While I don’t think anyone is surprised at Kyle Larson winning in 2022, it is kind of surprising how he won this past weekend at California.
Tyler Reddick looked like he had the car to beat. Until he didn’t.
First of all, Larson was one of several cars that had to drop to the back of the pack. Qualifying and practice saw a lot of cars pinning out and wrecking as drivers were trying to get up to speed on what the new car and low profile tires will handle on the standard oval tracks. There were far more cars spinning on the flatter California track than we saw at Daytona.
Now it isn’t all that unusual to see a driver go from last to first but given the early race dominance of some younger drivers, seeing Larson in Victory Lane was not the first thought of the day. While Larson had run up to the Top 5 in both stages, Tyler Reddick looked like he had the car to beat. Until he didn’t.
Reddick won both early stages handily but suffered a flat rear on lap 152. That would have been enough but he got run into by William Byron who oddly lost control at nearly the same time sending his Chevy smack dab into Reddick, further complicating his day. Reddick eventually returned to the race but ended up, amazingly, just one lap down.
There were 12 cautions that slowed the race with most of them coming from spin outs due to lose cars or flat tires – or both. The new car seems to have difficulty getting going again once it spins out. The car sits very low and the tires, without inner liners, cause the car to get hung up on any kind of banking or varied terrain. Inevitably this requires a tow truck putting the car down at least one lap as it gets hauled back to its stall.
NASCAR needs to look at this new set up and figure something out. Tires going flat can be the byproduct of several things including air pressure being set too low. The number of spins might also be the result of improper air pressure and drivers still getting the feel of a car that is more difficult to drive. But getting hung on the banking and slowing the race that many times to get a tow truck out there has to be remedied.
The 12 cautions changed the face of the race as several good cars wound up behind or out of the race.
Suddenly, drivers who started at the back of the pack were running in the Top 10, among them Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch.
AT the end, the race looked like it might be down to a duel between Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones and, yes, Daniel Suarez. Suarez grabbed the lead briefly after Larson put teammate Chase Elliott into the wall as the two were battling with Joey Logano for the lead. Suarez then grabbed the lead after the restart but Larson pulled out a couple of moves that gave him the lead with two to go and all he had to do was not spin out and hold off a hard charging Austin Dillon.
Fans watching the broadcast were treated doubly good with Matt Kenseth in the booth and a visit from Mark Martin. Having those two provide insights was well worth the 12 cautions.
Good on ya, mate
- Tyler Reddick (P24) for leading Stage 1 and 2 before succumbing to bad luck.
- Austin Dillon (P2) for taking advantage of attrition and being there at the end.
- Erik Jones (P3) for staying with the leaders all race long.
- Daniel Suarez (P4) for being oh so close to his first Cup win.
- Joey Logano (P5) fought the good fight but got shuffled out at the end.
- Aric Almirola (P6) where did he come from?
- Kevin Harvick (P7) was nowhere to be seen until the end of the day.
- Kurt Busch (P8) started last and suffered a drive through penalty for failing inspection.
- Daniel Hemric (P9) had a good day.
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (P10) managed to stay out of the wall and get the finish he worked so hard for.
So you had a bad day
- Kyle Busch (P14) had a terrible day but managed to finish Top 15.
- Martin Truex, Jr. (P13) led Joe Gibbs Racing.
- Denny Hamlin (P15) failed to do much better.
- Ryan Blaney (P18) had a better race going but had some issues he couldn’t overcome.
- Bubba Wallace (P19) got together with Harrison Burton.
- William Byron (P34) had a fast car but totally lost it into the 8 car.
Next up: Las Vegas
I am not even sure how to handicap races this year with the new car throwing a few curves at us. On the surface, you would think that Las Vegas would fit Joe Gibbs Racing to a T. Denny Hamlin is the defending race winner and Truex and Rowdy both were Top 5. But Joey Logano also has two wins here in the last 6.
Penske has proved to be strong out of the gate this year so they should be a threat.
Hendrick sure seems to have horsepower so Larson, Elliott and Byron should figure in this as well.
Harvick is probably a lock for a Top 10 but he needs to get more from his Stewart-Haas Ford to fight for a win.
And if I had to pick a dark horse for the race, look no further than Tyler Reddick. The new car seems to really suit him and if they can keep the tires under him, he could be in Victory Lane.
(Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images/NASCAR Media)