Kyle Larson wins NASCAR's opening playoff race at Darlington - ESPN

2023-09-04 03:36:41  • 4 mins

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Kyle Larson led the final 55 laps to start his latest NASCAR playoff run with his first career win at the Southern 500 on Sunday night.

The 2021 Cup Series champion automatically advances into the round of 12 with the win at Darlington Raceway, no matter how he does in races at Kansas and Bristol the next two weeks.

"What a great way to start the playoffs," he said.

Larson didn't have the fastest car, just one that got out front at the right time while other contenders fell away.

Denny Hamlin led a race-best 177 of 367 laps and looked headed for the win before he felt vibrations for what he told his crew was a loose wheel and had to pit on consecutive laps.

"We controlled the race until we had some trouble," Hamlin said. "That's just part of it."

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Tyler Reddick led 90 laps, yet lost the lead to Larson coming off pit road. Kevin Harvick, seeking the first victory of his final season, challenged Larson for the lead with less than 60 laps remaining but was penalized when he could not avoid entering the pits moments after they were closed by NASCAR after a caution came out.

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