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Late Restart Makes Larson A Texas Xfinity Winner

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 5 2016
Kyle Larson takes the checkered flag to win Saturday's Xfinity Series Race at Texas Motor Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

Kyle Larson takes the checkered flag to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series Race at Texas Motor Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas – Kyle Larson used a late-race pass on a restart to overhaul Brad Keselowski and win Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Larson passed pole-sitter Keselowski on the day’s fifth and final restart on Lap 171 of the Xfinity Seriesscheduled 200 around TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile quadoval and paced the final 30 laps en route to his second series victory of 2016 and fifth in 90 starts. Larson, driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro, posted his first career win at TMS and the first in the series here for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Kevin Harvick finished third in the No. 88 Chevy, his 16th top-10 finish in 19 races at TMS.

Larson, who qualified fifth, posted a margin of victory was 0.385-seconds _ down from 0.882-seconds at the completion of Lap 195. At that point Larson was running the upper lane while Keselowski tried out the bottom lane on Laps 185-186 before switching to the middle of the track beginning on Lap 188. Larson, however, never flinched en route to a winning average speed of 140.992 mph.

“We should have won this race last year but cut a tire late. Today was a fun race,” said Larson, whose previous best finish in six series starts here was third in the 2014 spring race. “I was just tight running the bottom on short runs. Once I got to clean air I was loose. Hit the wall one time with five to go and flattened my right side a little bit…but was able to hold him (Keselowski) off. It probably changed the aero a little bit and got me tighter. He did get close to me with two to go, just not close enough.

“Brad was definitely better than I was…but long runs I felt we were pretty even, maybe a tick better. Elliott Sadler gave me a heck of a push on that restart, so I owe him one.”

Keselowski had dominated the day, leading a massive 145 laps before Larson’s race-changing pass. “We had a really strong car and we made a major stride forward with this team and this program which feels really good,” said Keselowski, driver of the No. 22 Ford Mustang fielded by Penske Racing.”I’m very happy about the speed we had and being able to lead a lot of laps and am disappointed to not be able to bring it home there at the end. All in all it was a good weekend.”

Key elements in the outcome, Keselowski said, were the push Larson got from Sadler on the restart and the aero package of the Xfinity cars.

“I haven’t seen the replay but from what I can tell, yeah,” Keselowski said. “Whatever car got out front with the way the aerodynamics are is going to control the pace. It’s so hard to pass because the aero is so important and the cars are so equal that way. I thought maybe we were a touch faster but without the track position you lose too much grip behind the guy to do anything.”

Series rookie Erik Jones finished fourth in the No. 20 Toyota, the first Chaser among the Round of 8 looking to secure a spot in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 19.

“It’s a good day for us, one of the first points days we’ve had in this Chase,” said Jones, who led 23 laps and is third in the standings. “It was a solid day and what we needed to do to get ourselves in a good spot. I think we’re finally a few points ahead now into the top-four. A good day for us; we obviously want to go out there and try to win these races but just didn’t have the car to do it today. I wish we could have gone up there and contended for the win, but a good day overall.”

Chaser Daniel Suarez, Jones’ Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, finished fifth in the No. 19 Toyota Camry despite a battery problem, and will take a one-point lead (3,075-3074) over Sadler into Phoenix International Raceway next Saturday. Sadler finished sixth in the No. 1 Camaro.

“I think we’re in a good spot,” said Suarez, addressing his 17-point Chase cutoff buffer. “I feel like there is no comfortable place in this format, but we are in a good spot. After doing what we have been able to do in the last month, month and a-half, we do that and we will be fine and then everything will work out.

“I think my entire team has a lot of confidence right now. We will do everything we can…and hopefully we can go to Homestead after Phoenix.”

Saurez, a native of Mexico, kept his composure when his battery issue arose near mid-race. “I was pretty worried because at least we had 90 or 100 laps left to race and I was having battery issues,” Suarez said. “I knew I had a second battery, but you never know how long you are going to be able to go. We have a lot of blowers and switches in the race car that we need to use, some of them really help me a lot and some of them we don’t use any more. That’s part of racing. Luckily we made it through and we finished fifth.”

Jones is 10 points behind Suarez, followed by Blake Koch, who is 16 points behind the leader after finishing 14th.

Chasers Justin Allgaier, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Ryan Reed finished 10th through 12, respectively, and are teetering on the brink of playoff elimination.  Allgaier, driver of the No. 7 Camaro, is fifth in points, 17 behind the leader. Reed, driver of the No. 16 Lilly Diabetes/American Diabetes Association Ford, is sixth, 21 points behind Suarez. Wallace sits seventh, 36 points out of first, in his No. 6 Mustang.

Brendan Gaughan finished 15th in the No. 62 Chevy and is 39 points behind Suarez. Post-race, NASCAR announced that the Camaros of Gaughan and Harvick were found to be too low and Sadler’s Chevy had only 19 secure lug nuts. Any penalties/fines will be announced early next week.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 5 2016
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