NorCal Racing

NASCAR Cup Series at Chicagoland Speedway — Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch bump at end of Chicago race

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JOLIET, Ill. — Kyle Larson just won’t do it. Doesn’t have the stomach for it. He did it once in a late-model race five years ago at Daytona and got ripped for it.

Larson has a code that he just won’t drive through someone for the victory in a stock car. It might be why he has five career NASCAR Cup Series wins and 18 second-place finishes. He’s OK with that, wanting to respect the sport over stockpiling trophies.

It’s definitely why he doesn’t have a win this year, as Sunday provided the opportunity for him to show he doesn’t care how he wins as long as he wins. Sure, he roughed up Kyle Busch on the final lap at Chicagoland Speedway as they banged doors, allowing Larson to take the lead, but he gave Busch enough of an opportunity to keep racing.

The result: Larson led for only seconds as Busch got into the back of Larson in Turn 3. Larson did a half-spin and they finished 1-2, with Busch being the 1 and Larson being the 2.

Larson didn’t throw his steering wheel. He didn’t act despondent. A guy who loves to race and battle gave everything he had and came up 1.8 seconds short, while both his and Busch’s cars had damage from the thrilling last-lap fray.

Larson would rather be part of a good, hard respectable battle for the win rather than one that would pit fans in a debate of whether everything is fair on the final lap and whether a driver would wreck even his mother to win a race.

“I moved him first,” Larson said. “I can’t be too upset about the move into [Turn] 3. I opened the door. I waved the green flag to run into each other.

“That was just a fun finish.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver certainly had disappointment running through his veins and wouldn’t second-guess the move. In reality, Larson said, he might have hit Busch too hard, although the plan was to bang doors with Busch.

“I did plan to get in there and get into the side of him and slow him down, which I did,” Larson said. “I really didn’t want to get clear of him before [Turn] 3 because I knew that would give him the opportunity to do that.

“I wanted him to hang on my right side and we would just drag race and who knows, if I could have nailed the bottom [lane], I could have maybe won.”

Instead, Busch was in prime position to execute a bump-and-run, which sent Larson into the spin and Busch toward the wall, where Busch was able to gather it up to grab the victory as Larson didn’t get straightened out until he hit the apron.

“I did think I could save it,” Larson said about the contact. “I was hoping I could just slide a little bit less, grab third gear and get going. It just started spinning a little too much. … It was pretty wild.

“It would have been awesome to grab gears like that and win.”

Larson’s plan to rough up Busch a little bit was a surprise. The dirt-track superstar would have liked to have done a slide job in front of Busch, but Larson didn’t think he could accomplish the move, that Busch would have just ducked underneath and pass him.

“I thought he was going to pull a slide job,” Busch said. “When he didn’t try to do a slider, then I wasn’t sure what his next move was going to be. I was like, ‘Surely he’s not going to drive into the side of me.’

“Then he did. After that point, all games are off right now — all bets are off. It’s wide open here from here on out back to the checkered flag.”

Busch indicated he committed to a move after getting bumped by Larson.

“Getting into Turn 3, it was just about following him in there and seeing if I couldn’t cut left under him, if he would slide up,” Busch said. “He didn’t slide up. I drove off in there as far as I could, got into the back of him.

“Once I did that, he was kind of sliding loose, I was trying to get back to the start/finish line after that.”

Busch won for the fifth time this year, including a previous bump-and-run on Larson for the win at Bristol. Larson, likely safe in the playoffs at ninth in the Cup standings, hasn’t won.

Larson had reason to be desperate and scoffed at any notion that he didn’t do enough to win.

“I think I showed there that I did everything I could there to win,” Larson said. “Our team did good. We’ve just got to be a little bit better and it will pay off and we will win.”

The payoff for Sunday? More respect and another silver medal, with Busch grabbing all the glory.

“That was an awesome finish,” Larson said. “I hope the fans, even if they are upset with him, enjoyed it.”

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