Kyle Larson just closes out races, simple as that. Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, Larson scored his sixth victory of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Larson led a race-high 175 laps, and in the closing laps he utilized a little help from his teammate Chase Elliott, who held up Kevin Harvick in retaliation, to score the race win.
“Yeah, that was an awesome race,” Larson said. “It was so cool to be able to race there for the win. Obviously, Harvick and Chase got together and Chase was upset and kind of held him up. It got Harvick having to move around and use his tires up off the bottom. I started getting some diamonds working off 1 and 2 and just got a big run and decided to pull the trigger and slide him.
“Squeezed him a little bit. Then he had me jacked up down the frontstretch. It was wild.”
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Harvick held on to finish second in the race, but he was left seething at the way Elliott, a lapped car, raced him in the closing laps.
“I just told him it was kind of a chicken shit move that he did there at the end,” Harvick stated. “You know we’re racing for the fricking win at Bristol. We’re three wide racing for the lead and he throws a temper tantrum.”
Part of Harvick’s frustration was being retaliated against by a lapped car, but on top of it, Harvick is still searching for his first win of 2021.
Chase Elliott, who had his tire cut down while battling Harvick for the lead in the laps leading up to the finish, said he retaliated because this isn’t the first time Harvick has cut his tire down, in fact, it’s happened twice in the Round of 16 of the Playoffs.
“He did it to me a couple of weeks ago at Darlington, because he was tired of racing me. Whether he did it on purpose, it doesn’t matter. At some point you have to draw the line. I don’t care who he is, or how long he’s been doing it,” Elliott said.
The two drivers had a heated confrontation following the race, and then returned to hash it out some more in the garage before moving the conversation into the No. 9 team hauler.
William Byron finished third, which was good enough to lock him into the Round of 12 in the Playoffs.
Ryan Blaney came home fourth and Alex Bowman finished fifth. Both drivers also locked their spot in the Round of 12 on Saturday night.
Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin and Matt DiBenedetto rounded out the top-10 finishers on the night.
For Hamlin, it looked like he could be heading toward his second win of the season. The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing car led 64 laps and was battling Kyle Larson for the lead with 101 laps left.
Then, Hamlin made contact with Larson and cut the right front tire on his No. 11 car. Hamlin went into the wall and his shot at victory was over.
The 12 drivers who will advance to the Round of 12 in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs are:
- Kyle Larson, 3,059 points
- Martin Truex Jr., 3,029
- Ryan Blaney, 3,024
- Denny Hamlin, 3,024
- Kyle Busch, 3,022
- Chase Elliott, 3,021
- Alex Bowman, 3,015
- William Byron, 3,014
- Joey Logano, 3,013
- Brad Keselowski, 3,008
- Christopher Bell, 3,005
- Kevin Harvick, 3,002
The four drivers who were eliminated from Playoff contention after the Round of 16 were Aric Almirola, Tyler Reddick, Kurt Busch and Michael McDowell.
Almirola showed speed early that would lock him into the Playoffs, but a loose oil line forced him to pit road for repairs, which sent him back to 26th. In the closing laps, Almirola didn’t have the track position he needed to advance.
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.