Kyle Larson won again — that’s all he does these days — this time in the Cup debut at Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tenn., where Hendrick Motorsports’ new star drove to Victory Lane for the fourth consecutive week.
Larson led 264 of 300 laps Sunday for his third consecutive win in a points race, fourth straight including last weekend’s All-Star race. That win at Texas Motor Speedway kicked off a stretch of four wins in seven days as Larson collected the $1 million All-Star payout then traveled to Ohio to pocket the $6,000 purses in two sprint car races.
Rick Hendrick’s cars have been to Victory Lane six consecutive weeks dating to Alex Bowman’s May 9 win at Dover.
Nashville Superspeedway re-opened this weekend after a decade of dormancy to host its first ever Cup race. Traffic issues leading into the speedway delayed the start the race by 10 minutes.
NASCAR asked television partner NBC Sports to push back its first Cup race of the season to allow for more fans to get seated before the race began. NBCSN had an NHL playoff game scheduled Sunday night and could only afford the 10-minute delay.
NASCAR’s top series last raced in the Nashville-area 37 years ago at the Fairgrounds, where Geoff Bodine won in the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick.
To celebrate his win in his new No. 5, Larson did burnouts along the entire Nashville front stretch to put on a show for the sold-out crowd of 40,000.
“There’s a lot of fans out there and we had enough rubber and enough fuel there to do a good burnout at the end,” Larson said.
Larson’s fourth Cup points win of the season was the first with sponsor Valvoline on his hood, which marked just the third time in 17 races so far this season that Larson featured a non-Hendrick company on his car. He’s largely unsponsored after missing all but four races last season during a NASCAR suspension for using a racial slur while participating in an online race.
Ross Chastain finished second for Chip Ganassi Racing and Hendrick driver William Byron was third in a Chevrolet podium sweep.
“My goodness, we don’t have anything for those Chevrolets right now,” said Ford driver Aric Almirola, who finished fourth after starting from the pole.
IndyCar — Alex Palou sailed past Josef Newgarden on a restart with two laps remaining to win at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., and move back atop the IndyCar points standings. It marked the third consecutive race a Team Penske car dominated but did not win because late cautions altered what seemed to be certain victories.
Palou won by 1.9106 seconds over Colton Herta, with Will Power third. Newgarden had a mechanical problem with his shift and plummeted from the lead to a 21st-place finish.
“We started struggling compared to Josef,” Palou said. “He was super fast. He was flying. But by the end I was able to be there with him, so I think we had the faster car at the end. I knew that we had a bit better straight-line speed.”
The victory gives Palou a 28-point lead over Pato O’Ward, who finished ninth in Sunday’s race. Palou entered the weekend trailing O’Ward by one point.
“There’s a lot of movement on points,” Palou said. “It’s going to keep it going until the last race, I think.”
Formula 1 — Championship leader Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap to win the French Grand Prix in Le Castellet and extend his lead over his title rival to 12 points.
Verstappen used the DRS system to catch Hamilton on Lap 52 and pass him on the inside before zooming off to clinch his third win of the season and 13th of his career. A bonus point for the fastest lap made it a great day for Verstappen’s Red Bull team, which had never beaten Mercedes on the Paul Ricard circuit in southern France.
It’s proving a remarkable contest between Hamilton, the 36-year-old defending champion, and Verstappen, the 23-year-old would-be usurper to his crown. A much more exciting one, too, considering Hamilton crushed the competition last year to win by 124 points, by 87 points in 2019, and by 88 in 2018. It’s looking far, far closer this year.
A bonus point for the fastest lap made it a great day for Red Bull, which had never beaten Mercedes on the Paul Ricard circuit in southern France.