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Larson Wins Bristol; Elliott, Harvick Explode

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 19 2021

Chase Elliott lays into Kevin Harvick after Saturday night’s Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Kyle Larson emerged victorious for the sixth time this season in the battle of Bristol, but the war between Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick that erupted in the Bass Pro Shops Night Race is nowhere near having a peace treaty signed.

It began two weeks ago at Darlington when Harvick collided with Elliott, cutting a tire on his Chevrolet. It boiled over on lap 465 of Saturday night’s 500-lap race when Harvick bumped Elliott while challenging for the lead and cut the Georgia driver’s left-front tire. It then erupted on pit road following the event.

“I just told him it was kind of a chicken-shit move he did there at the end,” said an angry Harvick, who slammed his helmet onto the roof of his car after being separated from Elliott.

“We’re racing for the frickin’ win at Bristol, three-wide, he throws a temper tantrum. I was just trying to get the lead and race him hard. Then he pulls up in front of me and just sits there until I lose the whole lead.

“Just hate … to lose a race like that. … They (fans) can boo all they want. I don’t care. … I couldn’t run my line. So, G.. damn, I’m ready to rip somebody’s frickin’ head off!”

Elliott’s anger matched Harvick’s. He felt Harvick cost him his shot at victory, so Elliott returned the favor by holding up the Ford driver until Larson could catch him and pass him for his 0.227-second victory. Elliott said he just ran his line, but noted the maneuver Harvick executed was “something he does all the time.”

Kyle Larson took advantage of an on-track tiff between Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick to win at Bristol on Saturday night. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

“He runs into your left side constantly at other tracks,” said Elliott, who led three times for 129 laps. “Sometimes it does cut down your left side, other times it doesn’t. Did it to me in Darlington a few weeks ago because he was tired of racing me. Whether he did it on purpose doesn’t matter. At some point you have to draw a line. I don’t care who he is or how long he’s been doing it, I’m going to stand up for myself and my team and we’re going down the road.”

After leaving pit road, the two walked into Elliott’s team hauler, but don’t expect that conversation to end the dispute.

Larson admitted in his post-race interview that Elliott’s actions helped him record his first victory at the tough half-mile track.

“Chase was obviously upset with the contact, was just making things kind of tough on him,” Larson said. “It kept me in the game (and I) was able to make some moves on him there late.”

Larson took the lead for good with four laps remaining in the 500-lap race.

Even though the fireworks flew between Elliott and Harvick, the series defending champion wasn’t the only driver that experienced a cut tire while dueling a fellow competitor. On lap 400, Larson and Hamlin were fighting for the lead when a collision between the two cut Hamlin’s right-front tire, sending him into the wall and damaging Larson’s left rear.

“(I) thought I was going to be good there again in the last run, but I didn’t have the front turn that I needed,” said Larson, who was the race’s top lap leader, setting the pace on seven occasions for 175 laps. “(I) just tried staying patient with everything, tried not to overheat my tires, abuse them, just give myself a shot.”

Crew chief Cliff Daniels said there was “quite a bit of discussion” during the eighth and final caution period on whether they should pit Larson to repair the sheet metal on his Chevrolet.

“We spent a lot of time under that yellow looking at it every time the car came by,” Daniels said. “Our car chief, Jesse Saunders, was looking at it through binoculars, trying to take as many pictures as we could, taking a look at the sheet metal. The best we could tell, we weren’t going to have a big issue once we went green again. 

“I think guys must have been knocking off valve stems. I would think that is why we had so many flat tires. I knew our tire was still up, so the valve stem was still intact. The best we could tell the tire was still OK and the sheet metal was clear. Certainly, a little bit of a gamble, but one at that point we really kind of had to take.”

  Even though Elliott and Harvick left Bristol angry, Tyler Reddick, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch and Michael McDowell felt only disappointment at failing to advance into the Round of 12. Reddick and Almirola both missed the cut-off by two points, while Busch came up six points short.

The second playoff round begins next weekend at Las Vegas. In addition to Larson, Hamlin, Harvick and Elliott, the other eight drivers still in title contention are William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell. 

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NASCAR Cup Series Race – 61st Annual Bass Pro Shops Night Race

Bristol Motor Speedway

Bristol, Tennessee

Saturday, September 18, 2021

  1. (5)  Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 500.
  2. (8)  Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 500.
  3. (14)  William Byron (P), Chevrolet, 500.
  4. (7)  Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 500.
  5. (11)  Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, 500.
  6. (10)  Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 500.
  7. (1)  Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 500.
  8. (22)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 500.
  9. (2)  Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 500.
  10. (19)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 500.
  11. (3)  Joey Logano (P), Ford, 500.
  12. (13)  Tyler Reddick (P), Chevrolet, 500.
  13. (20)  Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 500.
  14. (17)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 500.
  15. (18)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 500.
  16. (28)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 500.
  17. (27)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 500.
  18. (12)  Aric Almirola (P), Ford, 500.
  19. (15)  Kurt Busch (P), Chevrolet, 500.
  20. (23)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 499.
  21. (9)  Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 499.
  22. (21)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 498.
  23. (25)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 498.
  24. (16)  Michael McDowell (P), Ford, 498.
  25. (4)  Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 497.
  26. (31)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 497.
  27. (35)  JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 495.
  28. (26)  Cole Custer, Ford, 494.
  29. (6)  Christopher Bell (P), Toyota, 493.
  30. (36)  Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 487.
  31. (33)  Josh Bilicki, Ford, 482.
  32. (38)  David Starr(i), Toyota, 482.
  33. (37)  James Davison, Chevrolet, 474.
  34. (34)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, Accident, 375.
  35. (30)  Anthony Alfredo #, Ford, Accident, 313.
  36. (29)  Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 216.
  37. (32)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, Accident, 215.
  38. (24)  Ryan Newman, Ford, DVP, 177.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  87.409 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 2 Mins, 56 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.227 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  8 for 71 laps.

Lead Changes:  23 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   M. Truex Jr. (P) 1-5;C. Elliott (P) 6-43;B. Keselowski (P) 44;C. Elliott (P) 45-83;K. Larson (P) 84-90;D. Hamlin (P) 91-121;K. Larson (P) 122;D. Hamlin (P) 123-129;B. Keselowski (P) 130;K. Larson (P) 131-137;B. Keselowski (P) 138-144;D. Hamlin (P) 145-171;R. Blaney (P) 172;K. Larson (P) 173-253;B. Keselowski (P) 254;K. Harvick (P) 255-264;R. Blaney (P) 265-307;K. Harvick (P) 308-336;K. Larson (P) 337-365;R. Blaney (P) 366;K. Larson (P) 367-412;C. Elliott (P) 413-464;K. Harvick (P) 465-496;K. Larson (P) 497-500.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Larson (P) 7 times for 175 laps; Chase Elliott (P) 3 times for 129 laps; Kevin Harvick (P) 3 times for 71 laps; Denny Hamlin (P) 3 times for 65 laps; Ryan Blaney (P) 3 times for 45 laps; Brad Keselowski (P) 4 times for 10 laps; Martin Truex Jr. (P) 1 time for 5 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 11,5,9,2,12,4,18,20,19,24

Stage #2 Top Ten: 5,11,2,24,9,4,12,20,8,18

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 19 2021
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