In just his fourth start with Hendrick Motorsports and his return to the NASCAR Cup Series, Kyle Larson won Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, becoming the fourth-different winner of the season.
It was his first win since Oct. 6, 2019 and Dover International Speedway and seventh of his career. He led a race-high 103 laps.
Hendrick got off to a rollicking start in Vegas as William Byron jumped out to the lead. Larson and Chase Elliott followed suit and battled for second up to the competition caution on lap 25.
Kevin Harvick began a rough day after reporting his car “plowing tight” in the opening laps. He started on the pole, but faded outside the top 10 rapidly. He dropped outside the top 20 after contact with Erik Jones on the restart following the competition caution and finished the stage in 18th.
Bubba Wallace continued his woes with the debuting 23XI Racing Sunday as he was caught speeding on pit road and later suffered a mechanical issue that put the team a handful of laps down.
Out front, it became a battle of Hendrick vs. Team Penske as Elliott and Larson battled Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Logano faded at the end of the stage, but not before a three-wide battle between himself, Larson and Keselowski for a couple laps during stage one. When the dust cleared, Elliott and Keselowski were the ones battling for the stage win.
Both drivers exchanged the lead in the closing laps, but Keselowski got the upper hand to earn the stage victory.
The first stage saw 13 lead changes. By comparison, the fall 2020 race only saw 20 lead changes through the entire race.
At the start of stage two, Keselowski held point, but was quickly pressured by Larson and Byron, eventually surrendering the lead to Larson.
Larson paced the field for the remainder of the stage and went on to dominate for his first stage win since 2019.
Stewart-Haas Racing struggled mightily in the stage. Harvick ran outside the top 10 while Aric Almirola, Cole Custer and rookie Chase Briscoe all went a lap down.
Michael McDowell, Daniel Saurez, Anthony Alfredo and Corey LaJoie pushed their luck to stay out and earn a caution, but it never came and each driver fell a lap down by the stage’s end.
Two cautions came out early in the final stage. Elliott got caught in the wake of the pack early in a green-flag run and spun out. He collected damage to his left front after contact with Kurt Busch.
Stewart-Haas’ struggles continued after Almirola slammed the wall to bring out a caution, ending his day.
The race ran green for the final 80 laps and Larson was able to get back to the front after restarting 17th. He cruised from there to nab the Vegas victory.
Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Hamlin and Blaney rounded out the top five. Martin Truex JrChristopher Bell, Byron, Logano and Jones.
For Jones, it was his first top-10 finish since the Charlotte Roval last season and Richard Petty Motorsports’ first top 10 since last season’s regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway.
Stewart-Haas had a day they’d like to forget as Harvick was the highest finisher of the team with a 20th-place run. Briscoe finished 21st, Custer finished 25th and Almirola finished last after the DNF.
Following his spin, Elliott rebounded to finish 13th.
The shortened West Coast Swing will wrap up at Phoenix Raceway next Sunday.
Unofficial Race Results:
Unofficial point standings:
Lead changes: 27
Time of Race: 2:52:07
Avg. speed: 139.615 mph
Margin of victory: 3.156 seconds