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Elliott wins pole, seals regular season title before friendly fire finish at Watkins Glen
Chase Elliott, in the Kelly Blue Book paint scheme for Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen, led all drivers with 29 laps in the lead. (Photo courtesy of Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Under normal circumstances, securing the regular season points championship would be cause for celebration — even without winning the race itself. But the final few laps of pole-winner Chase Elliott’s race at this season’s Go Bowling at the Glen had him looking much more forward to next week than expected.

Watkins Glen — the venue where Elliott won his first NASCAR Cup Series race back in 2018 — had him feeling as comfortable as ever after winning his 13th career pole on Saturday to gain prime position for winning his fifth race of the 2022 season.

But with Elliott in the lead during a caution restart with five laps to go, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson had the inside line and pushed Elliott out of the way, moving him out of contention for the lead and helping give Larson the victory. 

While Elliott clinched the regular season title — earning himself an additional 15 playoff points — his reserved post-race press conference showed a desire to move on from the incident.

“There is nothing I can do about today now,” Elliott said. “[I’ll] offer congratulations [to Larson] and get excited for next week.”

He would finish the race in fourth position — his 17th top-10 and 10th top-5 finish of the season. He also led the most laps in Sunday’s race with 29.

Elliott’s consistency combined with four victories this season placed him at the top of the points standings with 922 after Sunday’s race.  He currently has 25 playoff points and will have the 15 additional points added on after the regular season finale at Daytona next Sunday. 

While Elliott may not have visibly shown his frustration in the interviews, his silence on the radio in the final laps and a post-race conversation with car owners Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon gave a glimpse of how he felt about the incident.

Larson’s move resulted in his second victory of the season — both of which have come at Elliott’s expense. The previous incident at Fontana took the Dawsonville native out of contention entirely. 

According to NBC Sports, Hendrick Motorsports believed Elliott handled the situation well. 

“I think Chase did a wonderful job postrace,” HMS president and GM Jeff Andrews said. “I commend him, for all the frustration that was there, some of the things that could have been said.”

The No. 9 team will take their commanding playoff points lead to Daytona next week, where the regular season will wrap up at the Coke Zero Sugar 400.