Kyle Larson Earns a Surprise NASCAR Xfinity Series Win at Watkins Glen

WATKINS GLEN, NEW YORK – AUGUST 20: Kyle Larson, driver of the #88 Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Go Rewards 200 at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 20, 2022, in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Kyle Larson earns a surprise NASCAR Xfinity Series Win at Watkins Glen International in the Sunoco Go Rewards 200 on Saturday afternoon.

In the moments after claiming the checkered flag for the Sunoco Go Rewards 200 at the Glen Saturday afternoon, Kyle Larson smiled and conceded he was a bit fortunate.

“I got lucky,’’ he told the USA Network television audience.

Kyle Larson Earns a Surprise NASCAR Xfinity Series Win at Watkins Glen

Or perhaps more accurately, he was in the right place at the right time. Running third on a restart with five laps remaining in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at historic Watkins Glen (N.Y.)  International, he shot to the front when his Hendrick Motorsports teammate – and race polesitter – William Byron and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ty Gibbs spun out at the front of the field while dicing it up for the race lead.

Byron, who set a track record in qualifying earlier in the day and led a race-best 36 of the 82 laps, and Gibbs, who led the second most laps (25) collided in a door-to-door battle in the famed ‘bus stop’ portion of the 3.366-mile road course. And Larson bolted through to take the lead.

Still, the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion had to hold off the sport’s all-time best on road courses, A.J. Allmendinger in the remaining laps to claim the day’s trophy – ultimately taking his 11th series win by a slight 0.273-seconds in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

“I think my only shot was if the 17 and 54 – Willy and Ty got really racing,’’ conceded Larson, who spent much of the race just behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Byron and Gibbs.

“The seas parted and I was able to get through but then I had A.J. (Allmendinger) behind me so just trying to hit my marks best I could. He definitely made me nervous with me being out in front of him.

“So cool to get a win here and Rick Hendrick is here too. Wish William and I could have fought for the win there though.’’

The Best of the Rest

Rookie Sammy Smith, an 18-year-old from Iowa in only his fourth NASCAR Xfinity Series race, finished a career-best third place in the No. 18 JGR Toyota and led an impressive – also career-high – seven laps midway through the race.

JR Motorsports driver Noah Gragson finished fourth, followed by Kaz Grala. Sam Mayer, Riley Herbst, Sheldon Creed, the highest-finishing rookie, Josh Berry, and Jeremy Clements rounded out the top ten.

Byron and Gibbs, who had contact again farther back in the field during the final laps, ultimately finished 25th and 27th, respectively.

On the cool-down lap after the race Byron told his crew, “Sorry guys, I wish we could have won that one. We were in position and got wrecked.’’

The NASCAR Xfinity Series Point Standings

Allmendinger’s runner-up showing, combined with Gibbs’s rough day and an early exit by Justin Allgaier – who wrecked only four laps into the race – really boosted Allmendinger’s lead atop the Xfinity Series standings. With four races remaining to set the 12-driver 2022 Playoff field, he now holds a 61-point advantage over five-race winner Gibbs and is 70-points up on fellow three-race winner Allgaier.

Next Up for the NASCAR Xfinity Series

The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to action next week at Daytona International Speedway with the WaWa 250 Powered by Coca-Cola on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, USA Network, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley is the defending race winner.

NASCAR Xfinity Series Race – Sunoco Go Rewards 200

Watkins Glen International

Watkins Glen, New York

Saturday, August 20, 2022

                   1. (3)  Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, 82.

                   2. (4)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 82.

                   3. (19)  Sammy Smith, Toyota, 82.

                   4. (16)  Noah Gragson, Chevrolet, 82.

                   5. (14)  Kaz Grala(i), Chevrolet, 82.

                   6. (7)  Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, 82.

                   7. (6)  Riley Herbst, Ford, 82.

                  8. (11)  Sheldon Creed #, Chevrolet, 82.

                   9. (17)  Josh Berry, Chevrolet, 82.

                   10. (22)  Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 82.

                   11. (5)  Cole Custer(i), Ford, 82.

                   12. (23)  Stefan Parsons(i), Chevrolet, 82.

                   13. (34)  Ryan Sieg, Ford, 82.

                   14. (35)  Timmy Hill(i), Chevrolet, 82.

                   15. (13)  Connor Mosack(i), Toyota, 82.

                   16. (20)  Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 82.

                   17. (21)  Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 82.

                   18. (26)  Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, 82.

                   19. (33)  Andy Lally, Ford, 82.

                   20. (27)  Brad Perez(i), Toyota, 82.

                   21. (31)  Preston Pardus, Chevrolet, 82.

                   22. (25)  Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 82.

                   23. (32)  Scott Heckert, Chevrolet, 82.

                   24. (12)  Brandon Jones, Toyota, 82.

                   25. (1)  William Byron(i), Chevrolet, 82.

                   26. (37)  Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, 82.

                   27. (2)  Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 82.

                   28. (15)  Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 81.

                   29. (38)  Blaine Perkins(i), Chevrolet, 80.

                   30. (8)  Austin Hill #, Chevrolet, 73.

                   31. (9)  Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, Accident, 58.

                   32. (30)  Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, Axle, 51.

                   33. (29)  Myatt Snider, Chevrolet, Accident, 50.

                   34. (36)  Kris Wright(i), Chevrolet, Driveshaft, 30.

                   35. (18)  Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, Accident, 26.

                   36. (24)  Patrick Gallagher, Ford, Rear Gear, 14.

                   37. (28)  Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, Accident, 8.

                   38. (10)  Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, Accident, 4.

The Sunoco Go Rewards 200 Stats

Average Speed of Race Winner:  77.651 mph.

Time of Race:  Two Hrs, 35 Mins, 14 Secs. The Margin of Victory:  0.273 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  Eight for 23 laps.

Lead Changes:  15 among seven drivers.

Lap Leaders:   W. Byron(i) 1-7; T. Gibbs 8; W. Byron(i) 9-10; T. Gibbs 11-16; A. Allmendinger 17-18; S. Smith 19-23; K. Larson(i) 24; W. Byron(i) 25-32; K. Larson(i) 33; W. Byron(i) 34-51;A. Allmendinger 52; S. Smith 53; R. Herbst 54-57; J. Clements 58-59; T. Gibbs 60-77; K. Larson(i) 78-82.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  William Byron(i) four times for 35 laps; Ty Gibbs three times for 25 laps; Kyle Larson(i) three times for seven laps; Sammy Smith two times for six laps; Riley Herbst one time for four laps; AJ Allmendinger two times for three laps; Jeremy Clements one time for two laps.

Stage 1 Top Ten: 18,16,48,51,34,45,17,2,88,08

Stage 2 Top Ten: 17,54,16,9,88,2,8,48,92,26