Kyle Larson seizes opportunity, wins Xfinity race at Watkins Glen
Whenever opportunity knocks, you must answer.
So it went for Kyle Larson, who took advantage of a costly final restart for his Cup teammate, William Byron, and Ty Gibbs on his way to winning Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen International.
Off the day’s final restart with five laps to go, Byron and Gibbs raced for the lead as they entered the bus stop chicane.
Larson, in third place, saw the battle right out his windshield. He then saw Gibbs get loose under Byron, spin and take Byron with him.
That put Larson into the lead and road course ace A.J. Allmendinger in second. Allmendinger drew within a car length of the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion on the final lap but couldn’t quite catch him.
“I got lucky,” Larson told NBC Sports. “I think my only shot really was if (Gibbs and Byron) really got racing. I just wanted to help William down the frontstretch (on the restart) 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 A.J. behind me, so I was just trying to hit my marks (in the final laps) as best I could. He had me definitely nervous, out in front of him.”
Sammy Smith finished third, followed by Noah Gragson in fourth and Kaz Grala in fifth.
As for Byron and Gibbs, they were left with 25th and 27th-place finishes, respectively, and a post-race chat between each other on pit road. The conversation ended without incident.
Stage 1 winner: Sammy Smith
Stage 2 winner: William Byron
Who had a good race: Smith’s third-place finish is his best in four Xfinity starts. He’ll have four more this season in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, with the next scheduled start coming at Kansas Speedway in September... Stefan Parsons’ 12th-place finish equaled his best in Xfinity competition.
Who had a bad race: Justin Allgaier worked up to 20th after starting from the rear due to unapproved adjustments on his car, but lost control in the esses and crashed out at Lap 5. With that, Allgaier’s bid for the regular season championship - and 15 valuable playoff points - took a big hit.
Next: Daytona International Speedway - Friday, Aug. 26, 7:30 p.m. ET on USA Network