BROOKLYN, Mich. – During the last couple laps of his first Sprint Cup victory, Kyle Larson was emotional.
“I think with two to go, I was starting to get choked up,” he said. “We worked really, really hard to get a win, and just haven’t done it. Finally all the hard work by everybody, hundreds of people at our race shop, people who have got me through to the Cup Series, it was all paying off.”
Larson took the lead on a restart with nine laps remaining and held off Chase Elliott at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday in a duel between two of NASCAR’s up-and-coming standouts. Elliott had a comfortable lead before a tire problem on Michael Annett’s car brought out the yellow flag. Larson had the better restart and won by 1.48 seconds.
Brad Keselowski took third.
Larson’s victory in his No. 42 Chevrolet ended a 99-race losing streak for Chip Ganassi Racing dating to Jamie McMurray’s victory at Talladega in 2013.
Larson became the 12th driver to secure a spot in the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup with two races left in the regular season. Elliott remains winless, but is in solid shape to make the Chase field on points.
It was the 99th career start for the 24-year-old Larson, who had 14 top-five finishes before Sunday but hadn’t won at the Cup level. The 20-year-old Elliott is winless in 29 starts, but this was an impressive showing for him after eight consecutive races outside the top 10.
Elliott finished second at Michigan in June as well, losing to Joey Logano.
“That’s a couple races in a row in just a few short months here at this place we had a really good car, had an opportunity,” Elliott said. “That’s one thing I try really hard to do is make the most of opportunities when they’re presented. Obviously I didn’t do a very good job of that here both trips.”
Elliott led by 2.86 seconds with 28 laps to go Sunday, and it looked as if Larson’s chance to catch him had been derailed when he lost ground passing a lapped car. The caution gave him another shot, though, and he took advantage.
Hendrick Motorsports is now winless in 19 races after Elliott fell short. This is Hendrick’s longest losing streak since a 22-race dry spell from 1993 into 1994.