Las Vegas — Kyle Larson captured the checkered flag in the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon. It was a photo finish with Pole winner Christopher Bell finishing in second just 0.082 seconds behind.
“Thankfully we were able to edge out a win,” Larson said during the post-race press conference. “Obviously I’m happy because I won. A lot of fun and glad we were able to come out the winner. It’s been a memorable week. Came here to Vegas knowing we’d have a car capable of winning and a lot of luck. It’s so bumpy in one and two. I got a little out of shape. I was thinking I was going to spin but clipped the outside wall and got lucky. My right rear tire was loose. Got to take a deep breath and forget about that. I thought this was a great race. We got a photo finish basically.”
This was Larson’s fourth win this season and second in Las Vegas overall. He secured the first of four NASCAR playoff positions for the finale in Phoenix. The 31-year-old driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet led the most laps and swept both stages of the race.
Las Vegas native Kyle Busch finished in third place after starting in sixth. Brad Keselowski was the best finishing Ford driver in fourth.
“It was a great battle— a great race,” said Jeff Gordon, vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports. “The restarts were intense. You can tell he’s working real hard. It was a total team effort because that last pit stop was a great stop. What a nail biter on those last few laps. I was sweating there. For us at Hendricks still more work to do the next couple of weeks. This track has been pretty good to us.“
There were 20 lead changes among 7 different drivers. Kyle Larson led the most laps with 133, Christoper Bell led 61 and Brad Keselowski led 38. Other lap leaders include Denny Hamlin with 23, Martin Truex JR. With nine, J.J. Yeley with two and William Byron led one lap.
The race lasted 2 hours, 57 minutes and 10 seconds in total. The average speed during the race was 135.635 mph.
There were 7 cautions for a total of 36 laps in the South Point 400. On lap 66, Erik Jones ran into Daniel Suarez on the front stretch. Then, lap 82 was the end of the first stage. Later on lap 112, Carson Hocevar’s race car hit AJ Allmendinger.
On lap 146, Alex Bowman’s race car tapped BJ McLeod on the front stretch. Then, lap 167 was the end of the second stage. Later on lap 211, Chase Briscoe slid into BJ McLeod. Finally, on lap 218, Ty Gibbs hit the turn two wall and lost a tire and a wheel.
“All around good team day,” said Larson’s crew chief, Cliff Daniels. “Kyle did a great job at end of the race managing tires. There’s two more races to win. We get to play those races to win versus having to play the race just for points. I think as a team we are significantly stronger. My faith in Jesus Christ has had to grow a lot this year. The caution saved our day after the caution on (turn) two.”
Following the South Point 400, Larson sits atop points standings with four wins. William Byron is second with six wins and Martin Truex Jr. is in third with three wins. Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell round out the top five.
Race fans I spoke to said they had a great time at the South Point 400 and look forward to returning.
“It was a fantastic race, close finish,” said Brendan Hurley and Angela Dahlgren from Omaha, Neb. “Awesome to see my guy get a win. Angela is a Chris Bell fan so it was cool they were first and second. Just kind of a photo finish at the end there, great race. Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I thought Christopher Bell was going to pull it off at the end. A little disappointed but he’s got a couple more races so I’m excited to watch. The NASCAR fans are the best that they’re are. Just a kind of family environment and really cool to be a part of.”
“Awesome, it’s very warm but my driver led some laps, was in second and did really good so I was happy,” said racing fan Christie Chorak from Iowa. “I thought it was awesome. I’ve got Brad’s autograph today which I’ve been working very hard for because he’s my favorite driver. He’s a Truex fan so I got him the sticker from the window that he is in the Round of 8 for the playoffs. These are both very huge for me today. I’m very excited.”
“I thought it was great, my first time here,” said racing fan Brandon from Villa Park, Calif. “We got to do all of the pit stuff and everything like that. Unfortunately, my guy blew a tire during practice so he started out in the back. All in all, he did pretty good. I got my hat signed by a few guys. I thought that was pretty cool seeing all of the drivers walk to their cars. Nick Cannon was here. That was pretty cool. I gave him a fist bump.”
“It’s the best thing ever, I was hoping and praying for him [Larson],” said Patrick and Janine Wilk from Fort Irwin in Yermo, Calif. “It was amazing. This fan zone area is incredible. I wish every track had this. It is an awesome way to watch and experience a race. Being able to see into the garage area, you can’t beat the experience here.”
Christopher Bell started the race from the pole in his No. 20 Toyota. Chevy drivers Kyle Larson and William Byron started in second and third, respectively. Martin Truex Jr. started fourth in his Toyota and Chris Buescher was the fastest qualifying Ford driver in fifth.
Before the race, Kevin Harvick was presented with a special neon sign for driving in every NASCAR race at LVMS since the 1.5-mile track opened in 1996. Harvick only has three races left and is then retiring.
There were many celebrities at this year’s South Point 400: Nick Cannon served as the honorary pace car driver. Actress Tiffany Haddish was the honorary race official. Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights Adin Hill and William Carrier were the grand marshals. In addition, Country music star Annie Bosko performed the national anthem.
Next up: The NASCAR Cup series heads to Homestead-Miami for the 4Ever 400 on Sunday.
Stay with AmericaJR for more coverage from the 2023 South Point 400…