A heroic drive from Bell came up just short after Larson made a move to block on the frontstretch and secure the victory by just .082 seconds.
“I could see [Bell] coming in my mirror for sure,” Larson told NBC. “Thankfully, Christopher always races extremely clean. It could have got crazier than it did.”
Larson earned maximum points on the day, winning both stages and the race. Bell just missed out in second, and non-playoff driver Kyle Busch had a late drive to finish third. Brad Keselowski and Ross Chastain rounded out the top five.
Ryan Blaney and William Byron crossed the stripes in sixth and seventh. However, after post-race inspection, Blaney was disqualified as his car’s left-front shock didn’t meet the overall specified length outlined in NASCAR Rule Book number 184.108.40.206.
However, after further investigation, Blaney’s disqualification was rescinded, and he finishes sixth. Everyone moves back one spot, putting William Byron in seventh.
Bell, the polesitter, led at the start. Larson took the lead on lap 3. He did not get away though, and Bell passed Larson back a handful of laps later.
Larson’s team pitted the No. 5 car early in the cycle to reclaim the lead, and this time, Larson drove away.
The first caution for incident occurred on lap 65 when Erik Jones lost a tire. A mixed bag of pit strategies resulted in Larson winning the stage, while seven of the eight playoff drivers earned stage points.
Differing strategies carried over to the start of stage two. Truex stayed out, but Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Hamlin, with two fresh tires, took the lead a few laps after the restart.
Legacy Motor Club went two for two with flat right rear tires, as Carson Hocevar had a flat on lap 111 that sent the rookie substitute driver spinning into the garage.
Keselowski took the lead on the restart and drove away. Larson narrowly avoided major trouble after his car jumped sideways exiting turn 2. With help from the wall, Larson saved the car and lived on to fight another few laps until the caution flew for Alex Bowman on lap 146.
After more strategy unfolded, Larson took his second chance straight to the front of the field and won the second stage. This time, six of the eight playoff drivers earned stage points.
Truex noticeably disappeared at the end of the second stage to 20th, and Chris Buescher did not earn any stage points during the race.
Bell reclaimed the lead on pit road to start the third stage. While he led, Ross Chastain posed a serious challenge at the front until Chastain had a moment of his own.
Another caution fell when Chase Briscoe ran too high and spun in turns 1 and 2.
Larson’s crew placed the No. 5 in the lead for the restart, but the green flag run lasted only a lap after Ty Gibbs’ loose right front wheel came off of the No. 54 car with 51 laps to go.
The next restart proved to be the last. Though Larson drove away at the start of the run, the No. 20 car had great long run speed and closed the gap, resulting in the exciting finish.
Outside of Larson’s win locking him into the championship four, Christopher Bell was the only other playoff driver to gain on the cut line. Bell, however, left Las Vegas two points behind Hamlin and the cut line.
Byron, Truex, and Hamlin all slid closer to the cut with finishes in the back half of the top 10, while Reddick, Blaney, and Buescher all lost points and are even further behind exiting Las Vegas.
The Round of 8 continues next week as NASCAR heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway on Oct. 22. The 4-EVER 400 Presented by Mobil 1 will start at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.
About the author
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.