Chase Elliott has been the talk of the garage every time the Cup Series heads for a track with any right-hand turns. Rightfully so, considering his winning percentage on such tracks is the best in NASCAR history. But his quest for a third straight triumph at Watkins Glen came up one position short this weekend, as Kyle Larson picked up his second road course win of 2021 and fifth overall.
Larson, who won at Sonoma in June, took the lead for the second time on lap 65 and never relinquished it. It is the first time that Larson has won five races in a season, and it matches the highest number of wins for any Hendrick Motorsports car in the past eight years. The last time any HMS Chevrolet won more than five times in one year was Jimmie Johnson’s six-victory 2013 campaign, interestingly enough en route to his sixth championship.
Here are a few more notable numbers from Sunday’s showdown at the Glen.
Perhaps having the name Chase makes one predisposed to performing well on road courses. While Elliott has dominated, Chase Briscoe has also seemingly enjoyed the twists and turns of the asphalt. His ninth-place finish on Sunday is the third top 10 of 2021 for the rookie driver. All three have come in road course races.
Following a disappointing day in Atlanta back in March, Tyler Reddick sat 28th in the Cup Series standings. After his 10th-place run on Sunday, he is now 12th in points. Reddick has not finished outside of the top 20 since that race at Atlanta and has concluded four of the last five events in the top 10. At this point, the No. 8 team appears to have a solid shot at making the playoffs.
While his three teammates have the bulk of the wins in 2021, William Byron has been the consistent one. Byron wound up sixth at Watkins Glen, his 15th top 10 of the year, which is more than Elliott or Alex Bowman and only one less than Larson. It also marked the first top 10 for Byron on a road course this year, as his prior outings have ranged from unimpressive to downright awful.
That’s the average finishing position for Team Penske at the Glen. Not very good and even worse when you consider the average starting position for the trio was 2.0. They started first, second and third, and Joey Logano even won the opening stage. Who would’ve thought that Ryan Blaney‘s 14th would be the high note of Sunday’s performance?
Denny Hamlin finished fifth at the Glen to pick up his 12th top five of 2021, although he has yet to win this year. The last time a driver had more than 12 top fives without winning a race was back in 2014, when Matt Kenseth ended the season with 13 such finishes but a zero in the win column. Almost unimaginable at the beginning of the year, a winless season for Hamlin gets a little bit closer to becoming reality with each passing week.
Hamlin and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates certainly enjoyed a successful outing despite none of them winning on Sunday. Watkins Glen marked the fifth time in 2021 that all four cars finished in the top 10. The group last pulled off the feat at Road America but oddly enough, only in one of the five races did any of the JGR drivers end up winning. That was at Martinsville, when Martin Truex Jr. led the field across the finish line.
Speaking of Joe Gibbs Racing, Ty Gibbs picked up another victory in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, adding to a resume that is short in length but extensive in accomplishments. Gibbs has made just 10 starts in the Xfinity Series and now has three wins and only two finishes outside the top five — not to mention one of those two results was due to a broken transmission at Road America that ended his day after he began on the pole. Gibbs seems to have a natural ability, and continues to demonstrate it both at the Xfinity level and through his dominance in the ARCA Series.
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