Kyle Larson powered to his first victory of the NASCAR Cup Series season Sunday, pulling away during the final green-flag stretch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Larson became the fourth different winner in four Cup Series races this season, leading a race-high 103 of the 267 laps in the Pennzoil 400. The driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet netted his first win at the 1.5-mile Nevada track and the seventh of his Cup Series career.
Brad Keselowski placed second with his No. 2 Team Penske Ford scored 3.156 seconds behind at the checkered flag. Las Vegas native Kyle Busch came home third with points leader Denny Hamlin fourth and Ryan Blaney closing up the top five.
Keselowski and Larson divided the stage wins, with Larson securing his first stage victory since September 2019 at the second break. Larson recovered after missing his pit entry 44 laps from the finish and wound up leading 50 of the last 62 laps.
“That was some fun racing on the restarts, so I hope everybody enjoyed it. I know I did,” Larson said. “I had fun racing Brad and Denny and everybody and tried to give it away there coming to a green-flag stop, but thankfully we were able to have a good enough car to hold them all off.”
The triumph — his first with team owner Rick Hendrick — also broke a dry spell dating back to his most recent win, October 2019 at Dover International Speedway. Larson competed in just four races last season before his suspension by NASCAR and firing by Chip Ganassi Racing for use of a racial slur during an iRacing event. He signed with Hendrick Motorsports last October and was officially reinstated effective Jan. 1.
The victory was the first in the Cup Series for crew chief Cliff Daniels, who made his 55th appearance atop the pit box. It also marked the first victory for car No. 5 since Kasey Kahne’s last Cup Series win, which came at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July 2017.
Keselowski led 27 laps as he registered his best finish of the season. Post-race, he ran across the infield grass to shake Larson’s hand and congratulate him.
“He was really fast – had a lot of speed in all the lanes which was really impressive, usually you have to make a compromise, but they were really good,” Keselowski said. “If Kyle Larson wasn’t here, we would have had a dominant day.”
It was a highly competitive race from green to checkered flag with 27 lead changes among 12 different drivers. Five drivers led at least 20 laps.
Kevin Harvick started from the Busch Pole, but lost the lead in Lap 1 and dropped further back after a fender rub and a flat tire near the Stage 1 midpoint. He battled the handling of his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford and finished 20th, one lap down.
Defending series champion Chase Elliott led three times for 22 laps, but his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet sustained damage in a spin exiting Turn 2 with 99 laps remaining. Elliott recovered to place 13th.
The NASCAR Cup Series’ next race is the Instacart 500, scheduled Sunday, March 14 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM) at Phoenix Raceway.
Note: Post-race inspection in the Cup Series garage was clear, with no major issues reported. The No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford of Cole Custer was found with two unsecured lug nuts, which will likely result in a one-race suspension for crew chief Mike Shiplett. In addition, the Nos. 4, 17, 18, 19, 21 all had one lug nut not safe and secure.
Contributing: NASCAR Wire Service