RACING

Kyle Larson wins NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen

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A race that started in the rain ended with Kyle Larson in the clear.

Larson took the lead from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott by forcing Elliott to the outside on a restart with five laps to go and edged AJ Allmendinger to the finish to win the NASCAR Cup Series race of Sunday at Watkins Glen International.

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Elliott, a four-time winner this year, won the regular-season championship during the race but was in excellent position to win again on Sunday before falling back on the final restart. He finished fourth.

“I knew it was my only opportunity,” Larson said. “I’m not proud of it, but I knew it was what I had to do to get the win. I felt like our cars were pretty even.

Elliott appeared to have the victory locked as he appeared to have the fastest car on the final stage, but Larson’s aggressive movement on the restart in heavy traffic cost him every stroke on the way to victory.

Immediately after the race, Elliott did not criticize Larson’s decision. “Congratulations,” Elliott said. “He did a great job. Seriously, they deserve it.

The win ended a 22-race winless streak for Larson. It gave the defending Cup champion a NASCAR weekend sweep over the 2.45-mile road course. He also won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race.

Joey Logano was third on Sunday and Daniel Suarez fifth.

MORE: Watkins Glen Cup Results

MORE: Watkins Glen Driver Points

The race was the penultimate event of the Cup Series regular season.

Curiously, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney, drivers battling for the 16th and final playoff spot, finished back-to-back, though neither had a good day. Truex was 23rd and Blaney 24th, with Blaney keeping the points advantage going into the playoffs.

Former Formula 1 champion Kimi Raikkonen, who was competing in the Cup Series for the first time, was eliminated from the race at the start of the final stage. His car was hit in the middle of heavy traffic in the bus stop section of the track, and the contact sent Raikkonen into a tire barrier, damaging the car.

LEARN MORE: What Drivers Said

Raikkonen, who hails from Finland and lives in Switzerland, raced in the top 10 for parts of the first two stages. He drove for Trackhouse Racing as part of its Project91 program designed to bring world-class drivers to NASCAR.

Rookie Todd Gilliland led early in stage two but came to a halt, reportedly with rear axle issues. He parked and finished 38th.

Chase Briscoe won the first stage, although Michael McDowell led eight of the 20 laps.

The race started more than an hour late due to lightning delays. The first attempt to start was canceled due to puddles on the course, but the race eventually started with teams using wet tyres. During the first stage, the riders switched to regular racing tires as the track dried out.

Stage 1 winner: Chasing Briscoe

Stage 2 winner: Joey Logan

Drivers who had a good race: Kyle Larson raced aggressively on the final restart, leaving teammate Chase Elliott in the dust and earning his second win of the season. … Elliott led 29 laps and won the regular-season championship along the way. He was forced out of the lead by Larson, an action that will likely spark discussion this week at Hendrick Motorsports. … Michael McDowell used his road experience to lead 14 laps, finishing sixth.

Drivers who had a bad race: Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney entered the race needing a win to lock in an interim playoff spot. Neither raced well, with Truex finishing 23rd and Blaney 24th. … Kyle Busch had another adventurous day, running well at times near the front but falling to a 32nd place finish.

Next: The final race of the regular season is scheduled for Saturday, August 27 at Daytona International Speedway (NBC, 7 p.m. ET).

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