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Larson sweeps the 600 at Charlotte; wins all four Stages; most wins ever goes to the Hendrick team

Concord, NC, May 30/21 (by John Davison): In front of one of the best spectator crowds here in several years, Kyle Larson returned the No. 5 number to victory lane for Hendrick Motorsports, driving the number that started the HMS dynasty when Geoff Bodine won, saving the then-one-car team from closing. The rest, as they say, is history. Kyle Larson swept every Stage of the 600-miler. leading 328 of the 400 laps in NASCAR's longest race, taking the checker for Hendrick Motorsports' win number 269, overtaking the Petty teams for the most wins by a team and giving Larson his eighth career win. While the Petty name has been applied to a variety of teams (and ownership) over the years, Rick Hendrick has remained the owner of his eponymous team over the entire string of wins.

Starting from the pole, Kyle Larson drove around the rest of the field early on in the 2021 Coca-Cola 600, leading the first 48 laps before pitting under green, then regaining the lead 11 laps later, staying in front for the next 73 rounds to take his seventh Stage win of the season. Kurt Busch pulled into the pits on lap 171, trailing smoke. He re-entered after repairs but made only a couple of turns before the car erupted in a cloud of smoke, making the No. 1 Chevy the only DNF of the longest race of the year and bringing out a caution to check the track for fluid. Larson went on to take the second Stage as well after leading 157 of the first half of the 400-lap event before the field was led down pit road for a moment of silence to honor fallen soldiers, sailors and Marines on the Memorial Day weekend.

A flat tire caused Ryan Newman to pancake the right side of his No. 6 Ford, putting the race under caution and ending the third Stage under caution. Larson headed William Byron, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman at the Stage end, sweeping the first three Stages in the No. 5 Chevy.

At the start of the final 100 laps, Larson and Busch led, with Byron and Elliott in the second row, followed by Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin. Larson and Busch battled after the restart, with the top three Hendrick cars pushing each other to the lead over Busch and leaving Alex Bowman to fight with Busch for fourth before things settled down with Larson leading Elliott and Byron, Busch holding fourth ahead of Alex Bowman in the fourth Hendrick car and Denny Hamlin another couple of seconds back.

Byron and Elliott battled for second, allowing Kyle Busch to close on Byron and pass into third place briefly then make the pass stick with nine laps left in the race before Busch lost the spot when Byron used Cody Ware as a pick to take third place back with six laps left. Larson's lead over Elliott had opened up to over ten seconds, with Elliott, Busch, Byron and Bowman all within just over a second of each other.

Larson went on to his eighth career win, beating Elliott by just over ten seconds with Kyle Busch third and the other two Hendrick cars fourth and fifth with Byron and Bowman.

"Yeah, it feels good. It was not easy," said Larson. "I felt like I had to fight off William (Byron) and Chase (Elliott) a lot. It kind of worked out there in that last run. The No. 43 (Erik Jones) had to pit and pulled out in front of me, and I just towed with him for a while and stretched my lead out. We had a good car there in that last run. Awesome! It feels great to be the guy to help Mr. Hendrick break that record, finally. This is awesome. We haven't seen this many fans in forever. Thanks to all you guys for coming out.

“And thanks to my No. 5 team tonight, too. They were great tonight. My pit crew did awesome. We had awesome pit stops, especially on the green flag stops, too. That really allowed us to get the win tonight.

"When I got to talking to Ricky Stenhouse last year, I was like I think I'm going to end up in the No. 5 or the Hendrick cars and he was like, you're going to be really good in that thing. And I was like, I don't know. But it's been better than I could have ever imagined. For us to lead as many laps as we have this year and contend for as many wins as we have, and now to get our second win at a Crown Jewel event, too, it feels great. I'm just very lucky that Mr. Hendrick was able to put together a deal for me. It's just awesome. I'm living a dream, for sure."

Kyle Busch was asked, “Hard fought third-place finish. How do you feel now after a weekend with practice? Is this team on the upswing?”

"We’ve had some strong runs and we’ve had some runs that were better than the finishes that we got out of them as well," replied Kyle Busch. "Overall, we had a really good piece – strong from start to finish there. We just kept trying to make some little tweaks to it, and make it a little bit better. I don’t know what happened on that final pit stop. We got out in front of those guys, but they had the momentum to get by me I guess and I was just too loose and too sloppy on the front side with some speed, but once we got rolling there, we got a lot better and we able to run them back down, but we just couldn’t get back by them. Great night. "

• Click HERE for the Race Results


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