Kyle Larson put on a dominant performance at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, leading 103 laps of the 267-lap Pennzoil 400, the fourth race of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, on his way to the win. The win was Larson’s seventh-career Cup Series victory, but his first on a 1.5-mile track. Sunday’s win also was a first for crew chief Cliff Daniels and the second-straight for Hendrick Motorsports, following William Byron’s win at Homestead-Miami Speedway a week earlier.
“It was such an awesome race car. Cliff and everybody did a great job preparing this piece,” Larson said. “It was so much fun to drive. I could go wherever I wanted to. I knew we had a really good car once we would kind of get single-filed out, but just drafting early in the run was tough. But thank you so much Mr. Hendrick, Jeff Gordon, and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports for the amazing opportunity I’ve been gifted. Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet, everybody at the engine shop, thank you so much for all the hard work This is definitely special.”
Brad Keselowski finished second, and Kyle Busch was third.
“He was really fast. He was smart,” Keselowski said of Larson. “He had a lot of speed in all the lanes, which was really impressive. Usually, you’ve got to make a compromise, but they were really good. If Kyle Larson wasn’t here, we’d have had a dominant day, but they were really strong. He’s got some really good equipment now, and he’s gonna keep showing it, I’m sure.”
Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin finished fourth, and Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Ryan Blaney was fifth.
“We fought hard, obviously,” Busch said. “We were a little behind the eight-ball at the start of the green flag and just were super, super tight all day long. Ben [Beshore, crew chief] and the guys made awesome adjustments too, and I was trying to give the best feedback I can to give them good information that they can base that off of and make the good adjustments. We improved each time. I don’t know where we missed it so far from the simulator, but that’s two weeks in-a-row where we’re not apples to apples. Just can’t say enough about Ethel M. Chocolates; thank you, guys. It’s a pleasure to have them on board here for the first time ever in anything. I remember being there as a kid, a little bit anyways. I was five, so it’s a little shady. Certainly, my grandmother is smiling from above, so it was really special to have that on our Camry today and say thanks to Interstate Batteries, Rowdy Energy. Ready to keep working on it and keep improving. We were just a little off on pace, overall pace, overall lap time from the fast guys.”
The top-two race finishers also were stage winners, with Keselowski winning the first 80-lap stage and Larson claiming the stage-two win on lap 160.
The Hendrick Motorsports trio of Larson, William Byron and reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott ran first through third early in the race, with Byron and Elliott both leading leaps before a lap-25 competition caution.
After Hamlin and Keselowski took the top-two positions on the restart, Larson took the lead on lap 44. Larson, then, was among drivers who stayed out during a debris caution on lap 46. He lost the lead to Joey Logano, who also stayed out during the caution, on lap 53.
After pitting for tires during the lap-46 caution, Keselowski and Elliott traded the lead back-and-forth in the final 20 laps of the first stage. Keselowski took his stage-winning lead with two laps remaining in the stage.
Hamlin led the early laps of stage two after getting off pit road first, but on lap 107, Larson retook the lead. He, then, led most of the remainder of the stage that ran caution-free, with the exception of laps during a long cycle of green-flag pit stops that began on lap 123. Larson was back up front after the cycle on lap 147.
Larson remained up front for the opening laps of the 107-lap final stage, but Hamlin took the top position just before a caution for an Elliott spin with 98 laps remaining.
After a pit strategy of staying out didn’t work out early in the race, Larson pitted during the sixth and final caution of the race that came out for Aric Almirola with 88 laps remaining. The JGR duo of Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr., meanwhile, stayed out. Hamlin and Truex edach led laps before Larson retook the lead with 61 laps remaining.
Larson was still the leader when drivers cycled through green-flag pit stops one last time in the final 50 laps. When the cycle completed with about 30 laps remaining, Larson was back up front with Keselowski in second, positions they would maintain for the remainder of the race.
“He [Larson] ran a great race,” Keselowski said. ”He was really fast. The kid’s got so much talent. I still wanted to beat him, though, but we had a great Discount Tire Ford Mustang. If he wasn’t here, we would have just stunk the show up, but he was, and he ran good.”
Truex finished sixth, and Christopher Bell was seventh to put all four JGR cars inside the top-10.
“Overall, pretty solid day all in all for the Bass Pro Shops Camry,” Truex said. “Ran top-five or 10 pretty much all day long. Just never could quite get the balance perfect over the short and the long run. There were a few times where we were probably a third or fourth-place car, at best, and, then, towards the end, feeling pretty good. We were running fourth, there, after the last pit stop and, then, lost the balance, again, on the last run and dropped to sixth. Not a perfect day, by any means, but decent speed and good execution and good adjustments all day, for the most part. Just didn’t quite have enough to be better than we were.”
Byron finished eighth, Logano ninth, and Erik Jones rounded out the top-10.
PENNZOIL 400 RESULTS