WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) — Kyle Larson zoomed past Ty Gibbs and William Byron when the two leaders made contact with under five laps to go, then held off AJ Allmendinger to win the Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen International on Saturday.
Byron and Gibbs dominated the 82-lap race around the 2.45-mile road course but came together after the final restart. Byron swung wide coming out of the first turn, a 90-degree downhill right-hander, and the two were side-by-side up through the esses before they collided. Larson was in the perfect spot to take advantage and zoomed past into the lead, holding off Allmendinger for his first road course win in the series.
The 40-year-old Allmendinger, the series points leader, had won three of the four road course races in the series this season for Kaulig Racing.
“I got lucky,” said Larson, one of a handful of Cup regulars in the field. “They raced side-by-side into there and got together, the seas parted, and I was able to get through.”
Sammy Smith was third, followed by Noah Gragson and Kaz Grala. Byron finished 25th, two spots ahead of Gibbs.
Byron had command of the race with Gibbs always lurking, but when Gibbs barely beat Byron out of the pits prior to the restart to begin the final stage, Gibbs assumed the lead after the green flag waved and Byron turned into the stalker.
A crash by Daniel Hemric brought a caution and set up one of the treacherous restarts that Watkins Glen International always produces. But Gibbs, with Byron, Larson, and Allmendinger right behind, assumed the lead again after a clean restart with 18 laps left and Byron moved in behind in second and slowly began to narrow Gibbs’ slim one-second lead before Ross Chastain slid off course into a sand trap to set up the decisive final restart with five laps to go.
Byron held off Larson on a restart midway through the second stage and had a 2.7-second lead over Gibbs when the 20-lap segment ended.
Justin Allgaier’s day ended quickly. He spun out on the third turn heading uphill in the esses on the fifth lap and slammed the Armco barrier lining the track, ending his day.
“I thought I had enough of a run there,” Allgaier said after departing the care center. “I hate it for our team. It just really stinks. I felt like we had a car capable of not only getting up front but contending for the win.”
Gibbs passed Byron for the lead on lap 11 and both pitted during a caution near the end of the first stage. Allmendinger stayed out to take over the top spot but was beaten on the restart by Smith, who held on to capture the stage.
The 19-year-old Gibbs, doing double duty in both Xfinity and Cup in relief of injured Kurt Busch, started on the front row alongside polesitter Byron, who showed his displeasure by slamming Gibbs after their altercation. Byron led 35 laps and Gibbs 25,
The Xfinity Series begins its playoffs Sept. 24 at Texas Motor Speedway.
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