By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
Lately, Kyle Larson has been surging towards his first-ever Chase berth. After qualifying second for this weekend’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen, and staying inside the top-10 all day long in Sunday’s race, it looked like Larson would further cement himself in the Chase standings at day’s end. However in the final turn of the final lap, Larson’s championship aspirations took a huge hit while running fifth.
Larson made a move to avoid a spinning Martin Truex Jr. in front of him, and when Larson barely moved to the right he was spun by AJ Allmendinger. Larson would slam hard into the pit road wall, ending his day just a few hundred feet of the finish line. As a result Larson, who looked like a top-five finisher, finished the day 29th. According to Larson, Allmendinger chose to crash him.
“We were about a 10th place car and we were going to get a top five day out of it. We were running sixth coming to (Turn) 7; the No. 47 was behind me. He is always aggressive. I figured he would be smart,” Larson recalled. “Obviously, the No. 78 was spinning in front of us. That is a free spot for both of us and just dumped me. He had already ran me down to the front stretch wall once with about 15 to go or so. Pretty dumb move right there too, but I was the smarter one racing for points, lifted, could have wrecked him, but didn’t.”
For Larson, it was the continuation of what seems to be a one-sided rivalry. Allmendinger sent Larson for a wild ride back in Vegas as well earlier this year. Larson hasn’t forgotten that hit, and he vows that the No. 47 team will have some cars to repair very soon.
“He wrecked me earlier in the year at Vegas. He has ran me hard, but we always race pretty well, but today was flat out stupid. I love his crew chief (Randall Burnett) to death; he was our engineer last year. It just sucks they are going to have to start building some more race cars because he has got a few coming,” Larson lamented.
Allmendinger, who had to be frustrated with a pit road speeding penalty earlier in the race which hampered any shot he had at a win, claimed that the accident was his fault, but said that he did not spin Larson on purpose.
“I turned him. Not on purpose,” Allmendinger said. “The No. 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) started to spin and Kyle and I were racing for fifth there. He defended on the inside, which he should have. And I tried to cut under him off of the last corner and the No. 78 was coming back across the race track. I was under him. He turned. And I just clipped him. I’m just not very happy with myself on that. I don’t want to do that, especially for fourth place. And he did a great job. It’s on me. I never meant to do it. It’s not going to help the case. I know he’s going to be pissed off and he should be pissed off. I’d be.”
Larson who started the day with a decent point cushion, now only sits eight points ahead of Trevor Bayne for the 16th and final Chase spot. Bayne avoided the last-lap drama on Sunday and finished ninth.