Kyle Larson is having himself a year in his first season with Hendrick Motorsports in the No. 5 car. On Sunday, in the NASCAR Cup Series Go Bowling at The Glen, Larson led 27 laps and over the closing laps he was able to manage his lead well enough to hold off a late-race charge by his teammate Chase Elliott to win the race.
Was Larson nervous when he approached a massive pack of lapped traffic with around three laps left and Elliott was clawing his way through his lead?
“Yeah, I was. Chase was already catching me pretty quick,” Larson admitted. “Even with me being in an open track. So, when I caught those I think four cars, and got into the 38 right here, I thought I’d look in my mirror and the No. 9 would be right on me. But thankfully, I had enough of a gap where I could make a mistake like that.”
This is Larson’s fifth points-paying win — sixth if you count the NASCAR All-Star Race — of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.
For Elliott, he had to start in the rear of the race after his crew chief Alan Gustafson was ejected for an illegal rear-window air deflector. After rallying through the field, Elliott then dropped to the rear again after an unscheduled green-flag pit stop after he flat-spotted his tires.
After coming back from that, Elliott had a more than 10 second deficit to Larson to attempt to erase over the final 20 laps of the race. Elliott would cut to just under two seconds back as Larson caught lapped traffic with three laps to go, but would end the race 2.430 seconds behind Larson.
Following the race, Elliott put the blame for the loss on his own shoulders.
“Yeah, I just made too many mistakes to get the win, unfortunately,” Elliott explained. “I made it too late in the race. Super proud of our team. It had been an uphill battle all day, but everybody was super prepared coming into the day. Our NAPA team just did a really good job of fighting. If I hadn’t have let them down there, I think we would have had a shot at it.”
Still, it was a hell of a drive for NASCAR’s most popular driver.
Martin Truex Jr. had a solid day, as he led a race-high 34-laps, and scored a Stage win en route to a third-place finish.
Truex’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin came home in fourth and fifth.
William Byron scored a hard-fought sixth-place finish, and Christopher Bell rallied to finish seventh.
For Bell, he went spinning while running second on lap 55 in the race. Larson, who was running third at the time, made contact with Bell, which sent the No. 20 car spinning outside of the top-25.
After the race, Larson apologized to his friend and long-time competitor Bell.
“I want to say, big apology to Christopher Bell,” Larson stated. “I was inside, but I wasn’t inside enough. And I needed to have a nose a few more feet further ahead. And the angles just caught there in the middle and I ended up turning [him]. I hate that. I race him a lot. He’s probably the guy I race the most in my racing, I hate that I turned him.”
Kevin Harvick, Chase Briscoe and Tyler Reddick rounded out the top-10 finishers in the race.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.