FORT WORTH, Tex.– It was a robery of Texas style perprotion, as Kyle Larson stole the victory from Brad Keselowski in the closing laps to take the win Saturday afternoon’s O’Riley Auto Parts Challenge from the Texas Motor Speedway, his fifth career XFINITY Series victory and his second of the season.
After what appeared to be the start of an economy run to the finish, the caution flag flew for the fifth and final time, after the No.13 of Brandon Hightower’s engine expired. This sent everybody down pit road for the last stop of the day with 38 laps to go. Keselowski, who led 145 laps of the race came out of the pits in the lead and Larson’s crew put together a blistering stop to jump themselves ahead of Kevin Harvick and into second position.
On the ensuing restart with 30 to go, Keselowski and Larson, like they had for so much of the afternoon, led the field back to green. Unlike the last couple of restarts, Larson stayed glued to the door of the No.22 as they headed into turn one. Larson, using sidedraft to his advantage and raced door to door with the No.22 until he finally rocketed to the front off turn four to take the lead with 29 laps to go
As lap traffic became more of an issue, Keselowski charged back slowly but, a late race charge proved to be no good as Larson held him off the final corner for the victory.
Larson spoke about the closing laps and how he almost let his second win of the season slip away from him.
“I got to the top just in time and got rolling.” Larson said. “I got loose over the bumps and with about five to go or so, I hit the wall and I thought I might have killed my run for him (Keselowski) to go by on the inside in turn three. I was able to have a big enough gap to hold him off.”
Larson didn’t think he was the best car in the field, but when the laps counted the most, he was there.
“I thought Brad was definetly better than I was.” Larson said. “He didn’t have to run the top, it seemed like Harvick and I we had to run the top to be fast, but he could run wherever and be fast. The No.22 has found some speed lately, but we also have some speed in our Chevrolet’s.”
Crossing the line behind Larson and Keselowski in third position is five time Texas winner Kevin Harvick, with Chase contender Erik Jones in the fourth position. Daniel Suarez, who had battery issues for the second half of the event, finishes in the fifth position and holds onto his championship lead of 17 points leaving Texas.
The second place driver in the points, Elliot Sadler has another consistent day finishing in sixth, while Austin Dillon quietly crosses the line in seventh. Brennan Poole finishes with a very impressive eighth place result, while Matt Tifft, who was using this race to gain experience ahead of his 2017 full time season in NXS finished ninth with Chaser Justin Allgaier behind him in tenth.
Blake Koch whose weekend started off on a sour note, after wrecking the primary car in practice on Friday, had a tire issue early in the race. He fell a lap down, but with the aid of a caution, he worked his way back up into the top 15 to salvage the day and finished 14th. He currently finds himself one point to the good over fifth place Justin Allgaier leaving Texas.
For the other chase contenders of Darrell Wallace Jr., Ryan Reed and Brendan Gaughan finishing 12th, 15th and 16th, they all find themselves in a hole leaving Texas. For Reed, he only has a five point deficit to make up heading into Phoenix, while Gaughan and Wallace Jr., are still reeling from Kansas and they find themselves in a must win situation to make the Championship 4.
The NASCAR XFINITY Series returns to action for their penultimate race of the season, the Ticket Galaxy 200 on Nov. 12 at Phoenix Int’l Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM).