Kyle Larson admitted he pulled a video game move in the final corners at Darlington Raceway to try and grab the race win from Denny Hamlin in the Southern 500.
“Basically,” Larson said. “I was stuck at gap behind him for the last 15 laps or so and wasn’t going to get to his bumper, or I wasn’t going to be able to run the bottom and get to his inside and race him that way, so decided I would try and wall ride and see what would happen.
“He started running a little bit safer line the last few laps and getting back to diamonding (the corner), so I thought if I rode the wall, I could squeeze to his outside, and who knows what would have happened after that down the frontstretch. But I actually got to his bumper a little bit too early, and then he protected the wall and did a good job. Yeah, it was wild. I hope the fans enjoyed the desperation. Just came up one spot short.”
Larson drove his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet deep into Turns 3 and 4 and hit the wall. He succeeded in getting to Hamlin’s bumper but could only shove Hamlin forward with his car stuck to the barrier.
“He kind of did pull down, and I tried to throttle up to get to his outside, but my car was broken by then and plowing,” said Larson. “It was just wild.”
Hamlin won the race, and Larson managed to drive his car across the finish line. And while Larson was able to get the car back to pit road after the checkered flag, the severely damaged machine needed the assistance of a tow truck hook to get back into the garage.
Larson led a race-high 157 laps and won the second stage. Between running well during the race and being the No. 1 seed with a nice cushion on the cutline, Larson acknowledged that his comfortable points position played into his go-for-broke mentality over the final few laps.
“I was obviously hitting the wall kind of every lap in (Turns) 3 and 4,” he said. “I felt like if I got a flat and finished 25th, I was still going to be good in points. I would say I was a little more brave because of that.”
Hamlin took control of the race when his teammate Martin Truex Jr. was penalized for speeding on pit road with just under 50 laps to go. At that point, Larson knew it would be difficult to find his way around Hamlin, although he was surprised he stayed as close to him as he did when the race restarted for the final time with 36 laps to go.
“I thought he would pull away, but I was able to stay close to him and try to make something out of it,” Larson said.
While Larson’s move didn’t result in the race win, it still panned out well.
“Here, you already enter so close to the wall, so you only have to move up a little bit more, and I was carrying more speed,” Larson said. “It worked out way nice… When you’re entering inches off the wall, and you’re planning on doing it, it’s basically like a video game. It’s smooth; you’re just rubbing the wall and carrying a lot of throttle.”
“I knew as long as I didn’t spin or anything, which I didn’t think that I would, I knew I would finish second,” Larson continued. “Because like I said, we’re already running this close (pinches fingers together) to the wall all the way around the corner anyways. So, if something went wrong, I could just pin it against the wall down the straightaway. I knew at worse I was going to come out second.”