NASCAR Crash Course: Playoff hierarchy gets restored at Watkins Glen

Seems a two-week Olympic break was precisely what Hendrick Motorsports wanted to get their NASCAR Cup Collection group again on monitor. Kyle Larson ended a (gasp) five-race winless drought with a victory on Sunday at Watkins Glen. Credit score HMS and street course ace Chase Elliott for stepping up Larson’s potential on this monitor kind. 

“We’re type of spoiled,” mentioned crew chief Cliff Daniels, “That we now have one of the best street course group in-house, and that is the 9 group.” 

Larson additionally famous how vital the group and the efficiency of his automotive are.

“I used to be all the time like a seventh-to a Tenth-place man when it got here to [road courses],” Larson mentioned. “However now I believe that I am in an incredible race automotive, I will run that aggressive tempo the entire time, and my automotive stays with me.” 

It is a career-best fifth victory of the yr for the championship favourite who pulled into a daily season factors tie with Denny Hamlin. Elliott, the reigning Cup champ, completed simply behind him, falling brief after a pre-race inspection failure pressured the No. 9 to begin from the rear. 

That additionally left Elliott with out crew chief Alan Gustafson whereas a mid-race mistake saved him exterior the highest 30 after stage two. However he nonetheless was in a position to cost to second, coming inside three seconds of a 3rd street course win on the yr. A lot for HMS “struggling” after only one top-5 end within the two races earlier than Olympic break. 

Behind them, Joe Gibbs Racing stays in silver medal rivalry, a transparent various ought to HMS falter.

Martin Truex Jr., after a topsy-turvy summer time, led a race-high 34 laps on the Glen and earned a strong third-place outcome. Kyle Busch, scorching sizzling many of the final two months, entered the Canine Days of August ending fourth and stays doggedly decided to chase down HMS. Even Christopher Bell finds himself within the combine, contact with Larson the one barrier to a 3rd runner-up efficiency in 5 races. 

Who’s on the outs because the playoff shuffle returns to normalcy?

Firstly, Fords, dissatisfied after a Cinderella-style upset from Aric Almirola final month in New Hampshire. Crew Penske’s their finest title hope however a 1-2-3 qualifying effort was 1, 2, 3 spins (after which some) through the race. A web place differential of -65 is not what the physician ordered for a group who hasn’t received a race since April at Talladega Superspeedway. Brad Keselowski formally saying his transfer to Roush Fenway Racing subsequent season, then spinning out Joey Logano on the racetrack only makes things more awkward

It units up Larson and firm again in management, rumors of a NASCAR-forced HMS nostril adjustment a distant reminiscence post-Tokyo. Simply know Larson would not purchase into the hype, understanding how Kevin Harvick trounced the sphere in 2020 solely to have a couple of dangerous playoff races preserve him from a second championship.  

That is dangerous information for rivals on the playoff bubble hoping to squeeze by him for a late upset. 

“I have been frightened concerning the playoffs all season lengthy,” Larson defined. “Each stage, I am enthusiastic about it, each race win I am enthusiastic about it … you continue to must execute, however for those who can acquire factors, it will make your life somewhat bit simpler. 

“Nice to get one other 5 factors at present, and hopefully we are able to preserve profitable and preserve stacking them up.” 

Visitors Report

Inexperienced: Race time — Watkins Glen was accomplished in a breezy two hours, 10 minutes and 57 seconds, around the average NBA gametime. For a sport typically criticized for marathon-style, almost four-hour occasions, did not Sunday really feel like good pacing?  

Yellow: Tyler Reddick — That is 5 top-11 finishes within the final six races for the Richard Childress Racing driver holding down the ultimate playoff spot. It is powerful when the competitors is the boss’ grandson however Austin Dillon (15 factors again) will not come near catching Reddick at this fee. Lone concern: will one other driver exterior the highest 16 earn a victory and blow by them each? 

Crimson: Daniel Suarez — The Trackhouse Racing team purchasing Chip Ganassi Racing next season ought to have invigorated their playoff bid. As an alternative? Distractions abound for a group who’s run thirty sixth, thirty sixth, twentieth and thirty first within the 4 races because the announcement.   

Rushing Ticket: Stage racing at street programs — Proper-turn competitors in NASCAR additionally brings with it wild technique. The place and how you can pit for tires and gasoline used to continuously shuffle up the sphere and lift the stakes up entrance. 

However how will you do this when you already know when the stage breaks come? Just one full course warning was unplanned Sunday (within the second stage) which left all crew chiefs on nearly the identical web page. It took a component of shock away and left NASCAR’s race too predictable at a monitor kind that is typically been their finest through the Gen-6 period. 

There must be a greater method to give bonus factors to drivers through the race, growing their aggression all through, with out being pressured to throw the warning flag.  


IndyCar’s first race on the streets of Nashville took on a Demolition Derby type really feel. Simply 5 laps in, Marcus Ericsson’s automotive went airborne in one in every of many wrecks on the day, unable to cease brief with Sebastian Bourdais straight in entrance of him. 

Why convey up this IndyCar debacle right here? Someway, Ericsson got here again with a brand new nostril, used some technique in almost unattainable passing circumstances and wound up profitable this race. What a drive. | NASCAR Crash Course: Playoff hierarchy will get restored at Watkins Glen


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