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Larson Scores Dominant Victory at Homestead-Miami

Kyle Larson put on an absolute clinic at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Photo: Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

Kyle Larson put on an absolute clinic at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Photo: Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – If there was one way to dispel a tough results at Talladega and the Charlotte ROVAL along with a tangle at Las Vegas, a dominant victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway seemed like an ideal choice for Kyle Larson.

Given the maddeningly inconsistent season for Larson and his No. 5 Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro team in 2022, the remainder of the season is set on capturing the checkered flag, particularly at Homestead-Miami.

Larson had six close but heartbreaking defeats at the 1.5-mile speedway in his NASCAR Cup Series career, including podium finishes in 2016 and 2017.

While the 30-year-old Elk Grove, California native was eliminated from the driver’s championship battle, his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team remains in the owner’s title fight.

With this in mind, Larson had incentive to ensure that Rick Hendrick’s No. 5 team had a chance to battle for glory at Phoenix Raceway.

From jump street for the Dixie Vodka 400 race weekend, Larson made it known that he was the man to beat for Sunday’s 267 lap race.

Qualifying with the fifth fastest time, Larson compiled the season’s most dominant effort in emphatic fashion.

By dominant, Larson led 74.53% of Sunday’s race, a performance reminiscent of Jeff Gordon’s clinics at Martinsville in 1997 and Dover in 2001.

First, Larson had to get to the lead, which he did in 27 laps. After William Byron, the pole sitter, led the opening 26 laps, Larson zipped past his Hendrick Motorsports teammate with a textbook pass.

From there, Larson had to regain the lead on four other occasions.

At times, the reigning Cup champion held an advantage of over 10 seconds. Larson’s lead grew exponentially that his crew chief, Cliff Daniels, radioed to his driver to manage his car and equipment carefully.

By all means, Larson heeded Daniels’ words as he had enough of an advantage to handily win Stage 1 while he coasted to an easy Stage 2 under caution conditions for debris off Turn 2.

The only moment where Larson faced some hefty competition was inside the final 56 laps following a caution for Ryan Blaney’s spin in the access road.

A few drivers, namely Martin Truex Jr. and Ross Chastain, opted to stay out for track position while Larson led a bevy of lead lap contenders for fresh tires, fuel and adjustments.

On the next restart on Lap 217, Denny Hamlin led the way before Truex took the lead on Lap 221.

Suddenly, the complexity of the race changed with Larson, who worked his way up to second on Lap 238, needing to chase down Truex for the lead.

Despite Larson gaining a few tenths from Truex’s lead, a caution on Lap 246 for Tyler Reddick’s Turn 2 accident made it a short, green flag run for the win.

A scary moment occurred during the Lap 247 pit stops as Truex led a congested field to their pit stalls.

Truex, with some contact from Larson, spun into his pit stall, hitting his jack while his No. 19 pit crew leapt back over the wall.

Quick instincts counted a lot for Truex’s pit crew while Larson clarified the incident with an understandable recollection.

“I was just going behind him,” Larson recalled. “He had a hard left and was hard on the brakes at the same time, and I ran right in the back of him.

“My team said he was late turning into his stall, but I don’t know. If it was my fault, I’m sorry. I don’t think it was.”

Moreover, Larson pointed out one of the more challenging conditions that everyday drivers can attest to, regardless of the cars.

“It’s hard to see down this pit road,” he observed. “I don’t know if fans and people realize; when you’ve got debris all over your windshield, the sun is shining straight in your face, it’s hard to see your stall.

“So hate that that happened. He was definitely the one I was going to have to beat. He was really good that last long run, too.”

Immediately, Larson had to shake off the situation with his No. 5 pit crew making sure this was the case, delivering with a clutch, fast pit stop.

Larson looked like Pedro Martinez against the New York Yankees in 1999. (Photo: Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

Larson looked like Pedro Martinez against the New York Yankees in 1999. (Photo: Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

As a result, Larson was back in the lead for a 17 lap sprint to the finish.

That said, it was not an easy path to the checkered flag as he had to stave off Ross Chastain and AJ Allmendinger for the win.

All told, Larson turned to his savvy, experience and swagger, driving to his third victory of the season.

“Yeah, definitely the best run we’ve had all year long,” he shared. “We’ve been capable of it I feel like many weekends, we just haven’t quite put it all together.

“Cliff gave a great speech this morning and got us all ready to go and focused, and I did my best to keep it out of the wall. I got in the wall a few times, but I could still make speed doing that.”

Although short, green flag runs are typically Larson’s weakness, on this occasion, he approached it like his sprint car efforts.

“Amazing No. 5 Valvoline Chevy. I knew that that last run was going to be short enough where I was going to be in some sort of trouble there, but thankfully AJ and Ross were racing hard behind me,” he remarked.

Now, Larson can turn his attention toward winning an owner’s championship, which proves as special to him as last year’s rewarding title run.

“Huge thanks to Valvoline,, everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, too,” Larson said. “I think it was a good day for Chase (Elliott) and William (Byron). But yeah, happy for our team, and we get to go race for an owner’s title in Phoenix in a couple weeks.

“We’re still technically not out of it. 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.”

If the rest of the season is a dress rehearsal for 2023, Larson may be rediscovering his form that made him dangerous in 2021.

Ultimately, Larson triumphed one day before the 18th anniversary of the Hendrick Motorsports plane crash that rocked his team and the Hendrick family in 2004.

Looking toward the skies and bringing a familiar car number back to Victory Lane, Larson likely made the Hendrick family proud with his stomping at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The familiar No. 5 Valvoline Chevy Camaro returned to Victory Lane. (Photo: Jared East | Getty Images)

The familiar No. 5 Valvoline Chevy Camaro returned to Victory Lane. (Photo: Jared East | Getty Images)

“What a fun day. I’ve always wanted to race here during the day at Homestead where we could rip the wall,” he recalled. “Finally have a car tough enough for me to be able to run the wall and finish the race.

“A lot of fun today. Hope you fans enjoyed the ass kicking there, and hope we can do it again in a couple of weeks.”

Stage 1 Top 10 Finishers

Larson-Byron-Truex Jr.-Reddick-A. Dillon/Allmendinger-Keselowski-Elliott-Blaney-Logano

Stage 2 Top 10 Finishers

Larson-Truex Jr.-Byron-Blaney-Keselowski/Elliott-Suárez-Chastain-Logano-Hamlin

Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Top 10 Finishers

Larson-Chastain-Allmendinger-A. Dillon-Keselowski/Truex Jr.-Hamlin-Harvick-Busch-Suárez

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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