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After Sunday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course, Larson found himself two points out of the final transfer spot, a far cry from last year when he won the entire Cup Series championship. Now, his chances of being a back-to-back winner are over.
Meanwhile, Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Chase Elliott, is still in the race, which comes as a small personal victory given that all eyes were on the duo as favorites to win following Elliott’s victory in the 2020 season.
It was Turn 7 that really sealed Larson’s fate, according to NBC Sports. The driver hit the wall while running 13th. The hit forced him to pit for repairs, which cost him five laps and dropped him to 35th position where he ultimately finished the race. While Sunday’s race was the final nail in the coffin for Larson's 2022 victory chances, it was merely the latest in a season of mishaps, mistakes, and issues stemming from Next Gen cars and other pit road problems.
In addition, Larson and Elliott’s teammate, William Byron, had a 25-point penalty for spinning out Denny Hamlin during a race at Texas Motor Speedway in September rescinded. Had his team not appealed the penalty, Larson would still be in the playoffs. So, between Elliott and Byron, some of Larson's biggest Cup Series challenges seemed to come from within his own team.
Although he is still a favorite to potentially win the championship, Sunday’s race at Charlotte didn’t do Elliott any favors either. The driver was on track for a career-high sixth Cup Series win when a caution in the final laps changed the entire landscape of the race, according to The Associated Press.
With just three laps to go, AJ Allmendinger passed Elliott and took the lead. Kevin Harvick then pushed Allmendinger off the track, seizing the lead himself but opening the door for Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick to make up ground. In the final moments of the race, Reddick pushed Elliott off the track, effectively taking him out of contention for a first-place finish. He ultimately ended in the 20th position.
Although the push didn’t ruin Elliott’s chances of being crowned the 2022 Cup Series champion, it puts an end to one of the season’s best stories. “Race For The Championship” fans who were keeping a close eye on his teammate, Larson, to see which of these two racing titans would duplicate past success now have their answer.
You can see how the rest of the drama unfolds for the remainder of the season on “Race For The Championship” every Thursday at 10/9c on USA Network.
Meanwhile, you can watch more NASCAR content on Peacock now.
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