NASCAR Barometer: Larson Dominates at Homestead

NASCAR Barometer: Larson Dominates at Homestead

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Kyle Larson made statement Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway leading 199 laps, sweeping both stages and winning the race. It was an impressive day from the reigning champion who's chance at defending the title evaporated two weeks ago. His victory means only Joey Logano is confirmed among the final four championship contenders, and the remaining protagonists will have to wait another week to learn their fates. Sunday's only real threat to Larson's dominance came in the form of Martin Truex Jr., who led the race with less than 20 laps to go before one final caution and a pit road incident between the pair left Truex backward in his pit box and Larson back in the lead. Both drivers blamed poor visibility for the incident, but it was Truex who was clearly the victim as he lost another chance for a potential win.

The playoff picture remains wide open heading into the final elimination race before the season ending finale. Any of the seven drivers not locked into the championship race could still find their way in, and a minimum of two of those four sports will be secured on points. Denny Hamlin is the first driver outside of the transfer positions, but he is just five points behind William Byron in fourth. Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Chase Briscoe all sit on the outside looking in with the latter two facing almost must-win scenarios to be among the final four. However, Ross Chastain and Chase Elliott won't bee

Kyle Larson made statement Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway leading 199 laps, sweeping both stages and winning the race. It was an impressive day from the reigning champion who's chance at defending the title evaporated two weeks ago. His victory means only Joey Logano is confirmed among the final four championship contenders, and the remaining protagonists will have to wait another week to learn their fates. Sunday's only real threat to Larson's dominance came in the form of Martin Truex Jr., who led the race with less than 20 laps to go before one final caution and a pit road incident between the pair left Truex backward in his pit box and Larson back in the lead. Both drivers blamed poor visibility for the incident, but it was Truex who was clearly the victim as he lost another chance for a potential win.

The playoff picture remains wide open heading into the final elimination race before the season ending finale. Any of the seven drivers not locked into the championship race could still find their way in, and a minimum of two of those four sports will be secured on points. Denny Hamlin is the first driver outside of the transfer positions, but he is just five points behind William Byron in fourth. Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Chase Briscoe all sit on the outside looking in with the latter two facing almost must-win scenarios to be among the final four. However, Ross Chastain and Chase Elliott won't bee feeling too comfortable either. Stage points will be vital for those looking to advance if the win this week at Martinsville isn't within reach.

UPGRADE

Kyle Larson – Larson showed Sunday that despite not being part of the championship battle, he was still there to run up front and win. He was a rocket in the first stage, stretching out a 10-second advantage as he cruised to the segment win. The dominance continued in the second stage, which he also won under caution. In total he led 199 laps to score his first Homestead win, a week after being hit by Bubba Wallace in Las Vegas. It was a thoroughly dominating performance from the 2021 champion, making a statement about how dangerous he could be if he were still in the playoffs. Larson only has three Martinsville top-10 finishes from 15 starts,  but he did start from pole and led 77 laps in the fall race last season.

Ross Chastain – Another race, another runner-up finish from Chastain. Sunday's second-place finish at Homestead was his third top-five from the last five races and puts Chastain in good position to advance among the final four into the season finale. The goods aren't delivered yet, though. Chastain has been one of the most consistently fast drivers all season, but he will need to piece together one more race this coming week at Martinsville to make it to his goal race. If he does that, he'll still have to do it one more time to win the championship. First up is Martinsville. Chastain was fifth there earlier this year, and doing that again would likely be enough to put him among the championship contenders at Phoenix.

Brad Keselowski – Keselowski scored his first top-five finish since taking on his new role as part owner of his race team. The car has shown bursts of speed all season with Keselowski winning his qualifying race at Daytona, starting on pole at Texas and leading more than 100 laps at Bristol. However, this was the first time the team put together an entire race distance to keep the former champion in the fray at the front of the field. Teammate Chris Buescher was already one of the many winners this season, and all of these signs combined signal a bright future for Keselowski and his new organization. He started in the top 10 at Martinsville in April, and that single-lap speed coupled with the ability to keep the pace up through a race distance could put him in position for a top-10 finish again this week. Keselowski has two prior wins at the short track.

Austin Dillon – Dillon delivered an impressive race, finishing fourth after starting 32nd. He said after the race that it was one of the best cars he has had all season and he had fun driving it through the field. It was his fifth top-five finish of the season, and those types of afternoons can deliver more victories if they come more frequently. Dillon and Richard Childress Racing have experienced a resurgence in 2022 helped by the introduction of the new car, and that success is something they can build upon for next year. The organization will welcome Kyle Busch into its fold, and the experienced input from one of the best in the sport could help to deliver the consistent top finishes both drivers are looking for. Dillon has two more races to build more momentum for the offseason, but as of now, the coming year is looking bright.

Denny Hamlin – Sunday wasn't the best of days for Hamlin, but he kept himself in the championship fight with Martinsville on the horizon. Hamlin was one of just two playoff contenders to finish inside the top 10 on Sunday, but he wasn't pleased with his day and sits fifth in the standings with one race left to decide who will race for the championship at Phoenix. Hamlin said after the race that the car would not turn for him all afternoon and that the team would have to work on short-run speed to truly have a chance. Despite leading four laps, he noted the speed simply wasn't there. Despite being behind the cutoff for the finale, Hamlin should feel relatively confident with Martinsville the deciding race to set the final four. He has five victories at the track and led nearly 400 laps in his last three visits there. He finished 29th in the spring race, however.

DOWNGRADE

Martin Truex Jr. – If anything can go wrong for Truex this season it appears it will. Bad luck bit again when he was hit from behind and spun on the final trip to pit road of the day. Truex had been in position to defend his lead for the win at the time the caution came out, but everything was lost when Larson bumped him entering the pit box. An inspired push to finish sixth was disappointing compared to what the car might have been capable of, though. The opportunities for Truex to visit Victory Lane this season are rapidly dwindling, putting his streak of seven consecutive seasons with at least one win in jeopardy. Next week's race at Phoenix might just be his best remaining shot to keep that alive, however. He has three career wins there but finished 22nd in April.

Chase Briscoe – Briscoe had done extremely well to come from behind in points to advance to the round of eight. The effort put him in position to make an unexpected final four appearance. That opportunity may have evaporated last week, though. Deep into the second stage, Briscoe's car suddenly snapped sideways and he hit the outside wall in his attempt to save it. The steering was damaged from the heavy contact, and the team wasn't able to make the repairs to keep him in the race. He was the first of the playoff drivers to exit the race, making this coming week's trip to Martinsville a make-or-break scenario. It isn't over until it is over, however, and Briscoe has one more chance this week at Martinsville, where he finished ninth in the spring.

Ryan Blaney  – A spin while exiting pit road Sunday ruined what could have been a decent day for Blaney. The Team Penske driver crashed two weeks ago at Las Vegas and then made a mistake and downshifted on his way out of the pits Sunday while in position to capitalize on other playoff contenders troubles. The No. 12 picked up stage points in each of the race's opening segments and was on pace for a top-10 finish before disaster struck. Blaney admitted the spin was completely his fault and blamed himself for losing ground the past two weeks. An 18-point deficit to fourth in the playoff standings is what he will have to overcome this week at Martinsville to be part of the championship fight at Phoenix. Blaney has never won there, but he finished fourth in April and led more than 100 laps on two other occasions. 

Tyler Reddick – Homestead has been a great track for Reddick, but Sunday was not one of those times. Reddick entered the weekend as the odds on favorite, but he struggled with his car through much of the afternoon. With less than 30 laps remaining, he lost control and spun into the inside wall and completely out of the race. Recent NASCAR news reports that Reddick is joining 23XI Racing a year earlier than originally agreed to, after Kurt Busch announced his retirement from full-time competition. Reddick has had a breakout season with three victories and will be aiming for potential championships in future seasons. He still has two opportunities to win before leaving Richard Childress Racing, but a win this week at Martinsville would be a small surprise. Reddick has only one top-10 from five starts at the track.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

AJ Allmendinger – The Homestead weekend produced a pair of third-place finishes for Allmendinger. Saturday he scored his fourth top-five finish in five races in the Xfinity Series. He then landed his fifth top-10 in as many races on Sunday in the Cup Series. While he is focused on the Xfinity Series championship this year, he is spending his Sundays preparing for moving back to full-time Cup competition in 2023. The new car has opened many doors, and Allmendinger is using the opportunity to step through them. He and the team know that development through the winter will define how they perform in 2023, and efforts like Sunday's are highlighting the areas in which to focus. First on their minds this coming week at Martinsville likely will be getting into the final four to race for the Xfinity Series title.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
NASCAR Barometer: Tyler Reddick Dodges Trouble to Win at Talladega
NASCAR Barometer: Tyler Reddick Dodges Trouble to Win at Talladega
F1 and NASCAR DFS: PrizePicks selections for the Chinese Grand Prix and GEICO 500
F1 and NASCAR DFS: PrizePicks selections for the Chinese Grand Prix and GEICO 500
NASCAR DFS: GEICO 500
NASCAR DFS: GEICO 500
GEICO 500 Preview: Superspeedway Battle
GEICO 500 Preview: Superspeedway Battle