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Race report
NASCAR Cup Las Vegas II

Larson holds off Bell in close battle for the win at Las Vegas

Kyle Larson hit the wall and nearly spun out another time but still managed to come away with a dominant NASCAR Cup playoff victory Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that made him the first driver locked into the Championship 4.

Despite Larson winning both stages and leading a race-high 133 of 267 laps, Larson’s victory 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.

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

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

Completing the top-10 were Ryan BlaneyWilliam Byron, Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex Jr., and Denny Hamlin. Blaney originally finished sixth, but was later disqualified after failing post-race inspection. However, NASCAR rescinded the disqualification on Monday, citing an issue with the inspection process.

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.

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Stage 1

Larson passed Bell with eight of 80 laps remaining and held him off by 0.525 seconds to claim the Stage 1 win. Keselowski was third, Reddick fourth and Truex rounded out the top five.

Stage 2

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. Bell was third, Hamlin fourth and Keselowski rounded out the top five.

While trying to run down the leader, 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.

 

Stage 3

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 penalized 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.

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.

With less than 25 laps remaining, Gibbs hit the wall again but was able to get his No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota on pit road and no caution was called.

With 10 to go, Larson’s lead had been cut to under a second by Bell as Keselowski ran third.

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