Kyle Larson Holds Off Christopher Bell In Las Vegas To Advance To Championship 4

Kyle Larson Holds Off Christopher Bell In Las Vegas To Advance To Championship 4

by October 15, 2023 0 comments

LAS VEGAS – Kyle Larson punched his ticket to the Championship 4 in the NASCAR Playoffs after he edged Christopher Bell to the finish line to win Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Larson and his Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet team have been strong contenders all season long, and on Sunday, the clutch performance continued.

In the closing laps on Sunday, Larson lost significant ground to Christopher Bell who chased him down. On the final lap, and the two drivers battled with lapped traffic just ahead, and when they exited the final turn, Bell reached Larson’s bumper, but he couldn’t pull off the race-winning move. Larson initiated a block and held on by 0.082 seconds for his fourth victory of the season.

“I could see him coming in my mirror, for sure,” Larson said. “Was hoping those lappers were going to give me the bottom. The 38 peeled off to the bottom. I knew I couldn’t follow him. I just didn’t want to go all the way to the top, leave the middle open. Thankfully Christopher always races extremely clean. Could have got crazier than it did coming to the start/finish line. Thank you to him for racing with respect there.”

Throughout the race, Larson led a race high of 133 laps, sweeping all three stages; however, mid-race, his day nearly ended when he got loose exiting Turn 2. Larson’s right rear hit the wall, but he continued to drive on.

“What a job done by my team, too,” Larson said. “Just a great race car. I almost gave it away there in one and two, getting sideways, hitting into the wall. Had to fight back there with our balance. They got it much closer there in the lead.

“I was happy to pull away as much as we did. Was hoping that was going to be enough to maintain, which it was. I thought they weren’t going to be able to get as close as they did there at the end. Nerve-wracking.”

Of the seven Playoff races so far this season, Bell has started on the pole for four of the races. The Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Rheem/Smurfit Kappa Toyota team have performed well in the Playoffs but entered Las Vegas Motor Speedway coming off two finishes outside of the top-10.

Bell led 61 laps on Sunday, and he finished out Stage 1 in second and Stage 2 in third. As the laps ticked away, Bell worked his way around William Byron who was running second, and then he set his sights on Larson. While running the high line, Bell without a doubt had the faster car, but he just ran out of time. Bell is now 3 points below the Championship 4 cutline with only two races remaining.

“I mean, I don’t know what else I could have done, so… Very I don’t know,” Bell said. “I feel like that was my moment. That was my moment to make the Final Four. Didn’t quite capture it.

“I don’t know. Coming to the checkered there, I knew that he was going to be blocking, so I’m like I’m going to try to go high. He went high. I don’t even know if I had a run to get by him there coming to the line. Just wasn’t enough.”

Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Ross Chastain rounded out the top-five. Playoff contenders, Ryan Blaney, Byron, Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex Jr., and Denny Hamlin completed the top-10.

The caution flag flew on seven occasions, but no accident was for a multi-car crash.

Heading into the second race of the Round of 8 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Larson leads the standings with a locked-in spot, followed by Byron (+9), Truex (+2) and Denny Hamlin (+2). Drivers below the cutline include Bell (-2), Reddick (-16), Blaney (-17) and Buescher (-23).

The 4EVER 400 Presented by Mobile 1 at Homestead-Miami Speedway will get underway on Sunday, Oct. 22. Live coverage will broadcast on NBC at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

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