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Larson Wins Overton’s 300 At Chicagoland

Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 ENEOS Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Overton's 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on June 30, 2018 in Joliet, Illinois.  [Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images]
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 ENEOS Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Overton’s 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on June 30, 2018 in Joliet, Illinois.  [Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images]

 

by Paul Gohde

Kyle Larson overcame 150-degree cockpit heat, a penalty that forced him to start from the rear of the field and race-long pressure from Kevin Harvick, Cole Custer and Cristopher Bell to win Saturday’s Overton’s 300 NASCAR Xfinity race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Larson, who earlier had won the pole from Tyler Reddick, had to move to the rear of the field due to a flat tire that forced his Chip Ganassi team to change tires on the Camaro before the green flag. Showing patience, Larson said he “took my time knowing it was a long race. I did get into the wall slightly a couple of times working my way through the field,” he explained as he was able to move to sixth by the end of Stage 1 and passed Christopher Bell and Harvick for his first taste of the lead on lap 72.

The 25-year-old Californian stayed in the top five for most of the race, leading 80 total laps after taking the lead for good from a persistent Harvick and a surprising Bell on lap 181. He had dropped to third by a lap 121 restart, first getting past Bell and then filling Harvick’s mirrors before using the upper groove to sweep past the poor handling 98.

“I was able to stay close to Kevin on the bottom. I felt if the race stayed green I would eat him up. I moved to the top and passed Kevin for good as he seemed to be having problems,” the eventual winner said as he stretched his lead to more than 8 seconds at the checkered flag.

Harvick likely knew his fate after being passed for the lead and blamed poor handling on his Ford for the problem. “I couldn’t run the top and didn’t have the grip to get through the corners. It wouldn’t turn in the corners.”

Cole Custer, who also started the race from the rear due to the same issue that penalized Larson, quietly worked his way back to third despite a slow stop after sliding out of his pit box on a lap 166 green flag stop. “I’ve never made that mistake before,” said the Stewart Haas Ford driver. “I had the best car out there (before the miscue). It’s disappointing when you don’t win. We were knocking on the door.”

Bell also lost his chance for a strong finish when he was penalized for exiting the pits too fast, also on that fateful lap 166 stop. He fought back to finish 12th and was the highest-placed rookie.

Custer moved into the Xfinity Series point lead, just three markers ahead of Daniel Hemric who finished fifth behind Daniel Suarez.

“Yeah, it was pretty hot out there,” said the sweat-soaked winner who scored his 10th career Xfinity win. “We were bad in practice on Friday, so it’s cool to win.” Perhaps the only “cool” thing of this very hot day.

 

 

 

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Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.

Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.

The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.

Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.

He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.

Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”