In the most dramatic elimination in playoffs history, nobody was in more of a hole than Kyle Larson.
After leading the most laps of the Bank of America ROVAL 400 from the Charlotte ROVAL, Larson was in prime position to take the victory until Brad Keselowski crashed from the lead in Turn 1, swallowing Larson and others in the late-restart accident.
From there, Larson was driving a demolished No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet for the final three-lap run to the end. Sitting as the final lead-lap vehicle, it took a heavenly miracle to get Larson back into playoff advancement.
Cue the harp music, a miracle occurred.
Entering the chicane coming to the checkered flag, the top two of Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson crashed out of the lead, giving Ryan Blaney the race win. At the same time, the No. 96 of Jeffrey Earnhardt stalled on the frontstretch, giving Larson one more spot to finish 25th instead of 26th.
These two occurrences put Larson into a tie with Johnson and Aric Almirola for the final transfer spot into the Round of 12. And due to regular-season points, Larson won the tiebreaker.
“This was some damn good luck,” Larson said. “I knew I was in bad shape. I had given up. I couldn’t even drive my car it was so bad. But they said they were all crashed coming to the checkered. I ran hard, we had so much camber and tow in our car that we blew a right-front tire. I was like, ‘I got to go.'”
Bouncing off the Speedway Turn 4 wall, Larson made his way to Earnhardt’s stopped Toyota in the final chicane.
“The tire blew in the center of [Turns] 3,4. I plowed the wall and didn’t know if I could get it down to make the chicane,” he said. “Luckily, it came down off the banking. I got through the 16th corner, then the 17th I hit the wall on the frontstretch.
“The No. 96 was stalled the whole time, they kept telling me they were stalled when I was on the backstretch. He was like 100 feet from the start/finish line and I could see him start creeping. I was like, ‘Gosh, don’t go! Don’t go!’
“That was pretty lucky.”
The finish of the race was in stark contrast to the start. Rolling off fifth, Larson first saw the race lead on Lap 7. He went on to lead 49 laps on the day before battling ]Keselowski door-to-door for the top spot late. However, the late mistake by Keselowski ended Larson’s run to victory.
“I’d rather be mad at myself,” he said. “But I stayed pretty calm. Even when I found out I was in, I moved through the interviews to get to next week. Hopefully, we can keep some good luck going.”
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