Kyle Larson wins at Watkins Glen at teammate Chase Elliott's expense
And they probably don’t feel like teammates following their tangle Sunday at Watkins Glen International.
Larson muscled his way past Elliott by washing into him and forcing him to miss the corner on a restart with five laps remaining, then held off AJ Allmendinger for the victory. The win was Larson’s first since late February, when he also tangled with his teammate.
"I am not proud of it," Larson said of the move. "I don’t like to do that. But in that moment, that was my only shot to win. I haven’t won a lot this year. ... I felt like I did what I had to do to benefit our playoffs."
Here are three takeaways from Watkins Glen heading into the final race of the regular season next week at Daytona.
Elliott kept his comments respectful toward his teammate following the race, but his frustration was evident. He talked to team owner Rick Hendrick after the race, which could have been his fifth win of the season.
It was a battle of champions: Elliott won the 2020 Cup title, and Larson won it last year.
"I just got beat," Elliott said. "Congrats to Kyle. ... I tried. It doesn’t matter. I failed and lost the event."
Elliott did clinch the regular-season championship, which is worth 15 playoff points — or the equivalent of three wins. Second place in the standings is worth 10 playoff points.
In two weeks, Elliott will enter the playoffs atop the standings, likely with an edge of 10-to-20 points on the competition.
"Fifteen points," Elliott said when asked what it meant. "It gets us to 40 [on the year]. So that’s good."
Team President Jeff Andrews said he had no issues with Elliott’s reaction.
"I have no issue at all that Chase is upset right now," Andrews said. "I think that's perfectly normal in this situation. We'll talk about it this week. We'll talk about it the week after."
"It's going to be motivation for him."
Larson said he would expect Elliott to be unhappy but also said Elliott set himself up to be a victim of such a move by lining up on the outside.
"I would understandably be upset in his position as well," Larson said. "But I would also understand the risk that I take in choosing the left lane.
"Even though that it is preferred, there’s a risk of that guy on the right side, if he gets a good launch, he’s going to use you up on the exit in Turn 1."
The two drivers likely will find themselves in a similar situation again.
"We’re going to be around each other a lot, whether it be at the shop or the track or on the racetrack, so it will be just another thing we have to work through," Larson said.
Kurt Busch still out but in playoffs
With 15 winners and one race left in the regular season, all drivers who have won this year have clinched a spot in the playoffs. Only one of those hadn’t clinched before Sunday, and that was Busch, who missed his fifth consecutive race following a brain injury suffered in a crash at Pocono.
Busch will also miss Daytona but is locked in because he won a race and will finish in the top 30 in points.
These drivers would clinch a playoff spot with a win at Daytona: Blaney, Truex, Erik Jones, Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Bubba Wallace, Chris Buescher, Justin Haley, Michael McDowell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Cole Custer, Brad Keselowski, Harrison Burton, Ty Dillon and Todd Gilliland.
While the focus of the Glen was on the playoffs, it also marked the Cup debut of former Formula 1 champion Kimi Raikkonen.
Raikkonen exited after a crash on Lap 45 and finished 37th after a strong run.
"We had some good laps," said Raikkonen, who drove for Trackhouse Racing. "It’s a shame. The car felt like it had a lot of speed, but that’s how it goes sometimes."
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!