Kyle Larson was a part of the Hendrick Motorsports 1-2-3 finish Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and, for a minute, it looked like he would be the one leading the order.
He finished second, though, stung by the caution that flew with four laps to go and set up overtime. Larson came off pit road second to teammate and eventual winner William Byron but restarted third because Martin Truex Jr. stayed out.
Larson laughed when asked what he thought when the caution came out.
He had taken the lead on lap 196, which was early in the final stage. On fresher tires, the No. 5 hunted down and passed Denny Hamlin to take control of the race. He cycled back into the top spot with 39 laps to go after a round of green flag pit stops.
As the laps wound down, Larson drove away. The Californian held a lead of nearly 5s over Byron inside the final 20 laps and was still over 2s ahead with less than 10 laps to go, even as he navigated traffic.
The final caution was for Aric Almirola in Turn 4. Almirola started to spin and bounced off the wall with the right rear.
“It’s just part of Cup racing,” said Larson. “It seems like you count the laps down lap by lap and then, sure enough, the yellow lights come on. You just have to get over that and try to execute a good pit stop, and I thought I did a really good job getting to my sign and getting to the commitment line.
“I had a gap to William behind me; their pit crew must have done a really good job and got him out in front of us, and that gave up the front row. I knew I was in trouble with the No. 19 (Truex) staying out. I felt like William was going to get by him. It’s a bummer that we didn’t end up the winner, but all in all, William probably had a little better car than I had today, and their pit crew executed when they needed to at the end.”
Larson led 63 laps. Byron dominated the event by sweeping both stages and leading 176 of 271 laps.
Hendrick Motorsports has won the last three spring Las Vegas races. Larson won the race in 2021, Alex Bowman in 2022 and Byron prevailed Sunday.
“You can’t fuss about it too much,” Larson said of the timing of the caution to end his bid for a second Vegas win. “You just try to get focused on the pit stop and try to execute and do a good job. I felt like I did everything on my end good.
“These are really, really tough to win, and you have to execute from top to bottom. We did a good job today, but their pit crew was a little faster on the last stop. A bummer but all in all. I’m happy and proud of the effort from our Hendrick team. I’m looking forward to getting to Phoenix next week.”