Kyle Larson Becomes the First Driver into the NASCAR Cup Final with Win at Las Vegas

Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, NV — October 15, 2023

After a strong regular season, it has been shocking to see Martin Truex Jr.’s dip in performance since the start of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Despite all the bumps along the way, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has still managed to make a deep playoff run moving into the Round of 8, thanks to the 36 playoff points earned on the way to the Regular Season Championship.

While Truex advanced out of the Round of 12 by 12 points after finishing 20th at the Charlotte Roval, he does not have a top-10 finish in any playoff race so far. In the last seven races, he has finished 17th or worse.

There is not much room for error, with only four spots available if a driver wants to race for the 2023 Championship at Phoenix.

William Byron continues to enjoy a career year in the Cup Series, scoring six victories, most of all drivers. In the Round of 12, he finished no worse than second place and picked up the win at Texas to punch his ticket to the Round of 8.

Byron won the spring race at Vegas, and he is a favorite for the sweep at the track.

Today’s Race

Christopher Bell won the pole for today’s South Point 400. Kyle Larson will start beside him on the front row. Stages are set for 80/85/102 laps to complete the 400.5 miles. Joey Logano is the defending champion of the race.

Should a non-playoff driver win today, it will put a squeeze on the eight drivers trying to move forward to one of the remaining four playoff positions.

Stage One

Christopher Bell(20) led at the drop of the green flag. However, two laps later, Kyle Larson(5) was out front and running away. The two drivers swapped the lead during the Stage until Erik Jones(43) wrecked on lap 65 when a tight rear tire went down.

Christopher Bell leads the field at the start of the South Point 400 / NASCAR Photo

When the race restarted, Bell had the lead. Larson quickly moved to the front and walked away with the Stage One win.

Stage One Results

1 5 Kyle Larson(P) 10
2 20 Christopher Bell (P) 9
3 6 Brad Keselowski* 8
4 45 Tyler Reddick (P) 7
5 19 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 6
6 12 Ryan Blaney (P) * 5
7 11 Denny Hamlin (P) 4
8 8 Kyle Busch 3
9 4 Kevin Harvick* 2
10 24 William Byron (P) 1

(P) Playoff Drivers  *Ford Mustang Drivers

Chris Buescher(17) was the only playoff driver not to score Stage points in the first segment of the race.

Stage Two

Restarts are an opportunity for drivers to make moves. With the field bunched up, three and four-wide racing can improve a car’s track position quickly. Martin Truex Jr.(19) stayed out during the Stage ending caution. Hamlin was first off pit road and joined his teammate on the front row to take the green flag.

Truex’s tires only had a few laps on them. However, with everyone else pitting behind him, the advantage of fresh rubber is going to catch up to Truex. Denny Hamlin(11) made the pas shortly after the race went back to green, and Truex began to fall back into the pack.

Carson Hocevar(42) bailed Truex out when he had a right rear tire go down and hit the wall in turn two, bringing out the caution on lap 110. Everyone came to the pit road for fresh Goodyear tires.

Brad Keselowski(6) and Larson led the field back to the green flag, with Hamlin running in third. With four fresh tires, Keselowski pulled away from Larson and took a four-car length lead. William Byron(24) and Bell passed Hamlin to join the fight at the front of the field.

With 25 laps to go, Kyle Larson got loose off turn two and clipped the wall with the right rear of his race car. Larson saved it, but likely flat-spotted his tires.

Four laps later, Alex Bowman(48) lost control and hit the outside wall on the front stretch. He bounced off and came to rest against the tire barrier at the end of pit road. The caution gave everyone an opportunity to come in and get at least two tires for the sprint to the green and white checkered flag for Stage Two. Good timing for Larson.

Byron restarted next to Keselowski as there were 16 laps to go in the Stage. They ran side-by-side for a lap and a half until Brad pulled up in front of William. Larson, back on four fresh tires, moved up and took second away from Byron. With 11 laps to go, Larson was back out front looking to repeat as the Stage winner.

Ross Chastain(1) was the surprise of Stage Two, working his way to second place behind Larson.

Stage Two Results

1 5 Kyle Larson (P) 10
2 1 Ross Chastain 9
3 20 Christopher Bell (P) 8
4 11 Denny Hamlin (P) 7
5 6 Brad Keselowski* 6
6 24 William Byron (P) 5
7 8 Kyle Busch 4
8 12 Ryan Blaney (P)* 3
9 45 Tyler Reddick (P) 2
10 23 Bubba Wallace 1

(P) Playoff Drivers  *Ford Mustang Drivers

Again, Buescher failed to collect any Stage points. Martin Truex joined him in coming up empty-handed in Stage Two.

The Final Stage

Christopher Bell was first off the pit road. Chastain restarts beside him. Keselowski, Larson, and Hamlin round out the top five.

Truex was mired back in 19th place and currently sits below the cut-line. Every round has been a struggle for Truex to advance.

Throw a blanket over the top four as every position is being fought for. With green flag pit stops coming up, they could possibly determine who has the advantage heading into the closing laps of the race.

Chastain got loose and slid to the top of the track. Keselowski and Larson passed, while Hamlin and Ryan Blaney(12) closed up to make it a five-car battle for second place. As positions swapped around, Blaney moved to fourth, and Hamlin passed to grab the fifth spot.

Chase Briscoe(14) spun in turn two, bringing out the sixth caution of the afternoon with 58 laps to go. That will turn green flag pit stops into service under the yellow flag. The fuel window is open, so all teams should be able to complete the race without another stop.

Everyone took four new tires, and the race off the pit road had Larson out first, followed by Keselowski, Bell, Chastain, and Hamlin. Restarting with 52 laps to go, drivers went four wide behind the lead trio. They settled into three-wide racing for eight rows of cars.

Larson leaves his pit stall at Las Vegas / NASCAR Photo

Ty Gibbs(54) lost a wheel as his crew failed to get the right front wheel nut tight. Fortunately, the incident did not impact any other race cars on the track, but the caution waived again.

None of the leaders opted to pit. The green flag was displayed with 45 laps to go, with Larson and Keselowski on the front row.

The Finish

Once back out front, Larson began to extend the advantage on the others in the lead pack. A playoff driver who can post a win at Las Vegas gains a huge advantage as the team can use the next two races to prep for the final at Phoenix. Locking into the final four takes a huge amount of pressure off the driver and the team.

With 22 laps to go, Bell passed Keselowski for second and set his sights on Larson to see if he could run down the leader. Martin Truex moved up to 10th to bring him above the cut line, with Christopher Bell dropping to fifth in the Round of Eight standings.

With 14 laps to go, Larson began to encounter lapped traffic. Bell was cutting into the interval slightly every lap. But, there might not be enough time left to catch the #5 car.

With eight laps left, Truex passed Hamlin for ninth, moving ahead of his teammate in the standings. With five laps to go, Bell had cut the lead to a half second behind Larson.

Bell closed to the rear bumper of Larson on the final lap, but could not make the pass for the win.

Playoff Standings

Pos Car Driver Points Status
1 5 Kyle Larson 4084 Advanced Win
2 24 William Byron 4077 +9
3 19 Martin Truex Jr. 4070 +2
4 11 Denny Hamlin 4070 +2
5 20 Christopher Bell 4068 -2
6 45 Tyler Reddick 4054 -16
7 12 Ryan Blaney* 4053 -17
8 17 Chris Buescher* 4047 -23

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Results of the South Point 400 from Las Vegas Motor Speedway

1 5 Kyle Larson (P) 267
2 20 Christopher Bell (P) 0.082 267
3 8 Kyle Busch 4.504 267
4 6 Brad Keselowski 4.650 267
5 1 Ross Chastain 5.457 267
6 12 Ryan Blaney (P) 5.837 267
7 24 William Byron (P) 7.607 267
8 45 Tyler Reddick (P) 8.549 267
9 19 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 9.056 267
10 11 Denny Hamlin (P) 9.709 267
11 17 Chris Buescher (P) 13.338 267
12 22 Joey Logano 13.881 267
13 23 Bubba Wallace 14.132 267
14 10 Aric Almirola 16.634 267
15 99 Daniel Suarez 16.792 267
16 4 Kevin Harvick 20.268 267
17 34 Michael McDowell 22.611 267
18 3 Austin Dillon 22.678 267
19 7 Corey LaJoie 23.072 267
20 21 Harrison Burton 24.251 267
21 16 AJ Allmendinger 24.704 267
22 31 Justin Haley 24.819 267
23 2 Austin Cindric 26.614 267
24 77 Ty Dillon 27.366 267
25 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 28.566 267
26 41 Ryan Preece 30.835 267
27 38 Todd Gilliland -1 266
28 43 Erik Jones -1 266
29 51 JJ Yeley -1 266
30 15 Brennan Poole -1 266
31 78 BJ McLeod -1 266
32 9 Chase Elliott -1 266
33 14 Chase Briscoe -4 263
34 54 Ty Gibbs -8 259
35 48 Alex Bowman -123 144
36 42 Carson Hocevar -157 110