Kyle Larson wins at Bristol as Playoff Round of 12 is set

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 18: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Valvoline Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 18, 2021 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

As is normally the case, Bristol Motor Speedway delivered yet again. Kyle Larson took the lead from Kevin Harvick with 4 laps to go to win the NASCAR Cup series night race on the .533 bullring Saturday night.

Larson was part of a three-car breakaway that included Harvick and Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott with 50 laps to go.

Elliott was leading with Harvick stalking him in heavy lapped traffic as the laps wound down. Harvick caught Elliott on lap 469, the two cars got together, and Elliott’s Chevy was sent into the outside wall. Shortly after the contact a flat tire sent Elliott to the pits and out of contention for the win.

Larson moved up to second and Elliott, who returned to the race a lap down, first showed his displeasure with Harvick by bumping his Ford, then running just ahead of Harvick whose last win came at Bristol a year ago.

Larson was able to get to Harvick, took the lead and held on to win by .227 of a second. It was his sixth win of 2021 and his first at Bristol.

“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. Chase was upset. Kind of held him up. It got Harvick having to move around and use his tires up off the bottom.”

Behind Harvick, William Byron was third with Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman rounding out the top five.

Four drivers were eliminated from the 16 driver Playoff field. With Bowman’s fifth place finish, Aric Almirola was eliminated. The two swapped the final cutoff spot during much of the race with Almirola overcoming a leaking oil line early in the race that forced him to pit. He ran inside the top 10 at one point and was 1 marker above the cutoff line. But Bowman rallied late, and Almirola faded to finish 18th.

Tyler Reddick had a loose wheel early in the race, then fell a lap down on Reddick on lap 356 and finished 12th and was eliminated. Kurt Busch never had speed to contend, and he was eliminated with a 19th place run. Michael McDowell was the fourth driver eliminated.

After the race Elliott and Harvick confronted each other on pit road. Although heated words were exchanged the drivers kept their hands to themselves.

“I told him it was kind of a chicken shit move that he did there at the end,” Harvick said.  “We’re racing for the frickin win at Bristol.  We’re three-wide in the middle and he throws a temper tantrum, like 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.”

“At some point you have to draw a line,” Elliott said. “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.”

They later cooled down and went to the No. 9 hauler for a further conversation.

Brad Keselowski was sixth, polesitter Martin Truex Jr. seventh, and Erik Jones was eighth.

Denny Hamlin looked strong early on winning Stage 1, but a flat tire after contact with Larson while battling for the lead on lap 400 sent Hamlin’s Toyota into the wall. He would recover to finish 9th.

Matt DiBenedetto rounded out the top 10.

Larson won Stage 2 and led the most laps on the night 175.

Other Playoff drivers: Joey Logano was 12thand Christopher Bell 29th.

Elliott finished 25th three laps down.

The series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next Sunday for the first race in the Round of 12.

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE – SEPTEMBER 18: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Valvoline Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 18, 2021 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)


NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Bass Pro Shops NRA 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