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AP photo by Joshua Bessex / Kyle Larson competes in Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race in Watkins Glen, N.Y. Larson held off Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott to earn his fifth points win of the season.

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Kyle Larson took another step toward the NASCAR Cup Series regular-season title. Chase Elliott lamented a race that he let get away.

Larson gained the lead from Joe Gibbs Racing's Martin Truex Jr. during green flag pit stops in the final stage Sunday, built a big lead and kept hard-charging Hendrick Motorsports teammate Elliott at bay over the final laps to win at Watkins Glen International.

"I knew my car was good, and the strategy worked out," said Larson, who was constantly reminded by his crew that his lead was quickly shrinking over Elliott in the No. 9 Chevrolet. "We were able to maintain that gap for a while and eventually start to pull away. Good thing the nine wasn't close enough. He was really, really fast. He's the guy to judge off of. I was definitely worried about him all day. He was so fast."

Elliott was seeking his eighth road course win as a Cup Series driver and third in a row at the Glen, which would have tied Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin for the series record at the historic road course in upstate New York's Finger Lakes region.

Elliott was relegated to the back of the field before the race after his car failed inspection twice, and crew chief Alan Gustafson was ejected. But just as he did at Road America a month earlier when he won from 34th on the starting grid, Elliott made a gallant charge — but he couldn't overcome Larson's big lead and crossed the finish line 2.45 seconds behind.

"I just hate it. I made too many mistakes to win," Elliott said. "It was too late in the race to recover from it. That's what cost us."

Truex and JGR teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five.

Larson also held off Elliott in overtime to win on the road course at Sonoma Raceway in June and leaves Watkins Glen tied with Hamlin with 917 points for the series lead.

"It's fun racing him," Larson said after his series-leading fifth points victory of the season. "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."

It was the first Cup Series race after a two-week break for the Tokyo Olympics, and there was no practice or qualifying.

Larson and Truex were together at the front of the field with 20 laps to go in the 90-lap race around the seven-turn, 2.45-mile layout. Busch in third was nearly 10 seconds behind and just ahead of Elliott.

Larson had a lead of nearly three seconds on Truex as the laps began to wind down as Elliott continued to charge. The grandstands were sold out, and cheers for Elliott grew as he continued his surge. He passed Truex for second at the top of the esses with eight laps to go and set his sights on his teammate just more than five seconds in front with lapped traffic ahead.

Elliott's surge fizzled over the final five laps as Larson negotiated a gaggle of four lapped cars, overcoming a mistake in the first turn, and cruised to the finish.

Elliott had surged hard in the first stage but flat spotted his tires in the first turn and dropped to 36th near the end of the second stage before rallying.

Truex, Christopher Bell and Larson were in a three-car breakaway early in the 50-lap final stage. Bell challenged Truex for the lead with Larson on the 48th lap but couldn't make it stick and backed off.

Eight laps later, Larson took out Bell entering the first turn, a downhill 90-degree right-hander, dropping Bell to eighth as Elliott continued to make a strong comeback from last place. Bell, whose No. 20 JGR team was hit with the same penalty as Elliott, rallied to finish seventh.

Brad Keselowski, who finished second three straight times at the Glen nearly a decade ago, is still looking for his first road course win as a Cup Series driver and had perhaps his best shot at a breakthrough when he landed the pole position for the race.

The 2012 season champion led the first nine laps ahead of Team Penske teammate Joey Logano before his day began to unravel. Keselowski spun out on his own heading to the competition caution, flat-spotted all four tires and was forced to pit again because he was struggling with rear grip. He finished 35th, two laps down.

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