The race for the NASCAR Cup Series regular-season crown is will end later this month. And with just three races left, two drivers are tied atop the leaderboard in points.
Denny Hamlin has led the points field since the second race of the season, despite not winning a race this year. But now he has some company. Kyle Larson, who won his fifth race this season Sunday at the Watkins Glen International raceway, moved alongside Hamlin for the top spot.
Hamlin finished 23rd on Sunday. Hamlin and Larson both have 917 points each, but Larson has the edge since he has the most wins this season.
“It’s fun racing him (Hamlin),” Larson said after winning Sunday. “I look forward to the next few weeks and even into the playoffs. There’s still a lot of racing left. It’s going to be fun. I’m glad there’s a fun little points battle. I feel like in years past it’s kind of been a blowout.”
You can see the full standings here.
Larson said he and Hamlin have been preparing for this all season. And they’re ready to face off in the final three races and battle it out in the NASCAR playoffs.
“I think for him and I both, we’ve been mentally there for a while now,” Larson said. “And yes, I think come playoff time, we’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing and, hopefully, we’ll find ourselves in the final four.”
Hamlin said he’s in a good position heading into the final stretch. But he admitted that Larson has performed strong all year long.
“I feel like we’re good. We’re really good,” Hamlin said. “We just keep going back and forth each race on kind of who’s better. But he’s obviously got the wins and racking up the bonus points.”
NASCAR: Larson Worries About Upcoming Races
Kyle Larson has an astonishing five wins this season and 12 top 5 finishes. But Denny Hamlin has also been consistent all season long, despite being winless. So, Larson says he wants to put some more points to get ahead of Hamlin before the NASCAR Cup Series regular-season finale at Daytona.
“(Hamlin) is so good at Daytona, too, so it would be nice to get a couple of good weeks and get that point lead because I know he’s going to go there, and anything can happen at Daytona,” Larson said. “But I know he’s going to go there, and he’s going to get stage points, and he’s going to challenge for the win. I know he’s looking at me as the same.”
“If he could go into Daytona being even or ahead, he’s going to feel like he’s got the advantage. I’d like to have a good couple weeks before we get there and give us a little bit of wiggle room.”
Sean Montgomery at NASCAR.com believes two of the next three races favor Hamlin’s style. Especially, the finale in Daytona, where he’s somehow been “immune” to the track’s troubles. In 31 starts, Hamlin has only crashed out of three races there. Larson has not finished 5 of the 14 races at Daytona International Speedway.
NASCAR heads to the Indianapolis road course this weekend. Drivers will be at Michigan International Speedway on Aug. 22, and Daytona on Aug. 28.