Saturday, June 10, 2023

Kyle Larson Takes First Win Post-Suspension in Dominating Fashion at Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MARCH 07: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 07, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

It has been a hell of a road back to NASCAR Cup Series victory lane for Kyle Larson, who nearly saw his NASCAR career come to an end after a slip of the tongue during an iRacing event in 2020. But on Sunday, in just his fourth race back from suspension, Larson scored a stirring win in the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“Thank you so much Mr. H, Jeff Gordon, everybody at Hendrick Motorsports for the amazing opportunity I’ve been gifted,” Larson said after climbing from the car. “, Chevrolet, everybody at the engine shop, thank you so much for the hard work. This is definitely special.”

Larson, 28, led a race-high 108 laps and won Stage 2 en route to his seventh career NASCAR Cup Series victory.

“It was such an awesome race car. Cliff and everybody did a great job preparing this piece. It was so much fun to drive. I could go wherever I wanted to. I knew we really had a good car once we kind of got single filed out, but drafting in the beginning of a run was really tough”

It looked like Larson nearly gave the race win away on a late green-flag pit sequence, when he missed pit road on his first attempt. However, Larson was able to keep the lead through the sequence and he never looked back.

The California-native finished 3.156 seconds ahead of Brad Keselowski, who finished runner-up. Keselowski won Stage 1 and led 27 laps, but he just didn’t have enough to close in on Larson in the final laps on Sunday.

While second-place is usually the least favorite position for any race car driver, Keselowski was happy to see Larson complete his career-comeback, and the driver of the No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang even congratulated Larson on the frontstretch after the win.

“I’m just really happy for him,” Keselowski said. “I know he’s been through a lot over the last year. He’s a good kid, I’ve know him for a little while. He has a good family and just happy for him to bounce back.”

Keselowski wasn’t the only driver to congratulate Larson. Bubba Wallace, the lone African American driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, stopped by victory lane to shake Larson’s hand.

It was Wallace that Larson spoke to in the aftermath of his unfortunate slip of a racial slur last season. To see Wallace come by to congratulate him on the win meant a lot for Larson, who did a lot of work in effort to right his wrongs during his suspension.

“It meant a lot,” Larson said of Wallace coming to victory lane.

Wallace gave words of encouragement for Larson as well, “He said congrats, he always believed in me,” Larson recalled. “That was special. It was really cool to have him come on by.”

Kyle Busch, who has had a rough start to the 2021 season, scored his first top-five of 2021 with a third-place finish. Denny Hamlin ended up fourth and Ryan Blaney came home in fifth.

Martin Truex Jr., Christopher Bell, William Byron, Joey Logano and Erik Jones rounded out the top-10 finishers in the race.

Chase Elliott led 22-laps on the day and appeared to be in the running for the win on Sunday, but on the restart at the start of Stage 3, Elliott lost control of his No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, which sent him spinning. After making contact with Kurt Busch, Elliott had to hit pit road for repairs.

Video: Chase Elliott Loses Control, Spins Clips Kurt Busch at Start of Stage 3 in Las Vegas

Elliott would come back to finish 13th.

It was a wild a furious race with NASCAR’s 550-horsepower high downforce package. There were 27 lead changes on the day, which marks the second-most all-time in the history of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and it’s the most lead changes at LVMS since March of 2007.

Toby Christie
Toby Christie
Toby is the Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Toby is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, he is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award-winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.

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