He appeared to have a playoff victory in hand that would lock him into the semifinal round – a significant step toward winning his second series championship.
Hendrick’s first Cup win came in 1984 with driver Geoffrey Bodine, who also drove the No. 5 Chevrolet, the same as Larson.
But one lap after a late-race restart, Bubba Wallace was able to keep pace with Larson and remained side-by-side with him as they entered Turn 2. The two did not touch, but the back end of Larson’s car suddenly got loose, he spun and hit the wall.
While Larson was able to get his car back to pit road, the damage was not repairable, and he retired from the race with a 31st place finish.
“Yeah, (Wallace) did a good job to stay with me during the restart between (Turns) 3 and 4 and all that. I tried to open up and have my shape into (Turn) 1,” Larson said.
“With these cars, you normally don’t get sucked around like that, so I wasn’t really expecting that and thought that I would be fine. I just lost it and crashed.”
Until Sunday, Larson had been the most consistent driver in the playoffs, with no finish worse than fourth in the first three races.
However, the poor Texas finish dropped Larson into a precarious position for the remainder of the Round of 12. He is one of four drivers lowest in points without a win (in the round) with two races left before the next eliminations.
Also disappointing for Larson was the fact his HMS teammate, William Byron, went on to win the race and capture win No. 300 for Hendrick.
“Pretty bummed, but happy for William and happy for Mr. Hendrick for 300 wins, which is incredible,” Larson said. “So, great night overall for our organization, and great for William and our team, too.
“We had a super-fast Chevy. We have had a fast car for every race in the playoffs to start, so we will go to Talladega and try to have a good day and have some good fortune.”