WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – A day after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen International, Kyle Larson made it a weekend sweep with a win in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race.
Larson lined up on the inside of Chase Elliott for the lap 86 restart with the Hendrick Motorsports teammates comprising the front row for what was the final restart of the race. The reigning Cup Series champion went wide into the turn one braking zone and that led to him slightly bumping Elliott and grabbing the lead from his teammate. From there, the driver of the No. 5 was able to lead the final five laps and hold off AJ Allmendinger to grab his second win of the season.
PHOTOS: See Larson, No. 5 team celebrate second win of 2022
"I knew that was my only opportunity to get by him," Larson said of the move on the lap 86 restart when he was battling Elliott. "I felt like our cars were pretty equal today. Had a lot of fun after the green flag cycle trying to chase him down. Kind of burnt my stuff up a little bit.
"The restarts kept me in it and kept our team in it. Proud of our guys. Good to get another win here at Watkins Glen and get some more bonus points going into the playoffs, which we haven't had many of those this year. Hopefully this will build on some momentum and we can keep racking up some more points."
When asked further about the contact off of turn one on the final restart, Larson added, "I knew everybody's aggression was going to be higher as each restart went on. I didn't want to put myself in that position again to get passed by AJ (Allmendinger) or Joey (Logano), who were really aggressive behind me.
"It's just part of racing at road courses, especially this year it seems like. Not proud of it, but we did what we had to do."
The victory is the 12th of Larson’s career at Hendrick Motorsports and the 18th of his Cup Series career. The victory also put the 30-year-old driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in victory lane for the second straight season at the 2.45-mile track for his fourth road course win. He now sits second in the point standings with one race to go in the regular season.
Larson is now the eighth multi-time winner this season and the third in the Hendrick Motorsports camp with Elliott (four wins) and William Byron (two wins) are among those with at least two victories in 2022.
Elliott would go on to finish fourth in the race and lead a race-high 29 laps on the day. The top-five finish was his 10th top-five of the season, which is tied with Larson and Ross Chastain for the top mark in the series. Earlier in the race, the driver of the No. 9 Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 locked up the regular season championship to secure 15 additional playoff points.
RELATED: Learn more about Elliott's regular season honors
Alex Bowman took 14th in the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, while Byron finished 22nd in the No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
Wet weather played a role in the start of the race at Watkins Glen as all drivers started on rain tires. The start of the race was single file but the start of stage two and beyond saw double-file restarts. Teams were able to determine their own tire strategy – rain tires or the usual slicks - following the start of the race.
The Watkins Glen win is Hendrick Motorsports’ ninth of the season, which is the best mark in the series through 25 races. The victory is also the organization’s series-best 10th at the Finger Lakes-region road course in New York State and also the fourth straight win at this facility for the team. Jeff Gordon’s four wins are the most for the squad followed by two for Elliott and Larson. Tim Richmond and Ricky Rudd each have one win
Larson’s win is also the 26th road course win for the Rick Hendrick-owned team and that is the most triumphs on serpentine layouts among all Cup teams. Seven different drivers have accounted for the 26 road course wins in team history and those seven winners are the most for a Cup Series team on road courses. Gordon leads the way for the team with nine victories (which are also the most among all drivers) followed by Elliott with seven. Larson now has four, while Richmond had three wins. Jimmie Johnson, Geoff Bodine and Ricky Rudd each tallied one victory.
RELATED: Road course wins for Hendrick Motorsports
Hendrick Motorsports will next be in action on Saturday. Aug. 27 for the regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway. Coverage of that race will begin at 7 p.m. ET on NBC with radio coverage on MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).
Kyle Larson, No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: First
Stage one: Larson started from the second position – behind teammate Chase Elliott based on the starting procedure in the rain. Michael McDowell challenged him for second and the two made slight contact before Larson went back to third. A pass by Tyler Reddick off of turn one dropped Larson back to fourth. On lap five, the defending race winner missed the turn for the bus stop and had to serve a stop-and-go in that area – dropping to sixth. Crew chief Cliff Daniels had Larson on a two-stop strategy and brought him down pit road on lap 18 for four slicks and fuel. The reigning Cup Series champion finished the stage in 29th with the plan to stage out under the stage break.
Stage two: Larson restarted 20th on lap 24 and was picking off spots on his way inside the top 10 on lap 31. On lap 35, he got to ninth with a pass on the “Iceman” Kimi Raikkonen. His team told him he was about fifth among the drivers on the two-stop plan at this point in the race. Larson finished the stage in eighth – picking up three valuable stage points as he looks to grab the second-place position in the point standings before the end of the regular season.
Final stage: Larson told Daniels that the “car is pretty good. Wanders into turns one and six” during the stage break. The driver of the No. 5 stayed out under caution to restart fifth on lap 45. As the caution came out on the next lap, Larson was scored in sixth and he restarted there on lap 48. A great restart saw him pass three cars to get up to third. On lap 57, Larson came to pit road from the third position for fresh tires and fuel. Even though he pitted before Elliott, Larson would cycle out just behind his teammate. He continued to follow in his teammates tire tracks as he moved into the top three on lap 71 and then was in second on lap 72. Larson was cutting into Elliott’s lead and chipping away at his margin but over the new few laps, the No. 9 was able to pull away around traffic on lap 75. When the lap 80 caution came out, Larson was scored in second. During the yellow, Daniels told Larson that “he was better than him (Elliott) in the esses.” The Elk Grove, California, native lined up on the inside in second – next to Elliott – for the lap 82 restart. Larson was staying right on his teammate as they ran one-two before the caution came out on lap 84. The three-time road course winner - entering this event - lined up second on the inside – again next to Elliott – for the lap 86 restart. Larson went wide into the turn one braking zone and up the track - slightly bumping Elliott and taking the lead away from his teammate. AJ Allmendinger was in hot pursuit of Larson for the lead but the No. 5 was able to keep the lead away from the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular. He won for the second time this season to sweep the Watkins Glen weekend and score his second straight Cup Series win at the New York road course.
Chase Elliott, No. 9 Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: Fourth
Stage one: Elliott led the field to green from the pole position. He held the spot for the first three laps before Michael McDowell took the lead from him going up the esses on lap four. The polesitter also lost an additional spot to Tyler Reddick and settled into third. The two-time Watkins Glen winner took the lead back on lap 14 as Reddick pitted. On lap 18, Elliott pitted for slicks and fuel as the team was going with a two-stop strategy. He finished the stage in 23rd but would stay out during the stage break.
Stage two: Elliott restarted 12th on lap 24 as the regular season champion. A lap later, he rejoined in the top 10 and looked to pass Formula One champion Kimi Raikkonen. The 2020 champion kept charging hard and was up to sixth on lap 28. Elliott got past road course specialist Joey Hand for a spot in the top five. He passed Ty Dillon for fourth on lap 34. Crew chief Alan Gustafson told his driver over the radio to go after the stage win and then save what he can so the team could stick to a two-stop strategy. With time running out in the stage and the driver stuck in fourth, he backed down on his pace to save fuel to stick to the strategy. Elliott finished the stage in fourth place.
Final stage: Elliott stayed out during the stage break to start next to Michael McDowell on the front row for the lap 45 restart. When the caution came out on the next lap, he was still scored in second. He again restarted next to McDowell on lap 48. Taking advantage of McDowell getting loose in the carousel section of the track, Elliott outbraked his competitor to take the lead away. He was able to drive away over the next bit. On lap 59, Elliott came down pit road for four tires and fuel and was able to reenter the track ahead of his teammate Kyle Larson. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native rejoined the top five on lap 61 with four cars in front of him that had yet to pit. While the green flag run continued, Elliott was told to manage his fuel and he looked in the top three on lap 68. He worked around Corey LaJoie to take second place on lap 70. Elliott retook the lead from Austin Dillon on lap 72 with Larson now in close pursuit of him. Over the next few laps, the driver of the No. 9 was able to pad his lead and he was the leader at the time of the lap 80 caution. Elliott took the outside to lead the field for lap 82 restart with Larson next to him heading into turn one. He was able to leg out a five-car length lead on his teammate prior to the lap 84 caution. The 26-year-old stayed out again and led the field on the outside to green for the lap 86 restart. As Larson went wide into turn one, he bumped Elliott slightly and took the lead away. Elliott would drop to fifth before recovering on the next lap to take fourth back. When the race was complete, Elliott had finished in fourth.
Alex Bowman, No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 14th
Stage one: Bowman took to the grid from the 11th position and was in the top 10 after one lap. By lap seven, though, the Tucson, Arizona, native was back to his original starting spot. Differing pit strategies at work saw Bowman get back into the top 10 by lap nine. Continuing to run on rain tires, he got up to fourth on lap 13 before several drivers on slicks got by him. Crew chief Greg Ives brought his driver down on lap 18 for four slick tires and fuel. Bowman finished the stage in 31st but would stay out under the stage break.
Stage two: Bowman restarted 22nd on lap 24 and reentered the top 20 on lap 27. On lap 28, the winner of this year’s spring race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway laid down the fastest lap a time of 1:12:36 seconds. When the stage concluded on lap 40, Bowman was scored in 16th.
Final stage: Staying out under yellow, the driver of the No. 48 restarted 12th on lap 45. When the caution came out a lap later, Bowman was scored in 15th and restarted from that position on lap 48. Pitting from the top five on lap 59, the 29-year-old stopped for four tires and fuel in what was the last planned stop of the race for the No. 48 team. Bowman continued to run solid laps and was scored in 19th when the caution came out on lap 80. Under yellow, he stayed out to restart 20th on lap 82 and was scored in 18th at the time of the lap 84 caution. On lap 86, Bowman restarted in 17th and within two laps was back in the top 15. He finished the race in 14th.
William Byron, No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 22nd
Stage one: Byron was set to line up fourth for the 90-lap race but he had to go to the rear due to an electrical issue found after warmups on Sunday morning. After starting at the back, the two-time winner in 2022 was up into the top 15 on lap 10. Crew chief Rudy Fugle reminded his driver that “this is a fuel race, it’s going to be okay” as they continued on rain tires. On lap 18, Byron pitted for four slick tires and fuel. He finished the stage in 34th, one lap down, but the driver of the No. 24 would be in the free pass position to get back on the lead lap at the start of stage two.
Stage two: Back on the lead lap, Byron restarted 34th at the tail end of the field. Getting up to 25th, the driver reported that the car was a “little tight back here.” When lap 37 completed, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native was back in top 20. The 24-year-old completed the stage in 19th.
Final stage: Under the stage break, Byron told the team that “braking isn’t great, okay on rear grip and a little tight in turn seven.” He was told to max save under the yellow as the team stayed out. He restarted 15th on lap 45. When the caution fell on the next lap, Byron – thanks to a great restart - was up to 12th and restarted from that position on lap 48. A few laps in, the driver radioed in “no rear grip.” Even with that, he got up to ninth as final stage pit stops began. On lap 58, Byron pitted from the top 10 for fresh tires, fuel and both an air pressure and chassis adjustment. As the run continued under green, Byron was quiet on the radio in 25th place. When the caution came out on lap 80, he was scored in 21st. Fugle brought Byron to pit road for fresh tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. He restarted 23rd on lap 82 as the first car on new tires and was scored 22nd at the lap 84 caution. On the lap 86 restart, Byron restarted 21st and he would finish the race in 22nd.