The NASCAR Cup Series drivers took on the four-mile road course at Road America on July 4, providing several drivers with the opportunity to shake up the points standings. However, the race came to an end with Denny Hamlin three points ahead of Kyle Larson due to an on-track incident.
Larson raced in the top 10 during the final stage of the race and had an opportunity to overtake Hamlin. An incident occurred when teammate Alex Bowman lost control of the No. 48 Ally Racing Chevrolet Camaro and hit Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro, sending it spinning. Hamlin navigated around the incident and raced his way to a fifth-place finish. Larson ended the day 16th.
Hamlin walked away from Road America with 37 points, one more than Larson’s 36. This outing gave him 798 total points, the most in the Cup Series. Though the four-time winner in Larson is a mere two points back with 795.
“Obviously, it’s not on purpose,” Larson said about the incident, per NBC Sports. “It’s hard to be upset with that. Disappointed I got spun, whatever. He just apologized and said his brake pedal was getting spongy halfway down, and I think he got in there hot.
“I didn’t even know he was coming and turned left and got spun. Hate that happened. Hate that we probably gave up a top-five or -six finish. We’ll go to Atlanta next week where we led a bunch of laps earlier this year and try to get back on the horse.”
Larson Will Have Another Opportunity to Take the Lead
While the driver of the No. 5 HMS Chevrolet Camaro did not capture the points lead, he will have another opportunity to do so at a track where he previously dominated. The Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 11 for the second time in 2021.
The drivers previously competed in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at AMS on Mar. 21. Ryan Blaney captured the win, but he was not the driver that drew the most attention during green-flag runs. Larson did so while leading 269 of the 325 laps. He won two stages and appeared to be the clear favorite to take the checkered flag, but Blaney maneuvered around him to take the win.
Hamlin also turned in a solid performance during the previous trip to AMS. The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry started on the pole and proceeded to lead 27 laps, second-most behind Larson. Hamlin finished fourth and locked up 41 points. Now the two drivers will face off at AMS once again with raised stakes.
Mechanical Issues Dropped a Playoff Contender in the Standings
While Larson entered the weekend with the goal of capturing his fifth win and taking the top spot in the standings, other drivers set out to punch their own tickets to the playoffs. This list included Daniel Suarez, who entered the race below the cutoff line.
The driver of the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet Camaro has posted three top-10 finishes and one top-five, which helped him remain in contention with Kurt Busch for the final spot. He started the July 4 race strong, but a mechanical issue disrupted his day early in Stage 1. Suarez raced around a corner but suffered a transmission failure, stranding him on the side of the track.
The crews pushed the No. 99 Chevrolet Camaro to the garage, where the Trackhouse Racing team went to work. They were able to make repairs and get Suarez back onto the track, but he remained well behind the pack.
He kept making laps and overtook four other drivers to secure a 36th-place finish. Though he left Road America behind Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace, Matt DiBenedetto, and Ross Chastain in the playoff chase.