When the final stage of today’s NASCAR Cup Series finale at Phoenix Raceway began, the Hendrick Motorsports duo of Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott were running 1-2 and battling between themselves for the title. 120 laps later, Larson won his tenth race of the season and first career championship. What happened in between was far from easy.
Larson and Elliott began to fade on the long green flag run, and by 70 to go JGR’s Denny Hamlin had caught and passed Elliott. Hamlin was about to pass Larson when the No. 38 of Anthony Alfredo blew a right-front and the caution came out. At the same time, Hamlin’s teammate Martin Truex Jr. had made his pit stop. The caution fell at a perfect time to keep Truex on the lead lap, a window of about eight seconds that gave Truex the lead. Hamlin, already well past Elliott, passed Larson in the pits.
On the restart that followed, Larson dove to the inside of the two Penske cars that re-started on the second row. The big swing could have moved him back to third. Instead, it dropped him to fifth. His teammate Elliott caught Hamlin for second, but could not complete the pass. Truex led, Hamlin began to reel him in, and the race for the title seemed set to be decided between the JGR Toyotas.
For the full story, check out this article from Road & Track.