NASCAR takeaways: Kyle Larson finally breaks through at ‘The Paperclip’

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Kyle Larson admits it stinks at Martinsville Speedway.

“I’ve been out of here mad; I’ve hated this place,” he joked. “I wish it would flood.”

He was able to laugh off those feelings Sunday as he captured the NASCAR Cup Series race at the .526-mile oval shaped like a paper clip.

It was his first win in 17 starts at Martinsville, making it 16 tracks where he has earned his 21 Cup victories.

“The 10 years of fighting that I’ve had here and to get the win that we have now and the job, this was probably the first weekend that I showed up here with a positive attitude,” Larson said.

“It’s such a tough track. That’s why it means a lot.”

Takeaways from Martinsville, where Joey Logano finished second, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Chase Briscoe:

The strategy The key

NASCAR has reduced the downforce generated by Cup Series cars this year by 30 percent on short tracks and road courses in hopes of creating more approvals.

While the race a couple of weeks ago at Richmond provided some optimism, drivers were still challenged at Martinsville.

When Anthony Alfredo spun out with 96 laps to go, several drivers who hadn’t made their last fuel stop were near the front and then another caution with 56 laps to go allowed the drivers to play the strategy of don’t make chests, taking only two new tires. or taking four.

Larson was one of the strongest all day and was one of the first to take two tires. He was able to pass Logano, who had dropped out and finished second despite running in the 20s for much of the day.

Highlights from the NOCO 400 at Martinsville

Highlights from the NOCO 400 at Martinsville

Kyle Larson captured the checkered flag, his first career win at Martinsville.

Briscoe, who led 109 laps and picked up four tires, finished fifth, one spot behind Hamlin, who appeared to be the driver who overcame parts of the second half of the race.

“When we lost the lead, that’s where it all went downhill — it’s really hard to pass,” Briscoe said. “Unfortunate, but everyone knew we were here today.”

Hamlin was perhaps the most frustrated.

“It’s the package or the tires, you can’t pass,” Hamlin said. “Cars that I had 10 laps before, we got a caution, and I couldn’t get past them for second. It’s very difficult… Rarely does the dominant car or the best car win simply because you can’t control the race when you you need

“At least we couldn’t.”

Briscoe runs well injured

Briscoe ran well for the second week in a row after breaking the middle finger on his left hand. He wore a hug so he could hold the wheel.

“I might have to break another finger,” Briscoe said. “It’s been like a turning point for us all year.”

Briscoe will have surgery on Monday. The earliest he could get was the Wednesday before Martinsville and he wanted more time between surgery and a race; he’ll just have to do a couple laps Saturday in qualifying at Talladega (the teams don’t enter) before next Sunday’s race. .

Larson wins NOCO 400

Larson wins NOCO 400

Check out the final laps from Martinsville where Kyle Larson pulled away for the win.

Elliott’s return

Chase Elliott returned after missing six races with a broken leg, and it looked like a problem until the final 50 laps, where he was finally able to make some passes.

He said it had nothing to do with the leg, but the adjustments to his car. He finished 10th on a day where it looked like he would finish around 20th.

‘About what I expected’

'About what I expected'

Chase Elliott speaks after finishing in the top 10 in his first race back from injury.

“We’ve battled every race but the last one,” Elliott said. “We finally got it at the end and I was able to make some passes and do things that I really didn’t think I was going to be able to do, or at least fix it here on the race track.”

Elliott said his leg was stiff but pain-free after the race.

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrassand register at FOX Sports NASCAR Newscast with Bob Pockrass.

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