Larson Secures NASCAR Championship Race Spot with Victory in Las Vegas


Larson Secures NASCAR Championship Race Spot with Victory in Las Vegas

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In an electrifying showdown at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kyle Larson outpaced Christopher Bell to become the first driver to secure a spot in NASCAR’s championship race. The 2021 Cup champion clinched the first of four coveted positions in the November 5 title-deciding finale, triumphing in Sunday’s opening race of the round of eight in NASCAR’s playoffs.

Relieved by the victory, Larson commented, “Glad that we don’t have to sweat through these next two races.”

Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports team gained the lead on pit road with the fastest stop after a caution with 57 laps to go. Although Bell led the race at that point, a pit stop shuffled the leaders, and Larson in his Chevrolet emerged as the front-runner.

Bell, starting from the pole in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, found himself in third place post-pit stop. Passing was challenging on this particular Las Vegas Sunday, leaving Bell trailing Larson for the remainder of the race. However, Bell mounted a late charge, closing the gap with each lap. As they approached the checkered flag, Bell made one last fervent push inside Larson but couldn’t quite overtake him at the finish line.

Larson’s fourth win of the season held paramount significance: Hendrick Motorsports can now relax over the next two weeks and concentrate on preparations for the championship at Phoenix Raceway. Joey Logano’s victory in Las Vegas last year, followed by two weeks of preparation, culminated in a championship-clinching win at Phoenix.

Larson acknowledged Bell’s closing speed, stating, “I could see him coming in my mirror, for sure. Luckily, Christopher has always raced me clean. It could have gotten crazy there coming to the start/finish line.”

Larson, leading for 133 laps, defeated Bell by a mere 0.082 seconds. Bell expressed disappointment, saying, “I don’t know what else I could have done. I feel like that was my moment. That was my moment to make the final four and didn’t capture it. It would have been nice to lock in.”

Las Vegas native Kyle Busch finished third in a Chevrolet, followed by Brad Keselowski in a Ford and Ross Chastain in a Chevrolet. All three had been eliminated from the playoffs the previous Sunday at Charlotte.

The next five spots went to playoff drivers, with Ryan Blaney finishing sixth in a Ford from Team Penske, followed by Larson’s teammate William Byron, Tyler Reddick in a Toyota for 23XI Racing, and JGR drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin. Chris Buescher, racing a Ford for RFK Racing, was the lowest-finishing playoff driver, coming in 11th.

A win in any of the three playoff races in this round guarantees an automatic berth in the championship finale. The remaining slots are determined by points standings, with Bell, Reddick, Blaney, and Buescher currently below the cutline.

This victory concludes a memorable week for Larson, as he begins preparations for next year’s Indianapolis 500. Larson plans to compete in both the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 in May, having recently completed the rookie orientation program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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With boss Rick Hendrick observing, Larson logged 72 laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, achieving a top speed of 217.898 mph.

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In the next race, NASCAR heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the middle event of the round of eight, with Larson as the defending race winner.


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