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Larson wins Las Vegas for Cup Championship 4 berth, Blaney DQed

By Holly Cain-NASCAR Wire Service
Posted 9:00PM on Sunday 15th October 2023 ( 9 months ago )

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -

Kyle Larson led the most laps and swept both stage wins but still had to hold off a hard-charging, equally motivated Christopher Bell at the finish line to claim the win in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Larson blocked the final charge by fellow Playoff driver Bell as the two approached the checkered flag. Larson ultimately positioned his Chevy in front to claim a .082-second win and secure the first of four available positions in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 race at Phoenix in three weeks.

Larson held off the field on a re-start with 45 laps to go and never relinquished it despite quality challenges from Bell to close out the race and earlier, Brad Keselowski, who led 38 laps himself.

“Thankfully Christopher (Bell) always races extremely clean, it could have gotten crazier than it did coming to the start-finish line so thank you to him for racing with respect there,” Larson said. “What a job done by my team. Just a great race car.”

Larson led seven times and accumulated the most laps led – 133 of 267 – on the afternoon to top the 1,000-laps led mark on the season – his 1,031 total laps out front in 2023, most in the series.

Not only did he have to hold off Bell, who made up half a second in the closing five laps to get to his bumper, Larson also survived a close call mid-race, his Chevy getting loose and out of control. But the dirt track ace dramatically corrected and calmly carried on.

“I almost gave it away there in turn one and two,” Larson said. “Got sideways and hit the wall and had to fight back from there. I was happy to pull away as much as we did and was hoping that would be enough to maintain, which it was. But I didn’t think they’d be able to get as close as they did at the end, so nerve-wracking.”

“This is really cool to get to race for the championship in a few weeks and really glad I don’t have to stress these next two races,” Larson continued.

Despite the impressive afternoon, Bell, who started from pole position and led 61 laps, now finds himself ranked fifth – two points below the four-driver cutoff line heading into next week’s Playoff race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“I don’t know what else I could have done,” Bell said. “I feel like that was my moment, that was my moment to make the Final Four and didn’t quite capture it. Coming to the checkers there, I knew he was going to be blocking so I’m like I’ll try to go high, and he went high. I don’t even know if I had a run to get by him coming to the line. Just wasn’t enough, but a great day.

“Great day for sure to get those stage points and a second place finish out of it. Puts us behind by two (points) so we’re not out of it by any means, but would have been nice to lock in.”

Meanwhile, Playoff driver Ryan Blaney, who was flagged in sixth place, was disqualified in post race tech inspection after NASCAR officials said the left-front shock on his car did not meet the overall specified length outlined in the NASCAR rule book.

Following Blaney’s DQ, seven of the remaining Playoff-eligible drivers crossed the finish among the top 10.

The non-Playoff cars of Kyle Busch, Keselowski, and Ross Chastain rounded out the top five behind Larson and Bell.

Playoff drivers William Byron, Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex, Jr., Denny Hamlin, and Chris Buescher rounded out the top 10.

The race and Blaney’s disqualification shook up the Playoff points. Beyond Larson’s automatic bid, Byron still holds the championship lead in what is now more tightly-bunched standings. Byron is five points up on the regular season champion Truex, who leads Hamlin by four points.

Chris Buescher is 11 points below the cutoff line, followed by Bell (-16), Tyler Reddick (-16), and Blaney (-18).

Dawsonville, Georgia’s Chase Elliott was not highly competitive on Sunday, drawing a penalty for a violation on the final restart of the day. He would soldier home to a 32nd place finish, one lap down.

NASCAR Cup Series
Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Las Vegas, NV
South Point 400 – October 15, 2023

1. (2) Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 267.
2. (1) Christopher Bell (P), Toyota, 267.
3. (6) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 267.
4. (21) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 267.
5. (10) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 267.
6. (3) William Byron (P), Chevrolet, 267.
7. (8) Tyler Reddick (P), Toyota, 267.
8. (4) Martin Truex, Jr. (P), Toyota, 267.
9. (15) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 267.
10. (5) Chris Buescher (P), Ford, 267.
11. (9) Joey Logano, Ford, 267.
12. (7) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 267.
13. (13) Aric Almirola, Ford, 267.
14. (36) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 267.
15. (24) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 267.
16. (18) Michael McDowell, Ford, 267.
17. (16) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.
18. (28) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 267.
19. (33) Harrison Burton, Ford, 267.
20. (22) A.J. Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 267.
21. (20) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 267.
22. (19) Austin Cindric, Ford, 267.
23. (27) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.
24. (30) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Chevrolet, 267.
25. (32) Ryan Preece, Ford, 267.
26. (29) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 266.
27. (23) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 266.
28. (26) J.J. Yeley(i), Ford, 266.
29. (34) Brennan Poole(i), Ford, 266.
30. (31) B.J. McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 266.
31. (35) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 266.
32. (17) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 263.
33. (11) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 259.
34. (14) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, Accident, 144.
35. (25) Carson Hocevar(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 110.
DQ: (12) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 267.

Average Speed: 135.635 mph.

Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 57 Mins, 10 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.082 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 7 for 36 laps.

Lead Changes: 20 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders: C. Bell (P) 1-2;K. Larson (P) 3-28;C. Bell (P) 29-39;K. Larson (P) 40-68;C. Bell (P) 69-72;K. Larson (P) 73-82;M. Truex Jr. (P) 83-91;D. Hamlin (P) 92-114;B. Keselowski 115-117;K. Larson (P) 118;B. Keselowski 119-145;C. Bell (P) 146;B. Keselowski 147-149;W. Byron (P) 150;B. Keselowski 151-154;K. Larson (P) 155-168;C. Bell (P) 169-211;J. Yeley(i) 212-213;K. Larson (P) 214-221;B. Keselowski 222;K. Larson (P) 223-267.

Leaders Summary: (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led) Kyle Larson (P) 7 times for 133 laps; Christopher Bell (P) 5 times for 61 laps; Brad Keselowski 5 times for 38 laps; Denny Hamlin (P) 1 time for 23 laps; Martin Truex Jr. (P) 1 time for 9 laps; JJ Yeley(i) 1 time for 2 laps; William Byron (P) 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 5,20,6,45,19,11,8,4,24,23

Stage #2 Top Ten: 5,1,20,11,6,24,8,45,23,22

Playoff Standings: 1. Kyle Larson* – 4024 (4 Win); 2. William Byron – 4041 (6 Wins); 3. Martin Truex, Jr. – 4036 (3 Wins); 4. Denny Hamlin – 4032 (3 Wins); 5. Chris Buescher – 4021 (3 Wins); 6. Christopher Bell – 4016 (1 Win); 7. Tyler Reddick – 4016 (2 Wins); 8. Ryan Blaney – 4014 (2 Wins).

*Locked Into The Championship 4

(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series

Kyle Larson celebrates in victory lane after winning Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Kyle Larson drives during Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

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