NorCal Racing

On Pit Road: It was wild weekend for Larson and his crew – Sports – Hendersonville Times-News

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It’s all over social media, and if you haven’t seen it yet, just do a search in any platform with the names Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch.

What you’ll find are several tweets, several Facebook posts and plenty of Instagram stories and YouTube videos on the thrilling end to Sunday’s Monster Energy Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway that came down to a battle between the two Kyles on the final lap.

Kyle Busch had the lead at the white flag, and Larson dove into turn 2, trying to do the slide job on him, eventually running Busch up into the wall. As they went down the backstretch, Larson dove into turn 3 in the lead, but Busch never lifted and got back into him in the middle of the corner. After Busch made contact, he slid back up in the wall and Larson drifted.

With Larson drifting sideways and still keeping control, Busch then went on to victory, as Larson eventually saved it at the end and managed to still finish in second place.

Watching all the action unfold live at the track were two Hendersonville men: Michael Roberts (the rear tire changer for Larson) and Steve Barkdoll (the spotter for the No. 34 car driven by Michael McDowell).

“Being on pit road, you only get to see the cars coming to the frontstretch of the track there. So for each lap, we watch them all on the frontstretch and then run over to the TVs that we have behind the pit boxes,” Roberts, a former North Henderson High baseball and basketball standout, said. “That lap was the longest lap of the race, it seemed. It was a barnburner.

“When they entered turn 2, we knew our Kyle was close. We then ran over to the TVs at the pit boxes and watched him dive down and try to slide out in front. It was crazy. Everyone was cheering. It was just a lot of excitement. Then when he couldn’t complete the slide and Busch hit him, we knew it was over then.”

You would expect some anger and some hostility. Two Bristol races came to mind as I watched the race on Sunday. One was where Dale Earnhardt bumped Terry Labonte out of the way on the final lap for a win, and the other was when Jeff Gordon did the same to Rusty Wallace for the win. In both of those, the drivers who were bumped were angry.

But that wasn’t the case Sunday. Even in the garage after the race, Larson walked up to Busch and congratulated him, and Busch did the same to Larson.

“What’s the most impressive thing in all this is that Larson saved it, and did he finish second? He did… that’s awesome,” Busch said in a post-race interview on TV.

Roberts said Larson never got angry and just said it was “good, hard racing.”

“When Kyle came back to pit road after, he told us, ‘You know, I can’t be mad at him, because I hit him first.’ The thing about Busch and Larson is that they race a lot against each other in the Xfinity Series, too. They love racing each other, and they both have respect for each other,” Roberts said.

Barkdoll was on the roof at the track Sunday, and McDowell was back in the pack behind the leaders. So, Barkdoll was able to see every minute of the Busch-Larson swapping of paint for the lead.

“Our sport was made from racing just like this … the bump and run,” Barkdoll said. “I may make a living in this sport but I am a huge fan of the talented athletes we have in NASCAR.”

Barkdoll has been in the sport for most of his life, and he’s seen many talented drivers come and go. He said he’s found even more respect for the young Larson after Sunday’s finish.

“I truly have even more respect for him after that save and even more so the interview. He’s got so much talent and even more class,” Barkdoll said.

And Larson was the class of the field for Saturday’s Xfinity race, as he dominated for the win.

“In the Xfinity race, whenever we have Kyle Larson in our Xfinity car, we know we always have a chance to dominate. That’s exactly what happened on Saturday,” Roberts said. “We’re getting there in Cup. We’re showing that we have some fast cars, and a great driver. The wins will come.”

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