Kyle Larson Wins at Charlotte For 7th Victory of the Season
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Rick Hendrick first began to worry when Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman had electrical issues at nearly same time.
By the time reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott was deliberately crashed by Kevin Harvick and nearly knocked out of the playoffs, Hendrick had seen enough destruction on The Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“I was upset. I was ready to go home. It was time to get the helicopter and get out of here,” Hendrick said. “We wrecked everything we had down there.”
Good thing the boss stuck around: Larson rallied from his early electrical issues Sunday to win for the seventh time this season and storm into the third round of NASCAR’s playoffs. It ended a topsy-turvy day for Hendrick Motorsports in which Larson and Elliott advanced, Bowman and William Byron were eliminated, and Elliott was nearly sabotaged by a vengeful Harvick.
Harvick laid in wait to deliver payback on Elliott for Elliott costing him a win at Bristol three weeks ago and the retaliation came at about the halfway mark. Harvick sent Elliott into the wall and on the verge of playoff elimination.
Just as the crews for Larson and Bowman had done earlier to salvage their races, Elliott’s No. 9 team went to work and got the driver back into contention. And even with his bumper flapping in the wind off the back of his Chevrolet, Elliott drove through the field and into position to ruin another day for Harvick.
The team said on their radio Elliott should wreck Harvick if given the chance and maybe that caused Harvick to worry. As Elliott closed on Harvick as they hurtled into the first turn with 10 laps remaining, Harvick botched the entry almost as if he was defensively driving in his rearview mirror
Harvick drove directly into the wall, crumpled the front of his Ford and the crowd erupted as Elliott cruised through the crash scene. Just like that, Harvick’s title run came to its earliest end since the elimination format began in 2014.
Harvick had advanced to the third round the past seven years and all the way to the title race five times. He didn’t admit to wrecking Elliott as payback for Bristol, but he didn’t deny it, either.
“You remember Bristol,” Harvick said the first time he was asked about his intentions. The second time he was asked he responded “sometimes real life teaches you good lessons.”
On the day he made his 750th career start, he finished 33rd and was eliminated along with Christopher Bell, Byron and Bowman.
When asked if the two are now even, Harvick simply walked away.
Elliott subtly masked his pleasure.
“As far as Kevin goes, I just want to wish them a merry offseason and a happy Christmas,” Elliott said.
Is it over as far as Elliott is concerned?
“For us, we’re just eyes forward and happy to be moving on,” Elliott said. “That’s the big picture. We’ll keep fighting.”