NASCAR race results: Kyle Larson wins at Las Vegas. Full analysis and takeaways

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Alex Andrejev
·6 min read
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Kyle Larson didn’t compete in a NASCAR competition for almost a full year, but it took him just four short races in 2021 to return to Victory Lane.

Larson dominated Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for his first win of the season and his first victory driving the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.

“I didn’t know if I’d ever have an opportunity to win a NASCAR race again,” said Larson, who gave a shoutout to team owner Rick Hendrick. “To get this awesome opportunity with Hendrick Motorsports, with Mr. H taking a massive chance on me and then going out there and being strong all year has been great ... Today we put it all together.”

Brad Keselowski finished second and Kyle Busch finished in third.

Larson locks in return win at Las Vegas

Larson controlled the leaderboard Sunday, winning the second stage and leading a race-high 103 laps of the 267-lap race.

After 27 lead changes, Larson made his final move back to the front of the pack on Lap 238, where he was able to put three seconds between him and Keselowski at the checkered flag. Keselowski walked over to Larson to congratulate him after the race, as did Bubba Wallace.

“I’ve known him for a little while,” Keselowski said on FOX. “He’s got a good family and just happy to see him bounce back.”

Larson missed a majority of last season after he was suspended by NASCAR for using a racial slur during a virtual racing event as the sport was postponed for the pandemic. His former sponsors and Chip Ganassi Racing team released him in the wake of the incident, so Larson was out of a ride for the remainder of the 2020 season. He completed sensitivity training, stepped out of the spotlight, issued multiple apologies and ultimately returned to competition this year with the new No. 5 team for Hendrick Motorsports.

“So proud of you, man,” No. 5 crew chief Cliff Daniels said on the team radio after the race. “God has been so good to this team. It’s been a hell of journey for all of us.”

Hendrick off to strong season start

Larson’s win marks the second Hendrick driver to post a victory in the first four races this year. Both Larson and last weekend’s winner William Byron are locked into playoffs for the four-car team. Byron finished in the top-10 (eighth) at Las Vegas, while other Hendrick drivers Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman didn’t fair as well.

Bowman had to pit under green from the top-10 for a flat tire in the final stage, then had to serve a pass-through for a commitment line violation that sent him to the back of the pack. He finished in 27th, but earned points with top-10 finishes in both stages, along with Larson and Byron.

Elliott had a fast car in the opening laps, but his No. 9 Chevrolet wiggled mid-pack on the outside and he slid spinning backward through the field in the final stage. Elliott was able to save it, as other cars dodged him, but the car suffered earlier damage to the right side jackpost that occurred during a pit stop in the first 50 laps when a jack got stuck under the car. With the damage compounded and late-race spin, Elliott finished 13th.

Stewart-Haas struggles

Despite Kevin Harvick’s points dominance this year, the No. 4 team had limited luck in Las Vegas, as did Stewart-Haas Racing teammates. Harvick started on the pole but quickly fell out of the top-10 in the opening laps, reporting the car was tight as the looser setups of Brad Keselowski and Larson ran up front early. Harvick also had to pit for repairs to his left front fender in the first stage, which was won by Keselowski.

Harvick didn’t make it up to the top-10 for the second stage finish either, nor did any other SHR drivers. A left front tire on the No. 10 car driven by Aric Almirola went down in the second stage, which sent Almirola into the wall. He pit for repairs, but eventually exited the race early, adding to his string of disappointing finishes to open the 2021 season. Almirola, who made the playoffs last year and won the first Duel at Daytona this year, finished 34th, 17th and 30th in the opening three races of the season. His latest finish, in 38th at Las Vegas, won’t help him in points.

“It has been a terrible year,” Almirola told PRN. “We got off to a great start winning the Duel and nothing has been good since then. It’s got me really down.”

Stewart-Haas drivers Chase Briscoe and Cole Custer finished in 21st and 25th, respectively. Harvick was 20th.

NASCAR at Las Vegas race results

Pos.

Car No.

Driver

Time Behind

Laps

Best Time

Best Speed

1

5

Kyle Larson

WINNER

267

30.214

178.725

2

2

Brad Keselowski

3.156

267

30.184

178.903

3

18

Kyle Busch

6.368

267

30.508

177.003

4

11

Denny Hamlin

9.906

267

30.399

177.637

5

12

Ryan Blaney

10.325

267

30.327

178.059

6

19

Martin Truex Jr.

12.471

267

30.417

177.532

7

20

Christopher Bell

12.844

267

30.474

177.2

8

24

William Byron

15.404

267

30.404

177.608

9

22

Joey Logano

23.918

267

30.518

176.945

10

43

Erik Jones

28.175

267

30.349

177.93

11

47

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

28.561

267

30.516

176.956

12

3

Austin Dillon

29.263

267

30.657

176.142

13

9

Chase Elliott

30.816

267

30.16

179.045

14

17

Chris Buescher

31.243

267

30.593

176.511

15

37

* Ryan Preece

-1

266

30.601

176.465

16

21

Matt DiBenedetto

-1

266

30.396

177.655

17

34

Michael McDowell

-1

266

30.638

176.252

18

6

Ryan Newman

-1

266

30.63

176.298

19

1

Kurt Busch

-1

266

30.36

177.866

20

4

Kevin Harvick

-1

266

30.627

176.315

21

14

Chase Briscoe #

-1

266

30.779

175.444

22

8

Tyler Reddick

-1

266

30.619

176.361

23

42

Ross Chastain

-1

266

30.578

176.598

24

38

Anthony Alfredo #

-1

266

30.789

175.387

25

41

Cole Custer

-1

266

30.714

175.816

26

99

Daniel Suarez

-2

265

30.732

175.713

27

48

Alex Bowman

-2

265

30.442

177.387

28

23

Bubba Wallace

-5

262

30.515

176.962

29

77

Justin Haley(i)

-5

262

31.039

173.975

30

78

BJ McLeod(i)

-7

260

31.286

172.601

31

53

Garrett Smithley(i)

-8

259

31.46

171.647

32

51

Cody Ware(i)

-8

259

31.278

172.645

33

0

Quin Houff

-11

256

31.541

171.206

34

15

Joey Gase

-12

255

31.847

169.561

35

52

Josh Bilicki

-15

252

31.612

170.821

36

66

* Timmy Hill

-21

246

31.917

169.189

37

7

Corey LaJoie

-79

188

30.721

175.776

38

10

Aric Almirola

-89

178

30.656

176.148