RICHMOND, Va. – Kyle Larson and his Chip Ganassi Racing team needed a break, and it came with two laps to go.
Running second to a dominant Martin Truex Jr., Larson was itching for fresh tires and a shot at victory in overtime. He got it when Derrike Cope’s car hit the wall, bringing out the seventh yellow flag of the night. Larson grabbed the lead on pit road and sailed to victory in the Monster Energy Cup Federated Auto Parts 400.
It was the final race before the 10-race playoffs, and the top 16 drivers in season points qualified.
“I’m really pumped for the playoffs,” Larson said. “We’ve got a really good shot at the championship. I’ve got the greatest team out here and definitely the best pit crew. They were money all night long to gain spots.”
Truex, who clinched the regular-season title last week, had the race easily in hand until 58-year-old Cope crashed with nearly four laps remaining. Truex then wrecked in overtime while racing with Denny Hamlin for position. The sequence cost him his fifth win of the season.
“A caution for a guy who shouldn’t even have been out there,” Truex said about Cope. “It’s kind of ridiculous.”
Truex will still start the playoffs as the favorite because he earned the most bonus points during the regular season. He had trouble working up enthusiasm.
“Tonight is a little tough,” he said. “It’s a little hard to be excited.”