Kyle Larson returned to victory lane Sunday afternoon at Watkins Glen after using the final pit stop to his advantage.
On lap 57, Martin Truex Jr. led Larson to pit road for their final stops. Larson used pit road entry to gain ground on Truex, and then a fast pit stop by his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team jumped Larson in front of Truex as they rejoined the race.
Larson led the rest of the way in the Go Bowling at The Glen. His only concern was how quickly teammate Chase Elliott was charging behind him. Elliott pitted for the last time on lap 60 and was 9.7s behind, in third place, with 20 laps to go. However, Elliott could only get to second and was 2.4s behind Larson at the checkered flag.
“Chase was already catching me pretty quick, even with me being in open track, so when I caught those (lap cars) and got into the 38 (Anthony Alfredo) right here, I thought I would look at my mirror, and the 9 would be right on me, but thankfully had a comfortable enough gap to where I could make a mistake like that,” Larson said.
“Hats off to Hendrickcars.com. Thanks for everything you guys do for me, everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, Rick Hendrick, Jeff Gordon, Cliff Daniels, this whole 5 bunch. Another amazing car. I could tell from about lap three after I stopped making a bunch of mistakes that we were going to have a car that could win today.”
Larson led 27 of 90 laps. The victory is his fifth of the season and the 11th of his NASCAR Cup Series career. Larson also won on the Sonoma road course earlier this season.
Behind the Hendrick Motorsports 1-2 finish of Larson and Elliott were Truex, Kyle Busch, and Denny Hamlin. William Byron finished sixth, Christopher Bell was seventh, Kevin Harvick eighth, Chase Briscoe ninth, and Tyler Reddick completed the top 10.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) August 8, 2021
Larson apologized to Bell in his post-race remarks after spinning Bell on lap 55. Bell was running second and Larson third, pressing hard behind Truex in a three-way battle for the lead when Larson locked up the tires getting into Turn 1 and collided with Bell.
“I was inside, but I wasn’t inside enough, and I needed to have the nose a few feet further ahead, and the angles just caught there in the middle, and I ended up turning him,” said Larson. “I hate that. I race with him a lot. He’s probably the one guy that I race with the most in all my racing, so hate to turn him like that. We’ve had incredible races together.”
Ryan Blaney, 14th, was the highest-finishing Team Penske driver in a tough day for the organization. The three Penske drivers started from the top three spots, but pole-sitter Brad Keselowski fought the brakes on his car from the drop of the green flag.
Keselowski spun from the race lead on lap 10, spun near the end of the first stage in Turn 1, and then spun a third time on lap 56 in the first corner and collected Team Penske teammate Joey Logano. Logano, who also battled radio issues the entire race, finished 22nd. Keselowski finished 35th, three laps down.
James Davison was the only driver who retired from the race and finished last.
With the win, Larson is tied with Hamlin for the points lead and regular-season championship. Three races remain before the start of the post-season.
There were seven lead changes amongst seven drivers at Watkins Glen and four cautions.