run into my teammate or block him that aggressively and that late on purpose.”

The 12 cautions today tied the track record set in 2008, which was a 500-mile race. The 32 lead changes were the third-most in the history of Auto Club Speedway, and twice as many as the last race at Fontana in 2020.

The Cup Series will remain out west with the next stop on the calendar coming at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Pennzoil 400 begins at 3:30 PM ET next Sunday on FOX.

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