Martin Truex Jr. held off Kyle Busch en route to his maiden Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title, despite the No. 18’s superior speed. But somebody even faster was lurking in Busch’s mirror for the final 20 laps of Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400, though he never mounted an attack on the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.
Larson revealed Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that, although he had a car that was capable of winning at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he opted to settle for third place so the championship battle could play out in front of him.
“I felt like I had a shot to pass Kyle there down the back stretch, I don’t know with three or four (laps) to go, and felt like if I could’ve got by him there, I could’ve got by Martin,” Larson said. “But like I said, I didn’t want to — I don’t know — I didn’t want to get in the middle of it.”
Anybody who watched the race will tell you that Larson saying he thought he had a “shot” to get by Busch might be the understatement of the season.
On the lap in question, Larson got an excellent run out of Turn 2, allowing him to draft off of Busch and reach the No. 18’s bumper roughly halfway down the back straight. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver could have pulled out of his slipstream and easily passed Busch down the inside of Turn 3, but Larson instead bumped into the back of him before dropping back.
Although Larson made it clear by winning the first two stages that he wanted to end 2017 as strong as he started it, he knew the race ultimately was about crowning a new champion.
“I felt like if I could pass them quickly — before it got to 10 (laps) to go — I felt like they wouldn’t be upset, fans wouldn’t be upset and things like that,” Larson said.
In retrospect, it’s probably a good thing Larson let the two Toyota drivers fight among themselves, otherwise Busch probably would blame him — not his “buddy” Joey Logano — for costing him the title.
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