ELKHART LAKE, WISC. — No matter the restart or strategy change-up, Hendrick Motorsports looked unbeatable with Kyle Larson at the helm Saturday in Road America – until the final lap when an old, familiar rival showed up at the right time and impressed.
Larson led 31 of 48 laps and seemingly drove away or drove through the field during several restarts, except for the final one. He spun his tires and had Ty Gibbs dogging him until turn four, with one lap to go, when he passed the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion for the lead.
Larson followed Gibbs closely and tried one last move in Canada Corner, but Gibbs masterfully ran a defensive, fast line and won an overtime-extended Henry 180 at Road America.
I had a fun time racing with Kyle (Larson),” Gibbs said. “I thought it was going to get a little rough there, but he’s such a great competitor and a great person. We played golf the other day – I want to tell him thanks for the golf lessons. I still suck. This is awesome. I can’t believe it. It’s wonderful.”
Gibbs now has eight career NXS win in 34 starts.
Larson was one position shy of giving Hendrick Motorsports’ NXS operations two wins in a row, 13 years apart – as HMS’ last start was Feb. 2009 at Daytona when Tony Stewart won for them. Larson swept both stages, even besting Gibbs in stage one, but he fell short on the final lap.
Still, the defending Cup champion left Road America impressed with NASCAR’s newest rising star.
“He did a really good job executing and I didn’t. Congrats to Ty, that was really impressive. He was able to pass me without laying a bumper on me,” Larson told NBC Sports. “When he passed me clean, I decided I should not use him up unlike when others get used it up. He ran me clean so I ran him clean.”
The top 10 finishers are as follows: Ty Gibbs (led 5 laps), Kyle Larson (led 31 laps), Josh Berry, Austin Hill, Brandon Jones, A.J. Allmendinger (led 1 lap), Riley Herbst, Noah Gragson, Jeremy Clements, Ryan Sieg (led 2 laps).
While Ty Gibbs and other NASCAR Xfinity Series regulars will race next July 9 for the Alsco Uniforms 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (5 p.m. ET; TV: USA; Radio: PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Ch. 90), Alex Bowman will be next to try and deliver an NXS win for Hendrick Motorsports at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course July 30 (3:30 p.m. ET; TV: NBC; Radio: IMS/SiriusXM NASCAR).
William Byron will also race the No. 17 Chevrolet, Aug. 20, at Watkins Glen (3 p.m. ET; TV: USA; Radio: MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR).