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PIT ROAD PENALTY QUASHES KYLE LARSON’S WINNING CHANCES

Story By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR WIRE SERVICE

Photos By: GETTY IMAGES / NASCAR

BRISTOL, Tenn. –April 25, 2017- Kyle Larson broke a record, in a race that ran like … well, a broken record.

Starting from the pole in Monday’s rain-delayed Food City 500 at Bristol motor Speedway, Larson led the first 202 laps of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Never before had a driver for Chip Ganassi Racing led that many laps in a single race in NASCAR’s premier series.

But as was the case in Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race, when Larson led 180 laps, the end of the race wasn’t as satisfying as the beginning.

On Saturday, Larson finished seventh after a cut tire and a subsequent commitment line violation sent him to the rear late in the race.

Monday was déjà vu. Larson was running in the top five before a speeding penalty on lap 421 of 500 sent him to the rear in the Monster Energy Series race.

Though he recovered to run as high as second, thanks to a two-tire call to gain track position under caution on Lap 462, he couldn’t pass race leader Kevin Harvick over the final 33-lap green-flag run and faded to sixth at the finish.

The quality of the competition, however, made up for the pit road mistake.

“Yeah, I got that speeding penalty,” Larson said. “I was just pushing on pit road and messed up there and had to gamble on two tires, and the balance was okay on two, but I just didn’t have the speed (or), I guess, the grip that the 48 (race winner Jimmie Johnson) and the 14 (runner-up Clint Bowyer) had to run the bottom.  I knew I couldn’t go down there and get by the 4 (Harvick), so I was trying to maybe set him up, up top, but it was a lot of fun there.

“The three of us were racing hard for the lead for a few laps and had some traffic, so I thought the race was great. The track changed a lot throughout the race and was extremely exciting. I don’t know what more you could ask out of this place. This is the best track we go to, most exciting place, and I love coming here.”

PIT ROAD SPEEDING PENALTY COSTLY TO TRUEX, TOO

No one at Bristol could run the bottom of the track better than Martin Truex Jr., who led 116 laps in Monday’s rain-delayed Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Truex lost some of his advantage when the potency of the VHT track sealer, which added grip to the bottom lane, began to fade as the race progressed. But the real whammy for Truex was a penalty for speeding on pit road incurred under the final caution on Lap 465.

Truex had been battling race winner Jimmie Johnson for the lead before the infraction, but the No. 78 Toyota lost any chance for the victory after being sent to the back of the field for a restart on Lap 468.

“We were going for it, you know?” Truex said. “Wish we could have had a shot there just to see if we could have won. This is the best run we’ve had here in a long time. It’s bittersweet. I wish we could have seen if we could have beat the 48 (Johnson). We were close there before that last caution, but it is what it is, and you try to get what you can get, and sometimes you cross the line, and today we crossed the line.

“All in all, it was an awesome day and a lot of fun. Had the VHT not worn out quite as bad, then we would have really killed them. The top lane came in, and some guys could run that better than I could, but overall it was a good day and a lot of fun all day.”

SNEAKY-FAST KENSETH COMES FROM NOWHERE TO FOURTH

Throughout most of Monday’s Food City 500, Matt Kenseth was all but invisible.

As the track changed throughout the race at Bristol Motor Speedway, however, Kenseth’s fortunes changed for the better.

In the final 15 laps, the driver of the No. 20 Joes Gibbs Racing Toyota passed Kyle Larson and Joey Logano to finish fourth, posting his first top five since he ran third at Atlanta in the second race of the season.

“We got better there at the end and got a little bit of track position—finally,” Kenseth said. “It was an uphill battle all day without qualifying (because of a Friday rainout), and then I sped on pit road (under caution on lap 386) and got us to the back.

“At the end, we had a car that was good – most of the day it wasn’t very good, but the last two runs we were fairly competitive.”

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