HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Kyle Larson found his way back into NASCAR’s headlines. This time, for a much more pleasant reason.
Larson held off Ross Chastain to cap a dominant showing at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, after leading 199 of the 267 laps over the 1½ mile course.
It was Larson’s third win of the season, coming two weeks after the reigning Cup champion was eliminated from this year’s playoffs — and a week after he was intentionally spun by Bubba Wallace in an act of retaliation at Las Vegas.
On Sunday, the suspended Wallace was watching. Larson, meanwhile, was winning.
“Definitely the best run we’ve had all year long,” Larson said.
AJ Allmendinger was third and Austin Dillon fourth, as Chevrolets took the top four spots.
Even though Larson can’t win the title, his Hendrick Motorsports team still can — now having clinched a spot in the field that will decide the owners’ championship in Phoenix.
“We’re still technically not out of it,” Larson said. “I can’t win the championship, but it means more to me to win it as a team. We’re going to go to Phoenix and try to get another championship.”
And he will drive Phoenix as if he’s driving for his own title.
“Oh, yeah,” Larson said. “Duh.”
It wasn’t exactly close at the end; Larson beat Chastain to the line by 1.261 seconds. Chastain could have clinched a berth in the winner-take-all Phoenix race for the title if he had won at Homestead.
The four-car field for the drivers’ title race will be finalized next week in Martinsville, with seven drivers heading there to compete for three remaining spots. Only Joey Logano, through his win at Las Vegas last week, has his berth clinched.
“Track position’s going to be so huge,” Denny Hamlin said. “You’re going to see aggressive driving.”
Hamlin is on the wrong side of the cutline going into Martinsville. Chastain is second, Chase Elliott is third and William Byron is fourth.
“It took a good part of the race to get up there and get the car turning,” Chastain said. “Incredible day on pit road by the boys.”
There will be a race within the race next week. Chastain doesn’t need to win to clinch a berth in the field for the title race, but he didn’t seem too interested in all the mathematical permutations after getting out of his car in Homestead.
“We’re just going to go race,” Chastain said. “That’s all I know how to do.”
Hamlin is five points back of Byron, followed by Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Chase Briscoe in eighth.
Among the playoff drivers, after runner-up Chastain, Hamlin was seventh, Bell 11th, Byron 12th, Elliott 14th, Blaney 17th, Logano 18th and Briscoe 36th in the 36-car field.