Kyle Larson victorious in NASCAR’s return to North Wilkesboro in Truck Series race

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He probably already was in some other context, but now it’s for certain: Kyle Larson is an answer to an interesting trivia question.

Larson won the Truck Series race on Saturday afternoon at North Wilkesboro Speedway — and that makes him the first driver to win a NASCAR race at the historic racetrack since the NASCAR Cup Series left 27 years ago.

Some more trivia?

Larson’s boss at Hendrick Motorsports, Jeff Gordon, won the last time NASCAR was here in September 1996.

“It’s extremely special,” Larson told reporters in the media center at the North Wilkesboro Speedway infield. “I didn’t think that I would ever step foot on this facility to even have the need to look at it, you know? I’ve driven by it a few times. But I never thought that I would race here for sure.”

He added: “I didn’t grow up pavement racing, and I didn’t grow up watching races when I was 4 years old, either. So I didn’t even know how Victory Lane worked. I didn’t even know you ride this elevator up (to the roof of the media center). Honestly, that’s probably the coolest Victory Lane I’ve ever been in. So that was neat. The trophy’s really cool. The surface, you can tell, it’s old. All the legends basically have raced here.

“So to be on the winner’s list is special.”

Larson’s win comes a day before he will run in the headlining NASCAR All-Star Race on Sunday evening. But even though it was in a lower series, it was anything but an easy ride.

Despite having the fastest vehicle on the track — and deftly maneuvering it over the fresh asphalt on the inside apron, racing the track so well it seemed like he grew up on it — Larson, in the No. 7 truck, had to make a few big decisions down the stretch.

The biggest one arrived with 27 laps to go, when a caution came out and Larson elected to file down pit road and take four fresh tires. That put him behind a few trucks that didn’t go down pit road, all of whom hoped that their scuffed tires could last with the handful of laps remaining in the race.

One of those trucks belonged to Bubba Wallace — another Cup driver who had an admirable run on Saturday in the Truck Series. Larson and Wallace fought it out for several laps before Larson eventually cleared Wallace on the outside with 12 to go.

Larson extended his lead over the field thereafter.

A caution and a drama-free overtime restart later, and Larson took the checkered flag and made a Polish victory lap around the track to underline his historic win.

Ty Majewski finished second. Matt DiBenedetto finished third, followed by Carson Hocevar in fourth and Wallace in fifth.

Two other Cup drivers ran in Saturday’s race: Ross Chastain finished ninth, and William Byron finished 11th.

Larson emerged victorious in a race that saw 12 cautions that ate up 81 laps. He was one of five leaders on Saturday. He led for 138 laps. Corey Heim, the race’s pole-sitter, led for 75.

The racetrack that hasn’t been repaved since 1981 seemed to operate a lot like drivers expected it would: It was slippery and bumpy — but it still left room for action and passing and fun.

One prominent example of this could be seen in the day of Zane Smith, who started at the rear of the field after failing pre-race inspection three times before Saturday’s race — and yet still found a way to finish Stage 2 in second place. (His day was foiled by a speeding on pit road penalty in Stage 3 followed by a wreck in the back of the field.)

Another example of this fun, of course, could be seen in Larson’s day.

Where does this win rank in Larson’s decorated professional racing career?

“Even though it’s in the Truck Series, it’s still really special,” Larson said. “To say where it ranks for me, I don’t know. It’s definitely up there. I think if I can win tomorrow night, then it would march it’s way forward for sure.”

Results from North Wilkesboro

Pos.

Car

Driver

Time behind

Last lap

Best speed

1

7

Kyle Larson

--

21.431

108.303

2

98

Ty Majeski

0.974

21.613

106.373

3

25

Matt DiBenedetto

1.398

21.832

105.421

4

42

Carson Hocevar

1.705

21.906

107.363

5

1

Bubba Wallace

2.085

22.322

105.847

6

11

Corey Heim

2.298

22.071

107.981

7

88

Matt Crafton

2.502

22.104

104.876

8

4

Chase Purdy

3.278

22.308

104.118

9

41

Ross Chastain

3.74

22.883

105.106

10

23

Grant Enfinger

3.831

22.422

106.027

11

51

William Byron

3.979

22.969

106.767

12

30

Chris Hacker

4.302

22.677

103.268

13

52

Stewart Friesen

4.498

23.301

104.244

14

43

Daniel Dye

4.535

22.784

103.596

15

32

Bret Holmes

4.681

23.033

105.748

16

61

Christopher Bell

4.725

23.327

105.902

17

20

Kaden Honeycutt

4.855

23.406

105.032

18

15

Tanner Gray

4.972

23.154

102.632

19

45

Lawless Alan

5.059

22.821

103.268

20

13

Hailie Deegan

5.07

22.724

103.496

21

17

Taylor Gray

5.203

22.875

103.268

22

2

Kris Wright

5.336

22.777

102.259

23

35

Jake Garcia

5.549

23.375

103.126

24

9

Colby Howard

5.762

23.193

104.856

25

19

Christian Eckes

7.271

23.126

104.753

26

16

Tyler Ankrum

-2

22.926

103.989

27

12

Spencer Boyd

-2

23.252

102.459

28

22

Josh Williams

-31

108.04

102.361

29

66

Conner Jones

-33

213.429

102.59

30

2

Nick Sanchez

-39

21.474

105.604

31

56

Timmy Hill

-41

24.662

102.951

32

38

Zane Smith

-48

172.397

105.416

33

99

Ben Rhodes

-50

59.177

103.639

34

24

Rajah Caruth

-52

22.41

102.534

35

5

Dean Thompson

-70

22.697

103.292

36

4

Johnny Sauter

-99

22.673

101.948