Watkins Glen International

Chase Elliott: ‘Nothing to be fixed’ between Kyle Larson and him

0 Comments

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Chase Elliott says nothing needs to be fixed between Kyle Larson and him after their contact at the end of last weekend’s race at Watkins Glen International.

Elliott was upset after the race but didn’t publicly criticize Larson, who moved Elliott up the track on the final restart to claim the lead and take the win. Elliott talked to car owner Rick Hendrick and team executive Jeff Gordon on pit road after the race. 

Lip readers suggested that Elliott told Hendrick and Gordon that the matter couldn’t be fixed. Elliott addressed that Wednesday during a break in testing at Martinsville Speedway.

“I would just say that there’s nothing to be fixed,” Elliott said. “Really at the end of the day, when you look at the reality of the situation … we finished fourth and we weren’t good enough to win. That’s really what it comes down, just need to be faster, need to do a better job finishing off the races. For me, I don’t see where there’s anything that needs to be fixed.”

Larson said Monday during a break in testing at Martinsville that he should have raced Elliott with “more respect” at the end of the race.

Elliott said: “That’s his opinion and, look, he’s entitled to that. For me, I’m a pretty realistic person as it pertains to what is and what isn’t. Reality is we finished fourth on Sunday and need to be better, need to be faster, needed to have a better restart there at the end of the race to get the job done. 

“That’s really what it comes down to. For us, that’s where my focus is and what I want to do better. I’m excited about these next 11 weeks and the opportunity that lies ahead for us as a team.

“I feel like our group is special. I’ve told you guys that for years. We’ve just got to make sure that we’re performing at our best when it matters. The mattering time is approaching.”

It could be quite a time for Hendrick Motorsports. With all four cars in the playoffs for the second consecutive year, there’s the potential that teammates could be racing for wins, to advance to the next round or even a championship. 

So how are teammates supposed to race each other at Hendrick Motorsports?

“I think that’s a tough one,” Elliott said. “It’s kind of above me, I feel like. I’m not really the one to make those kind of calls. The boss spends a lot of money doing this stuff, and I think we probably should respect however he wants us to approach that, whatever that answer would be. … If all four of us make it to Phoenix, that would be a great problem to have and one any organization would be happy to be in.”

Teammate William Byron, who also was testing at Martinsville on Tuesday, admits how to race a teammate can be “tricky.”

“You’ve got to always do what’s best for your race team because those guys are working day and night on your race cars and trying to make them go faster,” Byron said. “It’s always kind of balancing what’s best for your team. 

“It’s kind of the two things — balancing what is best for your team and balancing what’s best for HMS or Chevrolet. It’s tricky but you’ve got to navigate it. The first priority is doing what’s best for the 24 team and trying to get them wins.”

Byron also says that Hendrick has made it clear for the drivers how to race one another.

“Mr. (Hendrick) has been really good about setting those parameters well in advance,” Byron said. “We all know what those are. I feel like I get along really well with all three of my teammates. We work really well together.

“We’ve all had times that we’ve had run-ins, and we’ve all worked it out. It’s just having a general respect level for my other teammates. Kyle, Chase, Alex (Bowman), we’ve all raced really well together so I don’t see that changing.”

Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona

0 Comments

The NASCAR Cup Series regular season will end Saturday night with a 400-mile race at Daytona International Speedway.

The race will set the field for the 16-driver Cup playoff grid. Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. hope to qualify for the playoffs via points or a race win, while 13 other drivers can make the playoffs by visiting victory lane Saturday night. With Kurt Busch‘s Thursday withdrawal from the playoffs, two playoff positions are available at Daytona.

Austin Cindric won the season-opening Daytona 500 and is among the drivers who will be racing for the seasonal championship beginning next week at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.

Saturday’s race (7 p.m., ET) will be televised by NBC and Peacock.

Drivers to watch at Daytona:

FRONT RUNNERS

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 1st
  • Last three races: 4th at Watkins Glen, 5th at Richmond, 11th at Michigan
  • Past at Daytona: Four straight top 10s

Elliott hasn’t won at Daytona, but he has second-place runs in 2020 and 2021. He’ll be under a microscope of sorts this weekend because he’ll open the playoffs the following week as the championship favorite but also because of his run-in with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson last Sunday at Watkins Glen.

Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 2nd
  • Last three races: Won at Watkins Glen, 14th at Richmond, 7th at Michigan
  • Past at Daytona: Best finish 6th in 2016

Larson’s Daytona worksheet doesn’t shine. He has led only 18 laps in 16 Daytona starts and finished 20th in this race last year after being involved in a final-lap wreck. Winner last week at Watkins Glen, he’ll be watched Saturday night to see how he and teammate Chase Elliott share the track after the Watkins Glen brouhaha.

MORE: NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

Michael McDowell

  • Points position: 24th
  • Last three races: 6th at Watkins Glen, 29th at Richmond, 28th at Michigan
  • Past at Daytona: Won the 500 in 2021

McDowell might be among the top drivers from the list of those who could slip into the playoffs with a last-minute win. He won the Daytona 500 in 2021 and has led laps in four of the past eight Daytona races. In the past five races this season, he has three finishes of eighth or better. He has 10 top-10 finishes this year, double his previous best, and the 52 laps he has led this year are his most ever.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 23rd at Watkins Glen, 7th at Richmond, 6th at Michigan
  • Past at Daytona: Best finish — second twice

NASCAR’s huge tracks at Daytona and Talladega have been tough for Truex. In 69 races at Daytona and Talladega, Truex owns no victories, and his last 12 starts at Daytona have produced no top-10 runs.

Ryan Blaney

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Last three races: 24th at Watkins Glen, 10th at Richmond, 5th at Michigan
  • Past at Daytona: Won this race last year

Of the relatively long list of drivers who can make a last-gasp entry onto the playoff list with a win Saturday night, Blaney stands at or near the top. He won Daytona’s summer race last year and has four finishes of sixth or better in the past five Daytona events.

Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 27th
  • Last three races: 19th at Watkins Glen, 15th at Richmond, 15th at Michigan
  • Past at Daytona: Won in July 2016

Keselowski’s first year as a Cup driver-owner has been challenging. He needs a win Saturday to make the playoffs, and it’s not out of the question. He won at DIS in 2016 and has six victories at Talladega. On the down side, Keselowski has failed to finish eight of the past 11 Daytona races because of crashes.

 

 

Rick Ware Racing team penalized for Watkins Glen infraction

0 Comments

Three members of the Rick Ware Racing team have been suspended because of a rules infraction last weekend at Watkins Glen International, NASCAR announced Tuesday.

Crew chief Billy Plourde, car chief Jamie Edwards and engineer Steven Gray were suspended for four Cup Series races because a piece of ballast came off their No. 51 car, driven by Cody Ware, during practice at the Glen. Ballast coming off a car is considered a safety infraction.

Ware finished 34th, two laps off the lead pace.

Kaulig Racing crew chief Bruce Schlicker was fined $5,000 because of a lug nut infraction during the race. AJ Allmendinger, driving the No. 16 Kaulig car, finished second to winner Kyle Larson.

Larson won the race by pushing past leader Chase Elliott on the final restart.

Kyle Larson says he should have raced Chase Elliott with ‘more respect’

1 Comment

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Kyle Larson said Tuesday that he should have raced Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott with “more respect” at the end of Sunday’s Cup race at Watkins Glen International.

Larson made the comments after a Monday Hendrick competition meeting that he called “positive” and “constructive.”

Larson moved Elliott up the track going into Turn 1 on the final restart at Watkins Glen with five laps to go. Larson took the lead from Elliott and went on to win. Elliott finished fourth. 

MORE: Elliott, Larson 1-2 in NBC Power Rankings 

After the race, Elliott spoke with car owner Rick Hendrick and team executive Jeff Gordon on pit road. Elliott’s displeasure was obvious after the race, but he refrained from criticizing his teammate publicly.

Larson said of his move after the race: “I knew that was kind of my only opportunity. I’m not proud of it. But being in the inside lane, the right lane, being the leader, choosing the left lane, it definitely wins out. But when it gets to late in the race, it’s definitely risky.”

Monday’s competition meeting at Hendrick Motorsports provided a chance for greater discussion on the matter.

“We all had an open conversation in the competition meeting,” Larson said during a break in testing Tuesday at Martinsville Speedway. “It was positive, it was definitely constructive and it was good to have those talks.”

Asked if the drivers had a better understanding, Larson said: “One thing’s for sure, we all like to win. We try really hard to do that. In the end, probably should have a little bit more respect next time.

“I think you always have to look out for the organization and what’s best for everybody as a whole. I wish things would have played out differently and Monday would have been a lot better for me.”

While Elliott has won the regular season championship and will claim 15 playoff points, Larson is seeking to finish second in the season standings and earn 10 playoff points. 

Larson leads Ryan Blaney by nine points, Joey Logano by 21 points, Ross Chastain by 27 points and Martin Truex Jr. by 34 points going into Saturday’s race at Daytona (7 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock).

NASCAR Power Rankings: Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson are 1-2

0 Comments

Chase Elliott was that close to his fifth win of the NASCAR Cup Series season Sunday when — surprise! — his teammate, Kyle Larson, appeared in the picture.

In a big moment that is likely to reverberate through the rest of the season, Larson pushed Elliott from the lead and went on to win Sunday’s Cup race at Watkins Glen International. Elliott said all the right things after race’s end, but he clearly was irritated at Larson.

The Hendrick Motorsports teammates might not be especially close for a while, but they’re very close in the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings. Elliott, the season’s only four-time winner, remains in the top spot, while Larson moves up three places to second after scoring his second win of the year Sunday.

The Cup regular season is scheduled to end Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway (7 p.m. ET, NBC and Peacock).

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Chase Elliott  (Last week: No. 1) — Elliott likely left Watkins Glen Sunday with fire in the belly. He also left town with the Cup regular season championship, sealed with one race left on the regular season schedule.

2. Kyle Larson (Last week: No. 5) — Larson, winless since the second race of the season, won at Watkins Glen at Chase Elliott’s expense. With the playoffs only two weeks away, it should be interesting to follow their paths over the next few weeks.

3. Joey Logano (Last week: No. 3) — Logano, using excellent pit strategy, won a stage and led 15 laps Sunday and is likely to be a big threat in the playoffs.

4. Kevin Harvick (Last week: No. 2) — After two consecutive wins, Harvick returned to Earth Sunday. He ran 12th and was the fifth-best Ford finisher.

5. Christopher Bell (Last week: No. 4) — Bell was eighth Sunday and has four finishes of eighth or better in the past six races.

6. Denny Hamlin (Last week: No. 7) — On another sour race day for Toyota, Hamlin managed a 20th.

7. Ryan Blaney (Last week: No. 6) — Blaney, looking for a spot in the playoffs, needed a win Sunday. Instead he ran poorly.

8. Ross Chastain (Last week: No. 8) — Chastain was involved in another accident Sunday and came home 21st.

9. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week: No. 9) — See Ryan Blaney.

10. Chris Buescher (Last week: unranked) — Buescher was ninth Sunday and has three top 10s in the past four races. And, thanks to Dale Earnhardt Jr., he even has an elongated new name — Christopher.

Dropped out: Kyle Busch (No. 10 last week).