HAMPTON, Ga. - Kyle Larson looked to have it in the bag on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
He led the most laps on the day, pacing the field for 142 of 325 circuits. He held off challenges from pre-race favorite Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex, Jr.
He won the first segment of the race, and came within just a few laps of winning the second before Harvick got around him with a few laps to go.
It looked like Larson was finally going to snap a 47 race losing streak.
Then came a caution on lap 222, and a subsequent pit stop.
Larson was nabbed for speeding on pit road, putting him 24th on the restart. While he was able to make up some ground, he never got back to the front, and had to settle for a 12th place result in the end.
“Just one of those things. I made a mistake,” Larson said. “I knew it was going to be close. You flash some reds on your dash, you hope you come off pit road and they don’t say anything and half the time it works out in your favor, but today… I was just too fast and got in trouble.”
Larson said he had a good day going until the speeding penalty.
“My car handled really good and then once I got where I had to restart in the back, I was just really tight. Yeah, I mean, clean air is even more important now a days than in the past I think, at least at a track like this. That was a little disappointing, but more so just upset at myself for making a big mistake like that.”
Pole Sitter Almirola Sees Strong Start Derailed By Penalty
Aric Almirola looked very strong at the beginning of Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500 at Atlanta.
After scoring the pole for the event, Almirola powered to the lead the race until lap 35 when a competition caution flew due to the heavy rains that hit the Hampton, Georgia area the night before.
Almirola came off pit road in second to Kyle Larson, and dogged the leader over the next several laps. Almirola held the spot to the end of the first segment of the race on lap 85.
But it came off the rails for Almirola on the subsequent pit stop, when he was hit with a pit road speeding penalty that sent him to the tail end of the field.
Almirola would spend the rest of the race trying to battle his way back into contention. He would finally break back into the top ten, but came home with an eight place result at the end of the day.
“Clean air was a big deal,” Almirola said. “Early in the race our car was really fast out front and when we got behind in second it still felt like we were a second or third place car. Then I made a terrible mistake getting onto pit road and was three-tenths of mile an hour too fast and that is too fast. I had to go to the tail and then my goodness was it a challenge. Traffic, cars make so much downforce and we are all going so fast that it is really hard to make passes until late, late, late in the run.
“So, that is my fault. We had a really fast Smithfield Ford Mustang and it was driver error that made the mistake and that hurt the rest of our day.”
Tough Outing For Hendrick Motorsports
It looks like the woes that plagued Hendrick Motorsports in 2018 are continuing to follow the team into the early stages of 2019.
On Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, none of the cars in the Hendrick stable were ever in contention for the win.
Alex Bowman was the highest finisher among the four teams, turning in a 15th place effort in the No. 88 Chevrolet. Daytona 500 pole winner William Byron finished in 17th, the last car on the lead lap.
Dawsonville, Georgia’s Chase Elliott just outside of the top ten most of the day, but had to settle for a 19th place result, one lap down in the No. 9 Chevrolet.
Seven time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson had the worst day of the bunch, as he finished two laps off the pace in 24th.