Larson motors to Truck Series victory at North Wilkesboro
Kyle Larson proved an admirable substitute on Saturday at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
Subbing for injured Alex Bowman, who had been scheduled to race the No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet, Larson led 138 of 252 laps in winning the Tyson 250 in overtime.
Larson is the first driver to win a NASCAR-sanctioned race at revitalized North Wilkesboro in 27 years. The victory was Larson’s third in 15 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series starts.
At the end of the two-lap overtime, Larson beat ThorSport Racing’s Ty Majeski to the finish line by 0.974s. Matt DiBenedetto ran third, followed by Carson Hocevar, Bubba Wallace and pole winner Corey Heim.
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“It was a really fun track there, especially in the truck where you can use the apron and such at both ends,” said Larson, who was making his first Truck Series start of the season. “I had a good time. That was a lot of fun on the long runs.
“I wasn’t supposed to run. Unfortunately, Alex got hurt (in a sprint car accident), and I got the opportunity to run this.”
Larson made the most of his opportunity, dominating the action and charging from sixth after a lap 228 restart on which the first three cars in the running order stayed on the track during the 11th caution, and fourth place Majeski gained track position with a two-tire pit stop.
On lap 238, Larson passed Wallace for the lead and held it through one more caution and the overtime.
Thanks to the pit strategy, Majeski salvaged the runner-up finish.
“Yeah, we just missed it today,” Majeski said. “Sometimes when you’re in the back with nothing to lose, you make gutsy calls, jumping on two tires there, and we were just able to hold off guys who put four tires on. So, a subpar day for us turned into a good finish.”
The race was the first in the series at North Wilkesboro since 1996, when the CRAFTSMAN Trucks ran at the 0.625-mile short track for the second time. Saturday’s renewal produced a record 12 cautions for 81 laps.
Big trouble! 10th caution of the day at North Wilkesboro Speedway. https://t.co/xIrZ3ZJKKN pic.twitter.com/tsB1ViCClr
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) May 20, 2023
The severest of the on-track incidents came on lap 201, when the truck of Tyler Ankrum was forced into the outside backstretch wall. As Ankrum slowed, the Chevrolet of Rajah Caruth and the Fords of reigning series champion Zane Smith and Ben Rhodes suffered a chain-reaction collision that eliminated the three trailing trucks.
Before the wreck, Smith had suffered a pit road speeding penalty that sent him to the back of the field.
“Just a product of what happens when you get put back there,” said Smith, who started the race in the rear of the field because of three failed inspections and had worked his way into the top five before the speeding penalty.