Kyle Larson wins Bristol Cup playoff race

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A clash between Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick helped Kyle Larson claim victory in Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

With 35 laps to go, Elliott and Harvick were racing for the lead when they made contact that cut Elliott’s left front tire. Elliott went to the pits and lost several laps. When he returned to the track, he ran Harvick hard while earning one of his laps back.

MORE: Bristol Cup race results, driver points

As Elliott ran ahead of Harvick, Larson closed. With four laps to go, Larson was able to barely get in front of Harvick in Turn 4. Harvick responded by getting into Larson’s rear bumper, but Larson held on to the lead and held on to win.

While Larson celebrated his series-leading sixth win of the season, Elliott and Harvick had a tense conversation on pit road.

In their initial post-race comments to NBCSN, Harvick said he told Elliott that his tactics in the closing laps were a “chickens**t move.”

Elliott contended that Harvick ran into him while racing for the lead and that “whether he did it on purpose, it doesn’t matter – at some point, you gotta draw the line.”

Following those interviews, the two drivers were later spotted continuing to hash it out in the hauler area. They then entered Elliott’s hauler and talked privately for about 10 minutes.

Larson said that the Elliott-Harvick dispute helped swing the race in his favor.

“Obviously, Harvick and Chase got together,” Larson told NBCSN. “Chase was upset, kind of held him up. It got Harvick having to move around and use his tires up off the bottom.

“I started to get some (diamond lines) working off of (Turn) 2, got a big run, decided to pull the trigger, slide him, squeeze (Harvick) a little bit. Then he had me jacked up down the front stretch. It was wild.”

William Byron finished third to claim the final transfer spot to the Round of 12 by two points over Tyler Reddick and Aric Almirola. Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman completed the top five finishers.

The four drivers eliminated from the playoffs were Reddick, Almirola, Kurt Busch, and Michael McDowell.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Denny Hamlin

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Larson

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Bowman’s fifth-place finish snapped a four-race streak of finishing 16th or worse at Bristol. … Erik Jones and Matt DiBenedetto finished eighth and 10th, respectively, to lead the non-playoff drivers.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Poor speed and handling from his No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet rendered six-time Bristol winner Kurt Busch (finished 19th) a non-factor. He entered the night tied on the cutline to advance.

NOTABLE: Kurt Busch suffered his fourth first-round elimination since the debut of the current playoff format in 2014. That’s the most of any driver.

NEXT: Sunday, Sept. 26 – Round of 12 opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN)