The Latest: Elliott wins first stage of NASCAR Cup race

The Latest on the NASCAR Cup race at Watkins Glen International (all times local):

4:15 p.m.

Pole sitter Chase Elliott has won the first stage of the NASCAR Cup race at Watkins Glen, leading the entire segment and beating Denny Hamlin by 4 seconds.

Elliott, the defending race winner, gained a big early lead over Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron after five laps. Kyle Busch started third but spun out on the first turn of the race as he tried to dive inside Byron for second. Busch dropped to 10th, then began to slowly rally.

Hamlin, who won last week at Pocono, passed Byron for second halfway through the 20-lap segment.

Busch passed Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, and Jimmie Johnson on his way back up through the pack and was fifth with five laps to go, just behind Byron and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr.

Byron spun out into the grassy area in the inner loop and shot across the grass after a tap in the back from Busch and finished fifth in the segment. Byron then slammed Busch’s back end on the cooldown lap, damaging his front end.

Six drivers elected not to pit and Elliott restarted seventh in line behind leader Larson.

Busch was penalized for exiting pit road too fast and restarted 36th.

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1 p.m.

The NASCAR Cup Series is ready to go racing at Watkins Glen International.

Defending race winner Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports starts from the pole Sunday on the 2.45-mile road course in New York’s Finger Lakes region.

Martin Truex Jr., who starts fourth for Joe Gibbs Racing in the 90-lap race, is chasing a sweep of the two traditional road races on the schedule. He won at Sonoma in June for the second straight time and finished runner-up to Elliott a year ago at The Glen, where he also has a victory.

Like Sonoma, Watkins Glen can be unpredictable. The Glen hasn’t had a repeat winner in more than a decade. Marcos Ambrose was the last in 2011-12.

The cars were inspected Sunday morning and all passed, but Ryan Blaney will start from the back of the field after his crew made unapproved adjustments to the No. 12 Penske Racing Ford. Blaney qualified 19th on Saturday.

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More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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