Kyle Larson’s career season rolls on as scheduled.
Larson’s victory may have been well in hand for the last 20 laps of today’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen, but he actually spent most of the day in a three-way battle with two Joe Gibbs Racing cars that seemed to be just as quick as him. The battle took a turn when he and the No. 20 Toyota of his longtime dirt racing rival Christopher Bell made contact in turn 1, spinning Bell and leaving Larson in a one-on-one battle with leader Martin Truex Jr. Larson cleared Truex, eventually building a significant lead over him and never looking back.
Instead, his biggest threat at the end of the race came from runner-up Chase Elliott, who fight back to second after starting the race from the back of the field. Elliott and his team saw a few setbacks in-race, but he was the fastest driver in the fastest car throughout the day and he was able to climb up to second after passing Truex with nine laps to go. He then got to chasing down Larson from six seconds back, but ran out of time. Elliott ended up about two and a half seconds back of Larson at the end of the day, marking his second runner-up finish on a road course this season.
Elliott, the reigning series champion, has two wins this season. Both came on natural terrain road courses.
Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin completed the top five, while William Byron and Bell in sixth and seventh guaranteed only Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports cars in the top seven on a day dominated by the two blue chip teams. The win for Larson moves him into a tie with Hamlin for the regular season championship lead, a battle that should go down to the wire with three races remaining in that portion of the season.
Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing will get another chance to dominate on a road course when the series makes its debut at the Indianapolis infield course next weekend. Unfortunately for both teams, the playoffs that start next month are ten races long and just one of those rounds takes place on a road course.