Perfection: Flawless day ends with Kyle Larson celebrating in Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 03: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 03, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

It was a number 5 kind of day for the driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Kyle Larson at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

In a repeat of the last time the NASCAR Cup series visited Vegas last October, Larson led the most laps, swept the Stages, and held off a hard charging Tyler Reddick to score the 24th win of his career and his first of 2024.

It was the fifth time Larson has swept the stages, each one resulting in a victory.

“I knew Tyler was going to be the guy to beat from the first stage,” Larson said. “He was really fast there. I was hoping those guys were going to get racing a little bit longer behind me because I felt like it was going to time out where he was running really hard and getting the tow to catch me at the end.”

In a race that had six cautions Larson’s crew performed flawlessly, keeping him out front during several rounds of green flag stops.

Reddick finished .441 of a second behind Larson after making one final charge after taking second with 20 laps to go. For Reddick a second place behind Larson was the story of his entire afternoon.  Reddick finished second to Larson in the first two Stages and seemed faster than him including after the final round of green flag stops when Reddick seemingly got help from his 23XI Racing teammate Bubba Wallace. Wallace whose Toyota suffered a stuck lug nut that forced him in for repairs and left him 12 laps down, was running behind Reddick on the track at one point and bumping him towards Larson.

But with 33 laps to go, Corey LaJoie, who had run inside the top five and one point, went for a solo spin while running 18th setting up the race’s final caution and thwarting Reddick’s efforts to get to Larson.

The final restart came with 27 laps to go with Larson blocking and finally taking the lead while the rest of the top 10 fought for position behind.

Reddick again had the second spot with 20 to go and was once more trying to close the gap on Larson.  That effort fell short, and Reddick was left as the runner-up.

“Yeah, it’s just the Next Gen racing game, right?” a frustrated Reddick said. “Get the lead and got to hold onto it. Yeah, Kyle (Larson) did a really good job there taking away pretty much every option I had there to close the gap. He seemed pretty good in the middle and I was obviously really good on the bottom, and he just never let me have it, right?

“Just stupid mistakes on pit road. Same shit, different year, right? Kind of frustrating. We’ll continue to work on it, but a good rebound for our team today.”

Ryan Blaney was third, Ross Chastain who used a two-tire strategy on the final stop to gain position was fourth, and Ty Gibbs who was penalized earlier in the event rallied for fifth.

“Yeah, I kind of stuck us in a hole there and we broke the transmission,” Gibbs said. “Which is kind of unfortunate that has to happen, that’s just part of it and we fought back. I put my team in a hole there. No excuses.”

The Gibbs penalty came during a round of stops after the race’s fourth caution that started on lap 111 when Christopher Bell spun coming out of Turn 2. It was the second spin for Bell who brought out the race’s first caution on lap 11 when his Toyota lost a tire. He was able to continue from that spin and finished 10th in the first stage.

Las Vegas native Noah Gragson quietly finished sixth, Martin Truex Jr. seventh with Denny Hamlin eighth, polesitter Joey Logano ninth and last year’s Vegas winner William Byron rounded out the top 10.

Byron led twice for 15 laps but a large piece of plastic got caught on the front of his Chevy on lap 44, forcing him in with high engine temps for an unscheduled stop to have it removed. He fell a lap down, later got the free pass, then had slow stop caused by him overshooting his pit stall.

The only car that failed to finish was the Ford of Chris Buescher who lost a lug nut followed by the right front tire on lap 28 sending him hard into the Turn 2 wall. Buescher was uninjured but NASCAR was forced to throw a red flag for wall repairs that lasted just over 10 minutes.

“We lost the nut and lost half the wheel,” Buescher said.  “I think the tire stayed up under the fender.  I’m not exactly sure just yet, but it looks like the nut came off and something in the suspension actually cut the wheel in half.”

When the checkered flag fell, it was Larson who had a perfect day.

“All in all, such a great job by this Hendrick Cars Chevy team and just their execution, pit road, restarts, all that was great,” Larson said. “Cool to get a win here at Vegas again. Back-to-back, swept all the stages again. Can’t ask for much more.”

NASCAR remains out west heading to Phoenix Raceway next Sunday. Byron is also the defending winner of that race.




Greg Engle