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Race report
NASCAR Cup Las Vegas II

NASCAR Cup Las Vegas: Larson holds off Bell in close battle for win

Kyle Larson took a dominant NASCAR Cup playoff victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway despite two incidents, making him the first driver locked into the Championship 4.

Despite Larson winning both stages and leading a race-high 133 of 267 laps, his victory on Sunday was anything but easy.

While running down the race leader, Larson hit the wall pretty hard off Turn 2 hard late in Stage 2 and fell back in the running order to regroup.

Larson reclaimed the lead on pit road on the next-to-last caution and after a brief battle with Brad Keselowski appeared ready to cruise to victory.

Pole-winner Christopher Bell, however, closed on Larson dramatically in the final five laps and had a big run off Turn 4 on the final lap but Larson edged him by 0.082 seconds to secure the win and become the first driver who will compete for the 2023 series title at Phoenix.

It’s the fourth win of the season for Larson and his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team and 23rd of his career. This has now secured the second opportunity of his career to compete for a championship.

“I could see him coming in my mirror, for sure,” Larson said of Bell on the final lap. “Was hoping those lappers were going to give me the bottom (lane). The No. 38 (Todd Gilliland) peeled off to the bottom. I knew I couldn’t follow him. I just didn’t want to go all the way to the top, leave the middle open.

“Thankfully, Christopher always races extremely clean. Could have got crazier than it did coming to the start/finish line. Thank you to him for racing with respect there.

“What a job done by my team, too. Just a great race car. I almost gave it away there in (Turns) 1 and 2, getting sideways, hitting into the wall. Had to fight back there with our balance. They got it much closer there (racing) in the lead.”

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro takes the checkered flag to beat Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Rheem / Smurfit Kappa Toyota Camry

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro takes the checkered flag to beat Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Rheem / Smurfit Kappa Toyota Camry

Photo by: Lesley Ann Miller / Motorsport Images

Kyle Busch finished third, Keselowski was fourth and Ross Chastain rallied from an early pit road speeding penalty to finish fifth.

Stage 1 saw Larson pass Bell with eight of 80 laps remaining, and held him off by 0.525 seconds to claim the Stage 1 win.

Keselowski was leading Stage 2 when a chasing Larson hit the wall in Turn 2 on lap 141 and fell off the pace but remained on the track and dropped to fifth.

Five laps later, Larson’s teammate, Alex Bowman, wrecked hard exiting off Turn 4, which brought an early end to his race.

Larson went to the inside of Keselowski with 10 of 85 laps remaining to reclaim the lead and held on to take the Stage 2 win.

Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, all the lead-lap drivers pit with Bell the first off pit road. He led Chastain and Larson when the race returned to green with 96 laps remaining.

Chase Briscoe hit the wall and spun around multiple times off Turn 2 to bring out the sixth caution of the race and set up what could be the final round of pit stops.

Larson was the first off pit road while Austin Dillon was penalised for speeding and had to restart from the rear of the field. Larson led Keselowski and Bell on the restart with 52 laps to go.

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro

Photo by: Rusty Jarrett / NKP / Motorsport Images

With 50 to go, Ty Gibbs hit the wall off Turn 2 and lost a wheel, which went sailing down the track. Gibbs was assessed a two-lap penalty.

The race returned to green with 45 laps to go and Larson out front of Keselowski and Bell, before the latter made it into second by the flag.

Completing the top 10 were William Byron, Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex Jr.Denny Hamlin,and Chris Buescher. Ryan Blaney originally finished sixth, but was later disqualified after failing post-race inspection.

After the race, NASCAR announced his No. 12 Ford had a left-front shock that didn’t meet the overall specified length.

He will be credited with a last-place finish (36th) and one point. He also loses all eight stage points he scored in the race.

The penalty drops Blaney to last among the eight remaining playoff drivers. He is basically now in the position of having to win one of the two remaining races in the Round of 8 – at Homestead-Miami Speedway or Martinsville Speedway – if he hopes to advance to the Championship 4 at Phoenix.

The team has the option of an appeal, but it must notify NASCAR of its intention on Monday.

With two races remaining in the semifinal round of the playoffs, the four drivers lowest in points without a win and in danger of elimination are Blaney, Buescher, Reddick and Bell, who is three points below the cutoff line.

NASCAR Cup Las Vegas results

 

 
 
       
Driver Info
 
 
 
   
Cla Driver # Manufacturer Laps Time Interval Pits Points Retirement
1 United States K. Larson Hendrick Motorsports 5 Chevrolet 267 2:57'10.134   9 60  
2 United States C. Bell Joe Gibbs Racing 20 Toyota 267 +0.082 0.082 10 52  
3 United States K. Busch Richard Childress Racing 8 Chevrolet 267 +4.504 4.422 10 41  
4 United States B. Keselowski RFK Racing 6 Ford 267 +4.650 0.146 10 47  
5 United States R. Chastain TrackHouse Racing 1 Chevrolet 267 +5.457 0.807 10 41  
6 United States R. Blaney Team Penske 12 Ford 267 +5.837 0.380 10 39  
7 United States W. Byron Hendrick Motorsports 24 Chevrolet 267 +7.607 1.770 10 36  
8 United States T. Reddick 23XI Racing 45 Toyota 267 +8.549 0.942 10 38  
9 United States M. Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing 19 Toyota 267 +9.056 0.507 9 34  
10 United States D. Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing 11 Toyota 267 +9.709 0.653 10 38  
11 United States C. Buescher RFK Racing 17 Ford 267 +13.338 3.629 10 26  
12 United States J. Logano Team Penske 22 Ford 267 +13.881 0.543 10 25  
13 United States B. Wallace 23XI Racing 23 Toyota 267 +14.132 0.251 10 25  
14 United States A. Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing 10 Ford 267 +16.634 2.502 10 23  
15 Mexico D. Suarez TrackHouse Racing 99 Chevrolet 267 +16.792 0.158 11 22  
16 United States K. Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing 4 Ford 267 +20.268 3.476 10 23  
17 United States M. McDowell Front Row Motorsports 34 Ford 267 +22.611 2.343 10 20  
18 United States A. Dillon Richard Childress Racing 3 Chevrolet 267 +22.678 0.067 9 19  
19 United States C. Lajoie Spire Motorsports 7 Chevrolet 267 +23.072 0.394 10 18  
20 United States H. Burton Wood Brothers Racing 21 Ford 267 +24.251 1.179 9 17  
21 United States A. Allmendinger Kaulig Racing 16 Chevrolet 267 +24.704 0.453 11 16  
22 United States J. Haley Kaulig Racing 31 Chevrolet 267 +24.819 0.115 10 15  
23 United States A. Cindric Team Penske 2 Ford 267 +26.614 1.795 9 14  
24 United States T. Dillon Spire Motorsports 77 Chevrolet 267 +27.366 0.752 9 13  
25 United States R. Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing 47 Chevrolet 267 +28.566 1.200 9 12  
26 United States R. Preece Stewart-Haas Racing 41 Ford 267 +30.835 2.269 9 11  
27 United States T. Gilliland Front Row Motorsports 38 Ford 266 +1 Lap 1 Lap 9 10  
28 United States E. Jones Legacy Motor Club 43 Chevrolet 266 +1 Lap 0.602 11 9  
29 United States J. Yeley Rick Ware Racing 51 Ford 266 +1 Lap 7.138 9    
30 United States B. Poole Rick Ware Racing 15 Ford 266 +1 Lap 0.265 9    
31 United States B. McLeod Live Fast Motorsports 78 Chevrolet 266 +1 Lap 6.003 9    
32 United States C. Elliott Hendrick Motorsports 9 Chevrolet 266 +1 Lap 7.343 10 5  
33 United States C. Briscoe Stewart-Haas Racing 14 Ford 263 +4 Laps 3 Laps 11 4  
34
T. Gibbs Joe Gibbs Racing
54 Toyota 259 +8 Laps 4 Laps 14 3  
35 United States A. Bowman Hendrick Motorsports 48 Chevrolet 144 +123 Laps 115 Laps 6 2 Accident
36
C. Hocevar Legacy Motor Club
42 Chevrolet 110 +157 Laps 34 Laps 5   Accident

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