Larson wins three-man battle in double overtime in Xfinity race at COTA

Kyle Larson drives down the final straightaway to victory in Saturday’s Xfinity race at COTA. Photo by David Barks.

AUSTIN, TX – Kyle Larson led just two laps in Saturday’s Focused Health 250 Xfinity race at the Circuit of the America’s (COTA) in Austin – the first and the last.

Of course, it’s the last lap that really counts as Larson made a daring pass on the final lap of double overtime to go from third to first – passing both Austin Hill and Shane Van Gisbergen coming through Turns 15 and 16 on COTA’s 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course.

Shane Van Gisbergen (97) leads AJ Allmendinger (16, Chandler Smith (81), Austin Hill (21) Sage Karam (36), and Sammy Smith (8) during Stage 1 of Saturday’s Xfinity race at COTA. Photo by David Barks.

Hill and Van Gisbergen had been trading the lead when Hill pushed Van Gisbergen out of the way, giving Larson the chance to duck under both and race to a 1.215-second win over Van Gisbergen and 1.354-second win over third-place Hill.

“It feels really special because seems like every time we’ve run the 17-car – any of us four drivers – we’re always fast on track and somehow give it away,’’ Larson said. “Today I was definitely not the fastest, but we were patient. I knew the 21 [Hill] had shoved SVG [Van Gisbergen] through [turn] one and if he got to him, it could get dicey. 

“I was just trying to be patient. I was thinking when to make my move and when I saw him shoving him through [turns] 15 and 16, I thought this could get good and thankfully I cleared them off in that corner. Pretty crazy. Just wild there. … Really cool, just awesome to win here at COTA.’’

Austin Hill (21) leads Shane Van Gisbergen (97) on the final lap of Saturday’s Focused Health 250 Xfinity race at COTA. Photo by David Barks.

After the race, Van Gisbergen was given a 30-second penalty for cutting a corner on the final lap which dropped him from second to 27th, moving Hill up to second.

Cup racer John Hunter Nemechek finished third, followed by Cole Custer, Parker Kligerman, Jesse Love, Austin Green, Chandler Smith, and Sam Mayer.

AJ Allmendinger also benefited from Van Gisbergen’s penalty moving up to 10th in the final standings.

Larson was on the pole but was quickly passed by Van Gisbergen for the lead at the end of Lapo 1.

The Australian, in his first season running in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, was caught and passed by teammate AJ Allmendinger.

The leaders took a late-stage pit stop, giving way to Parker Kligerman to claim his first stage win of the year.

But it was clear that it was going to be a three-man race with Van Gisbergen, Allmendinger, and Larson putting distance between themselves and the field.

AJ Allmendinger comes out of Turn 20 during Saturday’s Xfinity road course race at COTA. Photo by David Barks.

The trio again took late-stage pit stops, allowing Brandon Jones to move up front to win Stage 2.

Jones was later penalized for cutting Turn 5 on the last lap of the stage. Second-place Riley Herbst was instead awarded the Stage victory

In Stage 3, it was Allmendinger followed by Van Gisbergen and Larson.

Ty Gibbs got into the mix for a few laps but, with six laps to go, was having trouble with his tire grip and began to fade, eventually finishing 26th.

With four laps to go, the first caution for an on-track incident occurred when Kyle Weatherman got into the rear of Ed Jones’ car, knocking Jones out of the race.

That sent the race into overtime and presented a problem for the teams – to pit or not to pit?

Larson chose to pit, the only leader to do so, and was back in 24th place on the restart.

With new tires, Larson was up to seventh place when a four-car wreck in Turn 11 forced double overtime.

It took one lap for Larson to drive his way up to third, setting the stage for the three-car battle to the finish.

“Obviously, I’m frustrated. We just lost the race,” said Hill. :I made mistakes early in the run and I had to come back from that.

“Congratulations to Kyle on winning the race. They made a good call to pit. But it’s been a good start to the year for us, just not today.”

“It was a crazy race and the car got better and better,’’ Van Gisbergen said. “On that last restart, he [Hill] just drove through me in [Turn] 1. I guess I stood up for myself. But it was pretty awesome racing with [Kaulig Racing teammate]  A.J. [Allmendinger] and in the end just turned into a mess. That’s how it is.

“It was really fun. Wish I could have gotten through to the lead, but the car [Larson] just snuck through there. He was driving really well. A lot of fun.’’

Allmendinger was vying for the lead late, too, but saw his hopes dashed during a three-wide attempt for the lead in Turn 1 of the first overtime sent him back to fifth. He went back further in the second OT, finishing 11th before being bumped up to 10th because of the Van Gisbergen penalty. 

The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to competition next Saturday with the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway. Chandler Smith is the defending winner.

NASCAR Xfinity Series Race – Focused Health 250

Circuit of The Americas

Austin, Texas

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Statistics provided by NASCAR

(1)  Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, 50 laps completed

(2)  Austin Hill, Chevrolet, 50.

(3)  John Hunter Nemechek(i), Toyota, 50.

(4)  Cole Custer, Ford, 50.

(5)  Parker Kligerman, Chevrolet, 50.

(6)  Jesse Love #, Chevrolet, 50.

(7)  Austin Green, Chevrolet, 50.

(8)  Chandler Smith, Toyota, 50.

(9)  Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, 50.

(5)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 50.

(10)  Parker Retzlaff, Chevrolet, 50.

(11)  Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, 50.

(12)  Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 50.

(13)  Ryan Sieg, Ford, 50.

(14)  Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 50.

(15)  Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 50.

(16)  Sage Karam, Toyota, 50.

(17)  Brad Perez, Chevrolet, 50.

(18)  Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 50.

(19)  Leland Honeyman #, Chevrolet, 50.

(20)  Daniil Kvyat, Chevrolet, 50.

(21)  Blaine Perkins, Ford, 50.

(22)  Hailie Deegan #, Ford, 50.

(23)  Ty Gibbs(i), Toyota, 50.

(24)  Patrick Gallagher, Chevrolet, 50.

(25)  Alex Labbe, Toyota, 50.

(26)  Shane Van Gisbergen #, Chevrolet, 50.

(27)  RC Enerson, Chevrolet, 50.

(28)  Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 50.

(29)  Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 49.

(30)  Josh Bilicki, Chevrolet, Suspension, 48.

(31)  Sheldon Creed, Toyota, 47.

(33)  Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, Accident, 45.

(34)  Riley Herbst, Ford, Accident, 45.

(35)  Ed Jones, Toyota, Accident, 42.

(36)  Sammy Smith, Chevrolet, Accident, 36.

(37)  Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, Suspension, 33.

(38)  Josh Williams, Chevrolet, Overheating, 24.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  72.374 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 21 Mins, 21 Secs.

Margin of Victory:  1.354 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  4 for 9 laps.

Lead Changes:  13 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   S. Van Gisbergen # 1-9;A. Allmendinger 10-11;P. Kligerman 12-15;A. Allmendinger 16-27;S. Van Gisbergen # 28;B. Jones 29;R. Herbst 30-31;A. Allmendinger 32-37;S. Van Gisbergen # 38-44;T. Gibbs(i) 45;S. Van Gisbergen # 46-48;A. Hill 49;K. Larson(i) 50.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  AJ Allmendinger 3 times for 20 laps; Shane Van Gisbergen # 4 times for 20 laps; Parker Kligerman 1 time for 4 laps; Riley Herbst 1 time for 2 laps; Brandon Jones 1 time for 1 lap; Kyle Larson(i) 1 time for 1 lap; Ty Gibbs(i) 1 time for 1 lap; Austin Hill 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 48,8,26,31,98,21,35,16,92,97

Stage #2 Top Ten: 98,00,16,17,97,35,39,92,19,81

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