With Elliott a lap down but still upset over contact with Harvick earlier in the race, he repeatedly blocked Harvick – the race leader – from getting around him which allowed Larson to close in for a pass for the lead.
Larson finally got around Harvick with three of 500 laps remaining, and after a nudge from Harvick from behind, Larson pulled away to take the win at the Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway by .227 seconds over Harvick.
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro
Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images
The win would have ended Harvick’s 35-race winless streak dating back to this race one year ago.
After the race, Harvick and Elliott ended up parked next to each other on pit road. An incensed Harvick, with his helmet on, walked over to confront Elliott, who had already exited his car.
The two engaged in a heated confrontation that included some shoving before they were separated. The two drivers were seen minutes later in a heated discussion in the garage but decided to take their issue inside Elliott’s team hauler rather than play it out in front of the gathering media.
Larson, who had already locked up a spot in the Round of 12 of the Cup Series playoffs, added some playoff points with the victory, his sixth of the season and most of any driver.
“That was an awesome race. It was so cool to be able to race there for the win. Obviously Harvick and Chase got together. Chase was upset. Kind of held him up,” Larson said. “It got Harvick having to move around and use his tires up off the bottom.
“I started to get some dive-ins working off of (Turn) 2, got a big run, decided to pull the trigger, slide him, squeeze him a little bit. Then he had me jacked up down the frontstretch. It was wild.
“But had my hands full.”
William Byron finished third in the race, Ryan Blaney was fourth and Alex Bowman rounded out the top-five.
Following the race, four drivers were eliminated from further playoff contention – Michael McDowell, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch and Tyler Reddick.
Joining Larson and Harvick in the Round of 12 – which opened next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – are Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Blaney, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Elliott, Bowman, Christopher Bell, Kyle Busch and Byron.
Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, several lead-lap car pit but Harvick remained on the track and inherited the lead.
On the restart on Lap 260, Harvick was followed by Blaney, Bell and Truex. Logano lined up eighth, the first car off pit road.
On Lap 265, Blaney got around Harvick to take the lead for the first time in the race as Truex moved to third.
After spending several laps on his back bumper, Harvick went to the inside of Blaney and reclaimed the lead on Lap 308 as Bell remained in third.
With 175 laps remaining in the race, Harvick had opened over a second lead over Larson while Blaney had moved back into third.
Larson made his way around Harvick on Lap 337 to move back into the lead as Hamlin moved into the third spot.
On Lap 364, Quin Houff spun around in Turn 3 after losing his left-rear tire to bring out the sixth caution of the race.
All the lead-lap cars pit with Larson the first off pit road. On the restart on Lap 371, Larson was followed by Hamlin, Harvick, Kyle Busch and Blaney.
Houff had another tire go down and hit the wall in Turn 3 again on Lap 388 which brought out the seventh caution of the race.
A handful of lead-lap teams elected to pit but most stayed out. On the restart on Lap 397, Larson remained out front followed by Hamlin and Harvick. Kyle Busch, the first off pit road among those who pit, lined up 15th.
On Lap 400, while racing for the lead with Larson, Hamlin went up the track and hit the Turn 2 wall to bring out a caution.
Hamlin pit for repairs under the caution but everyone else remained on the track. Larson led the way on the restart on Lap 408 followed by Harvick, Elliott and Bowman.
Elliott powered around Larson to move back to the lead on Lap 413 as Harvick remained in third.
With 75 laps remaining, Elliott held about a half-second lead over Larson as Harvick ran third, Kyle Busch fourth and Byron in fifth.
With less than 50 laps to go, Harvick was on the rear bumper of Elliott looking for an opportunity to pass for the lead. Larson remained in third.
Kyle Busch was forced to pit under green with 45 laps left because of a flat tire. He returned to the track in 26th and two laps down.
Harvick finally was able to get around Elliott for the lead on Lap 465 while using lapped traffic to his advantage. He and Elliott made contact and Elliott was forced to pit shortly afterwards for a flat tire.
With 10 laps remaining, Harvick’s lead over Larson was almost a second. Byron was third and Blaney fourth.
Larson held a tough challenge by Hamlin to claim the Stage 2 victory.
Keselowski was third, Byron fourth and Elliott rounded out the top-five.
Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, all the lead-lap cars pit with Larson the first off pit road. Elliott was penalized for speeding on pit road and had to restart from the rear of the field.
When the race returned to green on Lap 136, Larson was followed by Keselowski, Hamlin and Harvick.
Keselowski went to the inside of Larson and Hamlin off Turn 4 on Lap 138 to take the lead for the first time in the race.
Hamlin was able to work his way back around Keselowski on Lap 145 to reclaim the top spot as Larson moved into second.
With 90 laps remaining in the stage, Almirola’s No. 10 Ford began trailing smoke.
On Lap 168, a multi-car wreck erupted off Turn 2 involving Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman and Cole Custer to bring out a caution. Bubba Wallace also appeared to receive some right-front damage in the incident.
All the lead-lap cars pit with Larson again the first off pit road. Almirola pit a second time as his team tried to determine the source of the smoke from his car.
Before the race returned to green, NASCAR black-flagged Almirola as it appeared his car dropped fluid on the track. His team changed an oil line which they discovered had a leak and was able to remain on the lead lap.
Larson remained out front on the restart on Lap 182 followed by Hamlin, Keselowski and Harvick.
With 50 laps remaining in the stage, Larson held a half-second lead over Hamlin followed by Blaney and Harvick.
On Lap 220, Corey LaJoie made contact with Anthony Alfredo to send him around in an incident that also collected B.J. McLeod and Justin Haley to bring out a caution.
NASCAR red-flagged the race for nearly eight minutes to clear the track of debris. Several lead-lap cars pit but Larson remained on the track and led the way on the restart on Lap 232. Harvick was the first car on new tires in ninth.
Hamlin passed Larson with two laps remaining as both battled lapped traffic and held on for the Stage 1 victory, his ninth of the 2021 season.
Elliott was third, Keselowski fourth and Blaney rounded out the top-five.
Truex started on the pole and led the way for the first five laps until Elliott went to his inside off Turn 4 and grabbed the lead on Lap 6.
NASCAR displayed a competition caution on Lap 41 to allow teams to check tire wear. All the lead-lap cars elected to pit with Elliott the first off pit road.
When the race returned to green on Lap 49, Elliott was followed by Hamlin, Larson, Keselowski and Harvick.
With 50 laps to go in the first stage, Elliott maintained a small lead over Larson with Hamlin third and Keselowski fourth.
On Lap 84, Larson powered around Elliott as they both battled lapped traffic and took the lead for the first time in the race.
Hamlin used a similar strategy with lapped traffic to grab the lead from Larson on Lap 91.
With 20 laps remaining in the stage, Hamlin held a small lead over Larson with Elliott third and Keselowski fourth.