Larson avoids late calamity for Xfinity victory at Watkins Glen

With late misfortune in the form of an on-track collision and spin spoiling the hopes of William Byron and Ty Gibbs battling for the victory on the final lap, good fortune fell in the favor of Kyle Larson as he went on to win the Sunoco Go Rewards 200 at Watkins Glen International on Saturday, August 20.

The reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion from Elk Grove, California, led three times for seven of 82-scheduled laps. Despite starting at the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments to his No. 88 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro while representing JR Motorsports, Larson spent the majority of the event running towards the front while watching his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Byron and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ty Gibbs duke for the lead amid late carnages and late-race restarts. During the final restart with five laps remaining, however, Larson capitalized on a late on-track incident involving Byron and Gibbs, both of whom spun following contact in the bus stop. With the lead in his possession, Larson managed to fend off AJ Allmendinger and Sammy Smith to grab his first checkered flag in the Xfinity Series of this season and first since 2018.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, William Byron claimed his first pole position of the season after posting a pole-winning lap at 125.021 mph in 70.548 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Ty Gibbs, winner of the previous Xfinity event at Michigan International Speedway after he posted his best lap at 124.506 mph in 70.840 seconds.

Prior to the event, names like Kyle Larson, Justin Allgaier, Andy Lady, Bayley Currey, Brandon Brown, Patrick Gallagher, Timmy Hill and Scott Heckert dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments to their respective cars.

When the green flag waved and the race started, Byron and Gibbs dueled for the lead entering the first turn until Byron managed to pull ahead with the lead while AJ Allmendinger overtook Gibbs for the runner-up spot throughout the following three turns. Through the Back Straight, Inner Loop and Outer Loop, Byron continued to lead the field. Despite being pressured by Allmendinger through Turns 6 and 7, Byron went on to lead the first lap. 

During the second lap, Byron stretched his advantage to more than a second while Gibbs battled and overtook Allmendinger for the runner-up spot. Meanwhile, Cole Custer was in fourth while Riley Herbst occupied the final spot in the top five in fifth.

Two laps later, the first caution of the event flew when Justin Allgaier, who was in 20th behind Jeremy Clements, slipped sideways in Turn 3 and through the esses as he spun and made hard contact against the Armco barrier. The front-end damage to his No. 7 BRANDT Chevrolet Camaro was enough to terminate Allgaier’s run at The Glen early. 

When the race restarted on the eighth lap, Gibbs dueled and managed to fend off Byron through the first four turns to assume the lead. Entering the Inner Loop and the bus stop, however, Byron reassumed the lead as Jeb Burton and Myatt Snider spun. With the event remaining under green flag conditions, Byron continued to fend off Gibbs with the top spot as Allmendinger trailed closely behind in third.

Through the first 10 scheduled laps, Byron was leading by two-tenths of a second over Gibbs while Allmendinger, Cole Custer, Sam Mayer, Riley Herbst, rookie Sheldon Creed, Noah Gragson, Kaz Grala and Connor Mosack occupied the top 10. Daniel Hemric was in 11th ahead of Brandon Jones, Sammy Smith, Kyle Larson and Josh Berry while Alex Labbe, Ross Chastain, Jeremy Clements, Landon Cassill and Josh Bilicki were scored in the top 20.

During the following lap, Gibbs battled and overtook Byron to lead a lap for himself. In the midst of the battle, rookie Austin Hill made an unscheduled pit stop to address a broken axle to his No. 21 Bennett Transportation Chevrolet Camaro as he was lapped by the field. 

Four laps later, the caution returned when Patrick Gallagher came to a stop at the bus stop due to a mechanical issue. By then, Hill was in the garage due to his drive line issue along with Jeb Burton, who retired due to a brake failure and suffered his seventh DNF of the season. 

During the caution period, some led by Gibbs and Byron pitted while the rest led by Allmendinger remained on the track.

With two laps remaining in the first stage, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Sammy Smith challenged and overtook Allmendinger for the lead entering the first three turns, which left Allmendinger to fend off Kaz Grala and Jeremy Clements for the runner-up spot as the field behind jostled for positions.

When the first stage concluded on Lap 20, Sammy Smith, who was making his fourth career Xfinity start in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota Supra, claimed his first Xfinity stage victory. Allmendinger settled in second followed by Grala, Clements, Kyle Weatherman, Josh Bilicki, Byron, Creed, Larson and Andy Lally. Meanwhile, Herbst, who spun in the bus stop during the previous lap, fell all the way back to 34th as he pitted his No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang. Myatt Snider was also involved in his second incident of the day after slapping the Armco barrier in Turn 7 and suffering significant rear-end damage to his No. 31 Bommarito Automotive Group Chevrolet Camaro.

Under the stage break, some led by Allmendinger pitted while the rest led by Sammy Smith and Byron remained on the track.

The second stage started on Lap 23 as Smith and Byron occupied the front row. At the start, Smith and Byron dueled for the lead through the first turn until Smith managed to clear Byron and retain the lead. Behind, Byron’s No. 17 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro came under attack from Larson’s No. 88 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro as Sheldon Creed’s No. 2 Whelen Chevrolet Camaro joined the battle.

Then through Turn 6, Larson, who started the event at the rear of the field, rocketed his Camaro to the lead on fresh tires as he assumed full command of the field. With Larson out in front, teammate Byron moved into the runner-up spot while Creed and Gibbs quickly overtook Smith through the first three turns as Smith was back in fifth.

During the following lap, Byron duked and overtook teammate Larson through the frontstretch while entering the first turn to return to the lead. Behind, Gibbs was in third ahead of Creed, Smith settled in fifth and Allmendinger was mired back in 13th behind Sam Mayer.

Then on Lap 27, the caution flew when Alex Labbe stopped in the bus stop with damage to his car. At the moment of caution, Smith, who was set to pit under green, opted to keep his No. 18 Pilot Flying J Toyota Supra on the track to avoid a penalty of pitting when pit road was closed, though he was mired back in 15th. 

During the caution period and when pit road was accessible for the field, Smith pitted while the rest of the front-runners led by Byron remained on the track.

When the event restarted under green on Lap 29, the field fanned out as Byron fended off teammate Larson and Gibbs to retain the lead through the first three turns. Byron remained out in front through the seven-turn circuit while Gibbs started to pressure Larson for the runner-up spot. 

Then on Lap 31, the caution returned when Kris Wright, who was piloting the No. 68 Brandonbilt Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, came to a stop near the Armco barriers in Turn 1 due to a broken drive line. By then, Daniel Hemric fell out of the top 10 and towards the end of the field as he encountered a fuel pressure issue.

With seven laps remaining in the second stage, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Hendrick teammates Larson and Byron dueled for the top spot until Byron benefitted on the outside lane to retain the lead through the first three turns. As Creed overtook Larson for the runner-up spot, Mayer spun in the bus stop while the race remained under green.

Three laps later, Byron extended his advantage to nearly two seconds over Creed while Gibbs, Larson, Gragson, Allmendinger, Custer, Brandon Jones, Grala and Josh Berry were in the top 10. Ross Chastain was in 11th ahead of Anthony Alfredo, Connor Mosack, Landon Cassill, Herbst, Timmy Hill, Jeremy Clements, Sammy Smith, Stefan Parsons and Josh Bilicki. Meanwhile, Kyle Weatherman, who spun in Turn 1 two laps earlier, was mired back within the top 30.

During the following lap, Custer, who was in seventh, got hit and turned by Brandon Jones through the bust stop as he pounded the Armco barrier. Shortly after, Brandon Jones spun his No. 19 Menards Toyota Supra in Turn 7 without sustaining any significant damage. In spite of both incidents, the race proceeded under green,

When the second stage concluded on Lap 40, Byron captured his second Xfinity stage victory of the season. Gibbs settled in second followed by Allmendinger, Gragson, Larson, Creed, Berry, Grala, Chastain and Mosack.

Under the stage break, a majority of the field led by Creed pitted while the rest including Byron, Gibbs, Allmendinger, Gragson, Larson, Berry, Mosack, Herbst and Smith remained on the track as differing strategies were occurring within the field.

With 38 laps remaining, the final stage started. At the start, Byron outdueled Gibbs through the first three turns to retain the lead while Gragson trailed in third followed by Allmendinger and Berry.

Three laps later, Byron was leading by six-tenths of a second over Gibbs while Gragson retained third ahead of Allmendinger and Berry. Meanwhile. Larson was in sixth ahead of Sammy Smith, Herbst, Creed and Chastain.

Then with 30 laps remaining, Byron pitted under green along with Gibbs, Gragson, Larson, Sam Mayer and Connor Mosack. In the midst of the pit stops, Allmendinger cycled to the lead while Gibbs managed to exit pit road ahead of Byron. By then, Creed pitted under green a lap earlier.

During the following lap, Allmendinger pitted under green along with Josh Berry as Sammy Smith assumed the lead. Once Smith pitted on Lap 53, it was Herbst’s turn to lead a lap for himself.

Down to the final 25 laps of the event, Herbst, who has yet to pit, was leading followed by Clements, Chastain, Grala and Custer while Hemric, Cassill, Josh Bilicki, Andy Lally and Preston Padres were in the top 10. Meanwhile, Gibbs, the first competitor with the freshest tires and full fuel, remained ahead of Byron in 13th, Gragson was in 16th and Allmendinger was mired back in 19th behind Larson.

A lap later, the caution flew when Daniel Hemric lost a left-front tire and veered dead straight into the tire barrier in the carousel as his No. 11 AG1 Chevrolet Camaro was left with significant front-nose damage and out of the event. By then, Herbst surrendered the lead to pit while Clements, who has yet to pit, assumed the lead. During the caution period, however, Clements led the competitors who had yet to pit while Gibbs remained on the track to cycle to the lead followed by Byron, Gragson, Larson and Allmendinger. Following the pit stops, Chastain was penalized for speeding on pit road.

Following an extensive caution period to have the carnage cleared, the race restarted under green with 15 laps remaining. At the start and with the field fanning out entering the first turn, Gibbs and Byron dueled for the lead until Gibbs managed to pull ahead with the lead through the first three turns. Behind, Larson moved into the runner-up spot while Byron fell back to third.

With 10 laps remaining, Gibbs continued to lead by more than eight-tenths of a second over Byron followed by Larson, Allmendinger and Sammy Smith. Gragson was back in sixth ahead of Berry, Creed, Mayer and Grala while Herbst, Mosack, Custer, Landon Cassill and Alfredo occupied the top 15. Stefan Parsons was in 16th while Clements, Brandon Jones, Lally and Chastain were scored in the top 20.

Two laps later, the caution returned when Chastain and Alfredo spun in Turn 6 as Chastain got his No. 92 Protect Your Melon Chevrolet Camaro stuck in the gravel trap. Under caution, some led by Connor Mosack pitted while the rest led by Gibbs remained on the track.

Down to the final five laps of the event, the event proceeded under green. At the start, Gibbs and Byron again dueled for the top spot through the first three turns. With both making contact and remaining side-by-side through Turn 4 and entering the Inner Loop, Gibbs made contact against Byron’s car in the Inner Loop as both spun off the course and out of winning contention. In the midst of the spin, Larson emerged with the lead followed by Allmendinger, Sammy Smith, Grala and Gragson.

During the following lap, Byron, who was initially in position to claim the first Xfinity victory for Hendrick Motorsports, expressed his displeasure to Gibbs by sending Gibbs’ No. 54 Cub Cadet Toyota Supra around in retaliation in Turn 6. Back at the front, Allmendinger started to challenge Larson for the lead while Grala intimidated Smith for third place.

With two laps remaining, Larson continued to lead by nearly four-tenths of a second over Allmendinger and eight-tenths of a second over third-place Smith. Behind, Grala retained fourth ahead of Gragson while Mayer, Herbst, Creed, Berry and Cassill were in the top 10.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Larson remained as the leader by two-tenths of a second over Allmendinger and seven-tenths over Smith. Through the first four turns and the Inner Loop, Larson stabilized his narrow advantage over Allmendinger. Then in turns 6 and 7, Allmendinger tried to draw his No. 16 Nutrien Ag Solutions Chevrolet Camaro close to Larson’s rear bumper, but he did not have enough momentum to make his move as Larson managed to pull away from both Allmendinger and Smith to streak across the finish line with the win. 

With the victory, Larson, who won the Cup event at The Glen a year ago, achieved his 13th career victory in the Xfinity Series, first driving for JR Motorsports, his first at The Glen and his first since winning at Bristol Motor Speedway in August 2018. The victory was also the ninth of the season for JR Motorsports and the first for JRM’s No. 88 team led by crew chief Jason Stockert.

“I got lucky,” Larson told USA Network. “I think my only shot really was if [Gibbs and Byron] really got racing. I just wanted to help William down the front stretch as much as I could, then they got to battle up the esses. I tried to help William get clear to the bus stop. They raced side-by-side into there, got together and the seas parted and I was able to get through. Then I had AJ behind me, so I was just trying to hit my marks as best I could. He had me definitely nervous out in front of him, so cool to get a win here. Wished William and I could’ve fought out for the win there. Either way, happy to get HendrickCars.com into Victory Lane. Cool to get a win with the No. 88.”

Following their late run-in, Byron, who led 35 laps from pole position, ended up 25th while Gibbs, who led 25 laps, fell back to 27th. Both met on pit road at the race’s conclusion to discuss the incident.

Allmendinger, who led three laps, settled in the runner-up spot while Sammy Smith earned his first top-five result in the Xfinity Series by finishing third. Gragson and Grala finished in the top five while Mayer, Herbst, Creed, Berry and Clements completed the top 10 on the track.

There were 15 lead changes for seven different leaders. The race featured a record-tying eight cautions for 23 laps.

With four races remaining in the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular-season stretch, AJ Allmendinger continues to lead the regular-season standings by 61 points over Ty Gibbs, 70 over Justin Allgaier and 99 over Noah Gragson.

Ty Gibbs, AJ Allmendinger, Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson, Josh Berry, rookie Austin Hill and Brandon Jones are currently guaranteed spots for the 2022 Xfinity Playoffs based on winning once throughout the regular season stretch while Riley Herbst, Sam Mayer, Daniel Hemric, Landon Cassill, and Ryan Sieg occupy the remaining vacant spots to the Playoffs based on points. Rookie Sheldon Creed trails the top-12 cutline to make the Playoffs by 39 points, Anthony Alfredo trails by 80, Brandon Brown trails by 106, Jeremy Clements trails by 160, Myatt Snider trails by 176 and Jeb Burton trails by 178,

Results.

1. Kyle Larson, seven laps led

2. AJ Allmendinger, three laps led

3. Sammy Smith, six laps led, Stage 1 winner

4. Noah Gragson

5. Kaz Grala

6. Sam Mayer

7. Riley Herbst, four laps led

8. Sheldon Creed

9. Josh Berry

10. Jeremy Clements, two laps led

11. Cole Custer

12. Stefan Parsons

13. Ryan Sieg

14. Timmy Hill

15. Connor Mosack

16. Landon Cassill

17. Josh Bilicki

18. Anthony Alfredo

19. Andy Lally

20. Brad Perez

21. Preston Pardus

22. Kyle Weatherman

23. Scott Heckert

24. Brandon Jones 

25. William Byron, 35 laps led, Stage 2 winner

26. Bayley Currey

27. Ty Gibbs, 25 laps led

28. Ross Chastain, one lap down

29. Blaine Perkins, two laps down

30. Austin Hill, nine laps down

31. Daniel Hemric – OUT, Accident

32. Brandon Brown – OUT, Axle

33. Myatt Snider – OUT, Accident

34. Kris Wright – OUT, Driveshaft

35. Alex Labbe – OUT, Accident

36. Patrick Gallagher – OUT, Rear gear

37. Jeb Burton – OUT, Accident

38. Justin Allgaier – OUT, Accident

Next on the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is the series’ second trip of the season to Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. The event is scheduled to occur on Friday, August 26, at 7:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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