Hamlin Wins at Las Vegas, Advances to the Playoffs Round of 8

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Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, NV — September 26, 2021

The Round of 12 in the NASCAR Playoffs kicks off today with the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. After Bristol, the points reset with playoff points earned carrying forward. Kyle Larson holds a big advantage sitting 30 points above 2nd place Martin Truex Jr. and a 46 point edge above the cut line. For the remaining 11 drivers, every point is critical if they want to advance.

NASCAR Cup Series Driver Playoff Outlook Following Bristol Motor Speedway
Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Pts From Cutoff
1 Kyle Larson 3,059 6 14 59 46
2 Martin Truex Jr. 3,029 4 5 29 16
3 Denny Hamlin 3,024 1 9 24 11
4 Ryan Blaney* 3,024 3 4 24 11
5 Kyle Busch 3,022 2 5 22 9
6 Chase Elliott 3,021 2 3 21 8
7 Alex Bowman 3,015 3 0 15 2
8 William Byron 3,014 1 3 14 1
9 Joey Logano* 3,013 1 5 13 -1
10 Brad Keselowski* 3,008 1 2 8 -6
11 Christopher Bell 3,005 1 0 5 -9
12 Kevin Harvick* 3,002 0 0 2 -12

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Today’s Race

The 267 laps around the 1.5-mile speedway total 400.5 miles with stages set for 80/80/107 laps. Kurt Busch is the defending champion of the race.

Three playoff drivers have average finishes that would place them in the Top 10. Joey Logano’s average finish is 8.7, Ryan Blaney 9.2, and Kyle Larson 9.8. Of course, averages don’t matter when the green flag drops.

Kyle Larson(5) sits on the pole with Ryan Blaney(12) starting beside him. The second row of William Byron(24) and Martin Truex Jr.(19) will drop to the rear of the field prior to the start as both cars failed pre-race inspection twice.

The Start

Kevin Harvick(4) pushed Blaney to the lead on Lap 1 as drivers raced three-wide in an attempt to gain positions. Denny Hamlin(11) and Larson squared off for the 2nd spot until Kyle Busch(18) joined the fray as Harvick got caught in the middle lane and drifted back to 8th place.

The start of the NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway / NASCAR Photo

Hamlin drove to the front, taking over the top spot from Blaney. By the time NASCAR displayed the competition caution at Lap 25, Byron had moved from the rear of the field into 9th place.

Stage 1

Kyle Busch was first off pit road to take over the top spot. He was followed by Hamlin, Blaney, Larson, and Harvick. After two laps of side-by-side racing, Hamlin grabbed the lead back from Busch.

Just past the halfway point of the Stage, Larson became the new leader with a pass of Hamlin while they were working their way through lapped traffic. Larson built the lead interval as he cruised to the Stage Win. Byron finished the /stage in 5th and Truex recovered to get the final Stage point in the 10th position.

Two non-playoff drivers, Tyler Reddick(8) and Matt DiBenedetto(21) earned spots in the Top 10.

Stage 1 Results

Position Car Driver Points
1 5 Kyle Larson (P) 10
2 18 Kyle Busch (P) 9
3 11 Denny Hamlin (P) 8
4 12 Ryan Blaney (P)* 7
5 24 William Byron (P) 6
6 9 Chase Elliott (P) 5
7 8 Tyler Reddick 4
8 4 Kevin Harvick (P)* 3
9 21 Matt DiBenedetto* 2
10 19 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers  (P) Playoff Drivers

Stage 2

Pit stops again shuffled the running order with Hamlin out first, Larson, Chase Elliott(9), Blaney, and Byron followed. Hamlin led the first two laps under green before Larson powered past on the high side. Byron went three-wide to take over the lead, just before Joey Gase(15) spun off Turn 2 when the left rear wheel came off his car.

Drivers that were not comfortable with the handling of their car returned to pit road for additional service. Restarts are producing exciting racing with up to four-wide battles through the corners.

Elliott pushed Larson to the lead and the two drivers fought it out with more side-by-side racing until Larson prevailed. The first four cars belonged to Hendrick Motorsports as Larson, Byron, Elliott, and Bowman held the positions.

Larson pitted from the lead with seven laps to go in the Stage. Hamlin took over the top spot with his teammate Kyle Busch less than a second back. They finished 1-2 at the end of the Stage with non-playoff driver Tyler Reddick coming in 3rd.

Denny Hamlin / NASCAR Photo

Stage 2 Results

Position Car Driver Points
1 11 Denny Hamlin (P) 10
2 18 Kyle Busch (P) 9
3 8 Tyler Reddick 8
4 19 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 7
5 22 Joey Logano (P)* 6
6 2 Brad Keselowski (P)* 5
7 1 Kurt Busch 4
8 4 Kevin Harvick (P)* 3
9 3 Austin Dillon 2
10 23 Bubba Wallace 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers  (P) Playoff Drivers

The Final Stage

Hamlin and Truex lined up next to each other for the restart. With a push from teammate Kyle Busch, Truex took the lead briefly until Hamlin countered with help from Reddick. As the cars settled into a single file line it was Hamlin, Reddick, Truex, Harvick, and Joey Logano(22) as the Top 5.

Drivers will be required to make at least one pit stop for fuel to complete the race. Stage 2 ended with 63 green flag laps. Should a late caution occur in the Final Stage expect chaos to ensue on the restart. Late in the race, cautions breed cautions.

Green flag pit stops started with 57 laps to go when Kyle Busch came in for service. A lap later several of the Top 10 cars came in. Hamlin pitted from the lead with 53 laps to go, turning the top spot over to Reddick.

The crew of Alex Bowman(48) failed to get one of his wheels tight, a second pit stop was required to tighten loose lug nuts causing their driver to go two laps down. Reddick pitted with 49 to go. Byron suffered a cut right rear tire and was forced to pit when running 5th, like his teammate Bowman, it cost him 2 laps to the leader.

After pit stops cycled through, Hamlin was back out front. Elliott, Truex, Kyle Busch, and Reddick comprised the remainder of the Top 5.

With 25 laps to go, Hamlin had built a lead of over 1.5 seconds on 2nd place Chase Elliott. Down to 10 laps to go and Elliott had cut the deficit to 1.2 seconds, but the laps were quickly running out.

Like it did in round 1, Hamlin’s win advanced him to the next round. With Talladega and The Roval the two remaining races left in this round, Hamlin is glad to already be qualified for the Round of 8.

Playoff Standings

Christopher Bell was the big loser on the evening dropping 25 points below the cut line. Both Alex Bowman and William Byron went from being above to landing below the point level needed to advance.

Rank Driver Points Status
1 Denny Hamlin 3096 Advanced Win
2 Kyle Larson 3096 +56
3 Kyle Busch 3074 +35
4 Martin Truex Jr. 3070 +31
5 Ryan Blaney* 3063 +24
6 Chase Elliott 3061 +22
7 Joey Logano* 3045 +6
8 Brad Keselowski* 3043 +4
NASCAR Playoffs Round of 12 Cut Line
9 William Byron 3039 -4
10 Kevin Harvick* 3036 -7
11 Alex Bowman 3030 -13
12 Christopher Bell 3018 -25

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Results of the South Point 400 from Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Position Car Driver Interval Laps
1 11 Denny Hamlin (P) 267
2 9 Chase Elliott (P) 0.442 267
3 18 Kyle Busch (P) 12.548 267
4 19 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 13.989 267
5 12 Ryan Blaney (P) 14.651 267
6 8 Tyler Reddick 15.791 267
7 2 Brad Keselowski (P) 20.621 267
8 1 Kurt Busch 21.323 267
9 4 Kevin Harvick (P) 21.974 267
10 5 Kyle Larson (P) 24.119 267
11 22 Joey Logano (P) 28.649 267
12 21 Matt DiBenedetto 31.041 267
13 3 Austin Dillon -1 266
14 14 Chase Briscoe -1 266
15 99 Daniel Suarez -1 266
16 23 Bubba Wallace -1 266
17 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -1 266
18 24 William Byron (P) -1 266
19 10 Aric Almirola -1 266
20 6 Ryan Newman -1 266
21 34 Michael McDowell -1 266
22 48 Alex Bowman (P) -2 265
23 42 Ross Chastain -2 265
24 20 Christopher Bell (P) -2 265
25 17 Chris Buescher -2 265
26 43 Erik Jones -2 265
27 38 Anthony Alfredo -2 265
28 37 Ryan Preece -2 265
29 41 Cole Custer -2 265
30 7 Corey LaJoie -3 264
31 51 Cody Ware -7 260
32 77 Justin Haley -7 260
33 78 BJ McLeod -10 257
34 0 Quin Houff -12 255
35 53 Garrett Smithley -13 254
36 52 Josh Bilicki -15 252
37 15 Joey Gase -183 84
38 66 JJ Yeley -191 76

(P) Playoff Drivers