Kyle Larson outduels Chase Elliott to claim crucial Cup win at Michigan

BY foxsports • August 28, 2016

Kyle Larson won Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway, claiming the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of his season and his career and outdueling Chase Elliott to do so.

Larson not only won the race in his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet but also punched his ticket for the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs.

An emotional Larson said in Victory Lane that he was dedicating his win to his late friend Bryan Clauson, who died recently in a sprint-car accident at a dirt track.

"Man, I was tearing up those whole last few laps," Larson said. "I could just feel that this was finally going to be it ... This one's for the Clauson family. We're really missing Bryan, and we love you guys. We're going to miss him. We parked it for him, so that's really cool."

A disappointed Elliott was forced to settle for second for the second race in a row at Michigan.

Larson closed to within 1.3 seconds of Elliott with 19 laps to go, but then ran into a problem trying to get by the lapped car of Matt DiBenedetto and fell back to 2.7 seconds back.

That gave Elliott a cushion, but it didn't last when a caution came out to set up a restart with nine to go.

As Elliott and Larson lined up for the restart -- each seeking his first Sprint Cup win -- Elliott no doubt had flashbacks to the last race at Michigan in June.

In that race, Elliott finished second in his first career Cup start at the 2-mile track after leading 35 laps. Elliott spun his tires on a late restart, however, and ended up losing the lead in that race to eventual winner Joey Logano.

This time, both Elliott and Larson spun their tires -- which were older than most of the other top competitors around them.

Larson ended up getting a push from behind from the No. 2 Team Penske Ford of Brad Keselowski and surging ahead as Elliott fell all the way to third.

Elliott eventually passed Keselowski for second, but could not run down Larson over the final seven laps.

“It was a typical crazy restart at Michigan here at the end," Keselowski said. "It's about getting a good launch and push. It looked like Kyle got a good launch and maybe something happened to the 24 (of Elliott). I was able to give (Larson) a push, a really hard push, and got sideways there and he was able to get the lead.

"Then the 42 (of Larson) just drove away. Those two cars, the 42 and 24, were pretty close. They both had a lot of speed. We were right there, though, just a notch behind.”

Keselowski ended up third behind Larson and Elliott, with Ryan Blaney finishing fourth and Kevin Harvick, who won a week earlier at Bristol, fifth.

Larson's win broke a 99-race winless streak for Chip Ganassi Racing in what was, oddly, the 99th career Cup start for the young driver who turned 24 less than one month ago.

"This means a lot for me and it means a lot for Kyle," said Chad Johnston, Larson's crew chief. "We didn't start out this year the way we wanted, but we've found speed throughout the year and the kid's got a ton of talent. ... I think you'll see more to come from Kyle Larson."