RICHMOND, Va. -- A stunning first-turn, first-lap incident slowed the start of the Toyota Owners 400, sending rookie polesitter Kyle Larson spinning and leaving both him and Clint Bowyer scratching their heads.
Larson was sent spinning after contact with third-place starter Bowyer, who dipped low to make an inside move for the lead into Turn 1. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver righted his No. 42 Chevrolet and avoided contact with the outside wall and rejoined the 43-car field at the back of the pack.
"What the (expletive)?" radioed an exasperated Larson, starting first for the first time in his young NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career.
Bowyer, a two-time winner at Richmond, relayed confusion to his Michael Waltrip Racing crew but continued without significant damage to his No. 15 Toyota.
"Like I wasn't even there!" Bowyer said over his radio. "Obviously, I didn't mean to do that. I got under him and he just turned back down."
Bowyer's crew replied: "Spotter probably told him he was clear and he wasn't, so let's go. He has no damage. He'll make it back up; he's got a good car."
Bowyer's day went from strange to worse before the midway point. He made a green-flag pit stop in the 97th of 400 laps with a vibrating right-front tire, then a caution flag flew for debris on Lap 99 to catch him two laps down to the leader.
"Imagine that, before anybody else's tires blew out," Bowyer carped to his crew.
On Lap 166, Bowyer's No. 15 was behind the wall after another right-front tire issue triggered a fire. His MWR crew went to work to replace oil and brake lines, burned off in the flames, and said the balance of the race would serve as a virtual test session.
"How in the hell were we that good in practice?" Bowyer radioed as his crew pushed the car to the garage. Bowyer's night would officially be over a little later.
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