Kyle Larson pulled off a rare sweep of the weekend races at Watkins Glen. In the Xfinity race, he was the beneficiary of contact between the leaders that sent them both spinning and allowing Larson through to hold off AJ Allmendinger.
Fast forward to the rain delayed Sunday race and it was Larson once again holding off AJ for the win. But the win wasn’t without some controversy.
The race was delayed because of storms and lightning in the area. NASCAR brought rain tires to the track so starting on a wet track was not an issue. What was an issue was visibility. Once the cars were led through some pace laps, water was still pooling in areas of the track which led NASCAR to bring the cars back onto pit road to wait out the rain a bit more and allow NASCAR time to deal with wet areas. Visibility was not great at the time either so starting the race, even single file, would have been a mess.
Once the cars got rolling again, the rain was moving out and the rain tires did their job admirably. A lot of strategy was going into planning the race and some teams chose Stage wins and other chose pit strategy and track position. Chase Briscoe won Stage 1 and Joey Logano Stage 2 but Logano was able to hold onto track position whereas Briscoe was not.
Article continues after ad. We appreciate your support.
While Michael McDowell led early, Chase Elliott had the car to beat all day and led a race high 29 laps. It took a bold move to wrest the lead away from Elliott and teammate Kyle Larson was the one to do it. With 5 laps remaining, Elliott chose the outside lane which had been working for him but perhaps he forgot just how much of a risk taker Larson is.
As the cars headed into Turn 1, dive bombed Elliott with smoking tires, forcing Elliott wide to avoid wrecking them both. As in the Xfinity race, the next driver up, AJ Allmendinger, was able to get past Elliott and pressure Larson for the remaining few laps. AJ was able to get close but didn’t have enough speed to overtake Larson who was nearly perfect through the turns.
One very pissed off Chase Elliott was seen animatedly chatting with Mr. H after the race and held the company line about “great for HMS into the playoffs, etc” but you could tell that he was pretty heated about the way Larson raced him at the end.
On one hand, the leader ought to expect that he is going to get pushed hard by every other driver, especially on a restart and especially on a road course. And especially when that other driver is Kyle Larson. On the other hand, I think Chase Elliott expected more give and less take from a teammate. Perhaps that is Chase being naïve but you can rest assured that no matter what is said in team meetings this week, Chase Elliott will race Kyle Larson differently here on out.
Good on ya, mate
- Kimi Raikkonen (P27) was racing in the Top 10 before he got caught up in someone else’s mess. That’s pretty good for his first time in a Cup car.
- Kyle Larson (P1) for the win any way attitude
- AJ Allmendinger (P2) two days in a row.
- Joey Logano (P3) led 15 laps and had great race strategy
- Chase Elliott (P4) led the most laps and claimed the regular season title
- Daniel Suarez (P5) had a great race
- Michael McDowell (P6) had a good car and I wonder how he would have handled that last restart
- Tyler Reddick (P7) led a couple of laps and had a decent day overall
- Christopher Bell (P8) was the highest finishing Toyota
- Chris Buescher (P9) ran well and was in the Top 10 most of the day
- Cole Custer (P11) had a nice run and led 7 laps
So you had a bad day
- Todd Gilliland (P38) led 5 laps and broke a rear end in what could have been a career day
- Bubba Wallace (P35) broke his suspension, maybe a bit too hard on the curbing?
- Kyle Busch (P32) spun and was the first car a lap down
- Chase Briscoe (P25) was unable to turn his Stage 1 win into much of anything
- Ryan Blaney (P24) didn’t have a good race but is still ahead of Truex
- Martin Truex, Jr. (P23) heads to Daytona in a must win situation
- Ross Chastain (P21) was partially responsible for the Raikkonen exiting the race early
Next up: Daytona
The last 6 races at Daytona have produced 6 different winners. Austin Cindric won the spring race, and Ryan Blaney is the defending race winner. Prior to that you had Michael McDowell, William Byron, Denny Hamlin and Justin Haley.
Bubba Wallace has finished second in the last two races at Daytona and has three Top Fives in his past 4 races.
Denny Hamlin is almost always good at the superspeedways and this race you can’t rule out Chase Briscoe, Ty Gibbs, Ty Dillon or even Austin Dillon. You could even see Corey LaJoie making a place for himself in the Top 10. Who probably won’t make a place for himself in the Top 10 is Martin Truex, Jr.
Who is your pick for the last race of the regular season? Let your thoughts be known below in the comment section. And check out more of my articles here.
(Photos by Chris Owens/HHP for Chevy Racing)