Larson wins at Las Vegas for first Cup victory since reinstatement

Matthew Thacker/Motorsport Images

Larson wins at Las Vegas for first Cup victory since reinstatement

NASCAR

Larson wins at Las Vegas for first Cup victory since reinstatement

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Kyle Larson needed just four races to find victory lane with Hendrick Motorsports by scoring the win on Sunday afternoon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Larson was dominant in the Pennzoil 400, leading 103 of 267 laps. He also won the second stage. Cycling to the race lead for the final time with 29 laps to go after green-flag pit stops, Larson gapped Brad Keselowski by over three seconds in the run to the finish.

“It was such an awesome race car,” said Larson. “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 I had a really good car once we got single-filed out but drafting early in the run was tough.

“Thank you so much, Mr. (Hendrick), Jeff Gordon, everybody at Hendrick Motorsports for the amazing opportunity I’ve been gifted. HendrickCars.com, Chevrolet, everybody at the engine shop, thank you so much for the hard work. This is definitely special.”

Rick Hendrick signed Larson in late October. Larson became a free agent and sat out much of the 2020 season after being fired by Chip Ganassi following a racial slur while on iRacing. Monday, March 8, will mark the one-year anniversary of his final race with Ganassi.

The win is the seventh for Larson in the NASCAR Cup Series, but first on a 1.5-mile track. It was also the first victory for crew chief Cliff Daniels, who was promoted to the crew chief position in late 2019 for Jimmie Johnson.

Larson’s No. 5 team is the group that was the No. 48 for Johnson last season. The team’s previous win was in June 2017 (Dover).

Keselowski finished second, with Las Vegas native Kyle Busch finishing third. Denny Hamlin finished fourth, and Ryan Blaney finished fifth.

Keselowski won the first stage and led 27 laps. Hamlin led the race’s second-most laps with 47.

“I was just really happy for him; I know he’s been through a lot in the last year,” Keselowski said of greeting Larson at the start/finish line. “He’s a good kid; I’ve known him for a little while. He’s got a good family. Just happy to see him bounce back.

“He was really fast. He was smart. He had a lot of speed in all the lanes, which is really impressive. Usually, you got to make a compromise. If Kyle Larson wasn’t here, it would have been a dominant day, but they were really strong, and he’s got some really good equipment now, and he’s going to keep showing it, I’m sure.”

Martin Truex Jr. finished sixth, Christopher Bell finished seventh, William Byron finished eighth, Joey Logano finished ninth, and Erik Jones finished 10th.

Pole-sitter Kevin Harvick finished 20th and did not lead a lap Sunday. Harvick fell back into traffic off the start and struggled with the balance of his Ford Mustang, and his car also suffered damage from an early collision with Erik Jones off a restart.

Larson is the fourth different winner in four races this season. Hendrick Motorsports is now four wins from breaking Petty Enterprises’ record for the most by an organization in the Cup Series.

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