However, he was unable to capture the checkered flag. In the closing laps, he fought both traffic and worn tires as Ryan Blaney closed in.
With less than 10 laps remaining, Blaney got alongside Larson and was able to move into the race lead. His Penske teammates, who were among the lapped traffic. moved out of the way once he took control of the race.
The victory was the fifth of his career and his first of the 2021 season. In fact, Blaney’s win makes him the sixth different winner in the first six races of the year. Larson was attempting to become the first driver to win multiple races this season.
Instead, he was forced to settle for second and exclaimed on the radio after losing the lead: “I hate Joey Logano, man.” The No. 22 car, who was the last car on the lead lap in 15th, spent several laps holding back Larson as Blaney chipped away at the leader’s margin.
“I definitely would have had a better shot had I gotten by Logano when I got to him,” Larson said after the race. “But, yeah, I mean, it just was hard. My tires were pretty much gone at that point. I was sliding around. I just didn’t get through traffic good at the end.”
The final run of 56 laps proved costly for Larson too, as he had used up his tires early trying to build a gap to the cars behind.
“I was pushing the whole time, every lap really from when I left pit road,” he explained. “I was trying to get out to a big gap. But I never really did. I think I extended it a little bit, but not nearly enough.
“Before the other green flag stops I could exit pit road, I feel like I’d gain a few seconds over the course of like 20 laps. I was hoping it was going to be like that. I thought me having to race him and pass him was what used my tires up the little run before, but after the green flag stop, he was just really good. I couldn’t get out to that gap that I could earlier in the race. Ultimately just had to run my tires too hard to try to get that gap, and I didn’t have anything there at the end.”