Kyle Larson won the XFINITY Series Chase race at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday, taking the lead from Brad Keselowski with 30 laps to go and holding it the rest of the way.
Keselowski had been the class of the field in his No. 22 Team Penske Ford up until that point, leading a race-high 145 laps. And he certainly did not give up after surrendering the lead to the No. 42 Chevrolet of Larson.
With Larson wanting to work the high line, as is typical of the Chip Ganassi Racing driver, he began running into lapped traffic with 16 to go and suddenly Keselowski was right back on Larson’s bumper.
The two dueled for several laps, but Larson eventually prevailed and finally began pulling away over the final nine laps. He ended up beating Keselowski to the checkered flag by 0.385 seconds.
Larson credited Elliott Sadler for helping to push him to the lead on the final restart.
“I love seeing Elliott Sadler behind me on restarts. He’s really good at taking off and pushing,” Larson said. “He helped me win at Pocono earlier this year and he helped me win this one.”
Meanwhile, as the two Sprint Cup regulars fought it out for the win, a race within the race was being waged between the eight drivers remaining in the inaugural XFINITY Chase championship playoffs.
That battle was won by Erik Jones, who finished fourth and as the top-finishing Chaser on the day greatly improved his chances of surviving to the final round of the playoffs. He was followed closed in the finishing order by Daniel Suarez and Sadler, who finished fifth and sixth, respectively.
Suarez now leads the Chase standings with only next Saturday’s race at Phoenix remaining before the current playoff field is cut in half for the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 19. He holds a one-point edge over Sadler, who is in second, a 10-point cushion over Jones in third and a 16-point advantage over Blake Koch in fourth.
Koch, who finished 14th in Saturday’s race, holds a slim one-point edge over Justin Allgaier in the Chase standings after Allgaier finished 10th at Texas.
The other remaining Chasers who have much work to do — and likely will need to win at Phoenix to advance to Homestead — were Darrell Wallace Jr., who scrambled to finish 11th Saturday, Ryan Reed (12th at Texas) and Brendan Gaughan (15th).
“You see the Cup guys that are in those spots to win to get in and I guess I have that title now,” Wallace said. “It’s a long shot for us, but you never know what could happen. … We will continue to fight and go on.”