Kyle Larson applauds Ty Gibbs’ talent at Road America

Jennifer Fisher | NASCAR Digital Media

PLYMOUTH, Wis. — “Nice try, Kyle!”

Whether the fan means it honestly or in mockery, shouting as soon as Kyle Larson left his #17 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy, the exclamation is at least a true statement.

Larson finished P2 in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Road America, 0.858 seconds behind winner Ty Gibbs in overtime. Larson still won both stages and led a record 31 of 48 laps, including the penultimate lap. But when the white flag was waved, Gibbs pushed his No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota into the shadow of Larson’s car.

“(Gibbs) did a good job getting me to change angles in the first few corners,” Larson said. “Then I went over (Turn) 3 just a bit and couldn’t get the wheel to spin like I needed to, and yeah, he got away with it.”

RELATED: Watch the Ty Gibbs-Kyle Larson Final Battle

Without any unfair contact.

“The most important thing was winning,” Gibbs said. “But luckily it just got wide enough for me to get around it.”

ELKHART LAKE, WISCONSIN - JULY 02: #54 Monster Energy Toyota driver Ty Gibbs and #17 Chevrolet driver Kyle Larson race during the NASCAR Xfinity Henry 180 Series at Road America on July 02, 2022 in Elkhart Lake, Wis.  (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) |  Getty Images
Logan Riely | Getty Images

Gibbs held off the defending Cup Series champion in the next nine rounds. The victory marked the No. 4 this season and No. 8 overall for the 19-year-old, who is ten years younger than his second. Gibbs is the Xfinity Series championship favorite, second in the points standings but holding the most wins in the garage.

Larson, meanwhile, was making his first Xfinity Series start since 2018, when he won four of his six part-time races that year. He has 12 career wins at the second-tier level, paired with 109 starts now.

“I wasn’t thinking about his championship at all while I was racing,” Larson said. “You know, he passed me clear, so I didn’t feel like it would have been right for me to go and put him away. When he protected in (Turn) 12, I “I could have easily pushed him there and won the race. But I didn’t think that would be the right way to win.

RELATED: Road America’s Xfinity Series Results

Gibbs was in the lead for just five laps throughout the HENRY 180. After starting in second, he held the position until Stage 1 on Lap 10, then fell back on Stage 22 on Stage 2 on lap 20. The race went three laps over the regulations. Gibbs fired alongside Larson on the final restart.

“I just want to learn and be the best driver I can be,” Gibbs said, “and I want to be the best driver ever.”

To be the best, of course, he has to beat the best. Continuously.

Larson has two more Xfinity Series starts this season with JR Motorsports – Watkins Glen International (August 20) and Darlington Raceway (September 3). And he’s already looking forward to a rematch with Gibbs.

“He’s obviously very good,” Larson said. “Looking at it, I feel like you can tell a good race car driver from the road courses and he’s always raced very well on the road courses since he started, so I knew that he was going to be really good. Hopefully I can get him to run on an oval.

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