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NASCAR Cup: Kyle Larson wins at Bristol

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE – SEPTEMBER 18: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Valvoline Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 18, 2021 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

After Joe Gibbs Racing swept the first two races of the first three-race round of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, regular series champion and season wins leader Kyle Larson added a sixth win to his 2021 tally when he took the checkered flag in the Bass Pro Shops Night Race on Saturday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

“Yeah, that was an awesome race. It was so cool to be able to race there for the win,” Larson said. “Obviously, (Kevin) Harvick and Chase (Elliott) got together. Chase was upset. Kind of held him up. It got Harvick having to move around and use his tires up off the bottom. I started to get some dive-ins working off of two, got a big run, decided to pull the trigger, slide him, squeeze him a little bit. Then, he had me jacked up down the frontstretch. It was wild. But had my hands full. Thanks to Valvoline, everybody that helps on this Hendrick Motorsports car. Beautiful paint scheme. Two wins with it. Thanks to Valvoline. Thanks, Mr. H (team owner Rick Hendrick). Wish you were here. So cool.”

Larson led a race-high 175 laps in the 500-lap race, taking his race-winning lead by passing Kevin Harvick on lap 497.  Harvick finished second after 71 laps led and, after the race, exchanged words and shoves with one of Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott.

“I told him it was kind of a chicken @#@# move that he did there at the end,” Harvick said of Elliott. “We’re racing for the frickin win at Bristol. We’re three-wide in the middle, and he throws a temper tantrum, like I was just trying to get the lead and race him hard. Then, he pulls up in front of me and just sits there until I lose the whole lead, so I just hate it for our Subway Ford Mustang team to be able to lose a race like that. I watched him let the 24 (William Byron) go by and, then, anytime you run into him, it’s a problem.  They can boo all they want. I don’t care.”

Harvick took the lead from Elliott after contact between the two drivers on lap 465. Elliott, meanwhile, made an unscheduled pit stop for a cut tire. As a result, Elliott wound up with a 25th-place finish after leading 129 laps.

“Well, it’s something he does all the time,” Elliott said of Harvick. “He runs into your left side constantly at other tracks. Sometimes it does cut down your left side. Other times it doesn’t. He did it to me at Darlington a few weeks ago, because he was tired of racing with me. Whether he did it on purpose, it doesn’t matter. At some point, you’ve got to draw the line. I don’t care who he is or how long he’s been doing it. I’m going to stand up for myself and my team and we’ll go on down the road.”

All three of Elliott’s teammates finished in the top-five at Bristol. In addition to Larson, William Byron finished third and Alex Bowman fifth. With their top-fives, Byron and Bowman avoided playoff elimination. Byron barely advanced to the next round, garnering the 12th and final advancing position by two points over both Aric Almirola and Tyler Reddick.

Kurt Busch and Michael McDowell also were denied advancement to the playoff round of 12.

Ryan Blaney was the other top-five Bristol race finisher in fourth.

Denny Hamlin won the first 125-lap stage of the race. Elliott took the lead from pole sitter and Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. on lap six and Elliott and Larson both led laps before Hamlin took the lead from Larson on lap 91.

Hamlin and Brad Keselowski, then, led laps early in the second stage before Larson got off pit road first during a caution for an incident involving Ryan Newman, Daniel Suarez and Cole Custer on lap 168. That caution was the first of five for an on-track incident. Larson went on the win stage two on lap 250, the halfway point of the race.

Harvick and Blaney led early in the second half of the race after being among a group of drivers who pitted during a caution late in stage two and, then, stayed out during the yellow flag that followed the second stage. Larson retook the lead from Harvick on lap 337.

Larson maintained his lead through a lap-400 battle with Hamlin that ended with Hamlin making contact with the wall and bringing out the eighth and final caution of the race. Larson lost the lead to  Elliott, though, a few laps later on lap 413.

Keselowski finished sixth, Truex seventh, and Erik Jones was eighth. Hamlin ninth after a late-race flat tire, and Matt DiBenedetto rounded out the top-10.

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Posted by on September 19, 2021. Filed under Breaking News,Cup Series,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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