Larson leaves Phoenix a bridesmaid yet again

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Larson leaves Phoenix a bridesmaid yet again


Larson leaves Phoenix a bridesmaid yet again


Kyle Larson had fortune swing his way late at Phoenix Raceway before disappearing just as quickly, leaving him with a third-place finish instead of standing in victory lane.

Larson led the most laps, 201, in the United Rentals Work United 500 and won the second stage. The No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports car looked untouchable, just once being passed (by teammate William Byron on lap two) on track for the lead through the first two stages.

But in the third stage, Larson became vulnerable on longer runs. Kevin Harvick, who got stronger the longer a run went on, took advantage by pitting a lap before Larson under green flag conditions to erase a 1.2s gap.

The No. 5 cycled back to the race lead with 51 laps to go but was now hounded by Harvick. The Stewart-Haas driver took the lead and drove away with 44 laps to go.

But a caution with 11 laps left gave Larson a second chance. He used the first pit stall to his advantage by taking two tires and regaining the race lead.

It was a brief respite. Although Larson cleared the field on the restart, the caution came back out for a spin in Turn 3. He was unable to hold on through the overtime restart as Byron grabbed the lead on the outside and Ryan Blaney drove by on the inside.

“We got lucky with the one caution, and the team made a great call to take two (tires) and get us out in the lead,” Larson said. “The restarts are just tough. I felt like I ran William up pretty high, and I expected him to lose some grip, but he did a really good job of holding it to my outside and clearing me down the back.”

Larson was hoping his teammate would run into the marbles and lose his momentum, but the outside lane had gotten better throughout the final stage, and Byron held strong on the outside coming off the corner and down the backstretch.

“Yeah, I’m (mad), but a great fight by the team, a great car,” Larson said. “Way better than we were here last year. It’s a long season, but hopefully we’re in the final four when we come back here in November and can have a run similar to that, with speed, and try to execute a little bit better in the end.”