Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson have raced against each other for years on short tracks around the country and in the top touring series of NASCAR. This past weekend the pair unknowingly started writing an intriguing chapter to their already lengthy on-track history when they were involved in a late-race incident at Watkins Glen where Larson spun out Bell en route to winning the race.
After the race, Larson apologized. A few days later and after further review of replay, the best Cup Series driver thus far in 2021 modified his postrace remarks, shifting some of the blame to Bell and calling him out in the media for his unwillingness to talk about the matter. On Saturday, Bell returned fire.
Christopher Bell spun out by Kyle Larson in final stage at Watkins Glen
Kyle Larson impressively won his fifth points race of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season at Watkins Glen last Sunday. However, it didn’t come without some controversy as the 29-year-old driver made a late-race move, spinning out Christopher Bell, before passing Bell’s teammate, Martin Truex Jr. on a pit stop and winning the race. After the race, Larson addressed the incident.
“I want to say a big apology to Christopher Bell,” Larson said. “I was inside, but I wasn’t inside enough, and I needed to have a nose a few feet further ahead, and the angle, I was just caught there in the middle, and I ended up turning him. I hate that. I race with him a lot. He’s probably the one guy that I race with the most in all of my racing. I hate to turn him like that. We’ve had incredible races together.”
Bell was understandably unhappy.
“It’s just so frustrating because I was a lot faster than (Truex), but I was waiting for the right time to make a run on him to pass him,” Bell told NBC Sports. “He’s my teammate. I attempted several times and never quite got the momentum that I needed, so I was waiting for the right opportunity to pass him.
“(Larson) didn’t have a run on me coming off of (Turn) 7 whenever he charged Turn 1. I’m focused on trying to set up (Truex), and (Larson) is dive-bombing me from whatever it was, three car lengths back at the flagstand. Just extremely frustrating that I was equal to him – probably better than him – and he won the race. We had an opportunity taken away from us.”
Kyle Larson offers different opinion on blame for incident
Kyle Larson appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio a couple of days after the race and talked about the incident with Bell. Interestingly, his opinion of the incident and who was at fault had noticeably changed.
“Initially, I thought I was completely at the wrong,” Larson said. “But honestly, more after watching the replay, I think that we both had a factor in what happened. I definitely got in there. I didn’t dive-bomb like he said I did. I was half a car-length back on him down the front stretch, was to his inside the whole braking zone, and was actually further forward than I thought I really was. I locked the brakes up late in the braking zone when I realized he was going to turn the corner and really turned in like I wasn’t there. I’m not sure if his spotter just didn’t tell him or what happened there. Either way, I still feel bad about it. I don’t ever want to spin anybody out, especially Christopher Bell. I’ve got a lot of respect for him on the race track. We’ve had amazing races together.”
Larson then acknowledged that he had unsuccessfully tried to talk with Bell about the situation.
“I reached out and tried. But I guess he’s not willing to talk to me, which is kind of, whatever,” Larson said. “Any other adult in the field would at least have a conversation with ya. But he doesn’t care to. We’ll move on from it and if he wants to get me back, that’s fine. The quicker, the whatever. I’m not going to worry about it. If it makes him sleep better at night to ignore me and then want to crash me or whatever, so be it.”
Christopher Bell returns fire
On Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Christopher Bell visited with reporters and talked about the incident. Unlike Larson, his opinion of what happened at Watkins Glen had not changed.
“I went back and looked at it on SMT, which is real data, and I was a car length and a half above the normal bottom line,” Bell said. “That was compared to my normal bottom line and his normal bottom line…He hit me and spun me out. I left him a lane and a half to not do that.”
As for Larson’s comments to the media, Bell didn’t mince words as to what he thought about it.
“He did send me a text message, albeit at midnight, but I read it and was moved on from the on-track incident,” Bell said. “And then him running his mouth is a little uncalled for. But it is what it is. It’s very frustrating to hear that Larson has called me and I’m not answering the phone when that’s so far from the truth. If he really wants to talk about it, I’ll be glad to talk about it.”
Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson’s long history racing against each other has produced some entertaining racing through the years. But nothing like this. And the fans are here for it.