Kyle Larson wins Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway

Carol D'Agostino for  

What a difference a day makes. As race fans arrived for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway, the sun was shining and there was no chance of rain, a welcome change from Saturday where rain cancelled practice and qualifying for both the NASCAR Xfinity and Cup Series.

Race day couldn’t have been brighter for Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 car, who pulled his Chevy car into Victory Lane, capping off an eventful week for Hendrick Motorsports. It was Larson’s first win of the season, and the first win for Kevin Meendering, his interim crew chief, subbing for Cliff Daniels who is serving out his four race suspension connected to the hood louver issue from Phoenix.

"It's a big accomplishment, but this isn't about me, this is about this team. They've got a great group of guys here. They got a great leader in Cliff, and I was just happy to kind of fill a gap and help those guys out in a tough situation," said Meendering. "But this is a testament to all the hard work from those guys on that team and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports," he added.

But the significance of the win doesn’t there. Today would also have been Ricky Hendrick’s 43rd birthday and the No. 5 was running Ricky’s paint scheme. 

For the first half of the race it appeared likely it would be Larson's teammate William Byron who would be the race winner. Byron won Stage One and ultimately led 177 laps. Then at Lap 208, Christopher Bell used the back bumper of Harrison Burton, who was trying to stay on the lead lap, to power by William Byron.

Not to be left behind as an afterthought, Denny Hamlin quietly made his way up front during the closing laps of Stage Two, making a strong recovery after an early penalty for speeding on pit road, Hamlin won Stage Two after giving the field a primer on how to race at Richmond Raceway.

Two other Richmond masters, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick, held their own with Hamlin, Byron, and Byron's teammate Alex Bowman at the beginning of the final stage. It ultimately was a battle royale between the Chevys with short-run speed and the Toyotas with long-run speed. Caution flew for Noah Gragson's spin on Lap 305, setting Truex Jr. up to take he lead from Byron after the restart at Lap 309, while Hamlin and Bell fell back, as did Kevin Harvick in his Ford. 

After green lap pit stops, Byron retook the lead with Martin Truex Jr. in his rearview mirror. Then at Lap 373, Tyler Reddick got loose under Harvick's No. 4 car and spun. Kyle Larson came out in front of Josh Berry in the subsequent pit stops. Martin Truex Jr. exited third, with William Byron and Kevin Harvick rounding out the Top 5.

At the restart Bell made an abrupt move and collided with William Byron, who spun. Byron ultimately finished 24th. At the next restart, it was Kyle Larson and Josh Berry in the front row, but Berry couldn’t get by Larson. Berry earned a career best second-place finish.

Carol D'Agostino for Skirts and Scuffs

Kyle Larson wins Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway Kyle Larson wins Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway Reviewed by Carol D'Agostino on Sunday, April 02, 2023 Rating: 5