NASCAR: Kyle Larson clinches championship shot with win at Las Vegas

Christopher Bell's late charge wasn't enough

Kyle Larson had a great car and made an incredible save on the way to a win Sunday at Las Vegas to clinch a spot in the championship race at Phoenix.

Larson won the first two stages and took the lead for good on lap 223 of the 267-lap race. He drove away from everyone else for his fourth win of the season before Christopher Bell mounted a late charge over the final laps. Larson led more than 100 laps after starting second.

His best move of the race came during the second stage, when his car got exceptionally loose off Turn 2. Larson made a quick move to keep his car from totally spinning out and didn’t lose too much track position before a caution for his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman.

Bell finished second, Brad Keselowski was third, Kyle Busch was fourth, and Ross Chastain was fifth. Bell got within a half-second of Larson in the final three laps of the race and got to Larson's back bumper before the finish line but needed one more lap to have a real shot for the win.

"Thankfully, Christopher always races extremely clean," Larson said after climbing from his car. "Could have got crazier than it did coming to the start/finish line. Thank you to him for racing with respect there."

Bell said he thought he missed his shot to clinch a spot in the championship race.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 15: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, and son, Owen Larson pose with the winner sticker on his car in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 15, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Larson will be racing for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series title. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Larson going for second title

Larson will be racing for the title for the second time in the past three seasons. He won the 2021 title in his first season at Hendrick Motorsports and was seventh a season ago.

Larson was long seen as one of the best talents in NASCAR, and that ability has been on full display since he signed with Hendrick after he was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing for saying a racial slur during a virtual race. Larson has 17 wins during his Hendrick tenure after winning just six races in his first 223 starts for Ganassi.

The 30-year-old entered the playoffs as the No. 7 seed. He won two of the first nine races of the season before entering the playoffs on a 17-race winless streak. He snapped that streak in the first playoff race at Darlington to advance to the second round. He then had a second round to forget, with no top-10 finishes, but his playoff points total was more than enough to push him into the third round.

Larson has a decent chance to be the favorite at Phoenix, no matter who else he’s racing for the title. Larson has eight top-10 finishes in his past nine Phoenix starts and has led at least 100 laps in two of the past four races at the track.

Ryan Blaney disqualified

Bell and Larson were the only two playoff drivers to finish in the top five, as the other six finished from No. 6 through No. 11. Ryan Blaney was the driver who finished sixth, and he was disqualified after the race for a shock that didn’t meet the specified height.

That means Blaney is going to have to win one of the next two races in order to race for the title at Phoenix while everyone else is clustered together.

Martin Truex Jr. finished ninth — officially eighth — after a bad mid-race strategy call and is tied with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin for third in the points standings.

Points standings after Las Vegas

1. Kyle Larson (advanced)

2. William Byron, 4,078

3. Martin Truex Jr., 4,071

4. Denny Hamlin, 4,071

5. Christopher Bell, 4,068

6. Tyler Reddick, 4,055

7. Chris Buescher, 4,048

8. Ryan Blaney, 4,015

Race results

1. Kyle Larson

2. Christopher Bell

3. Kyle Busch

4. Brad Keselowski

5. Ross Chastain

6. Ryan Blaney (disqualified)

7. William Byron

8. Tyler Reddick

9. Martin Truex Jr.

10. Denny Hamlin

11. Chris Buescher

12. Joey Logano

13. Bubba Wallace

14. Aric Almirola

15. Daniel Suarez

16. Kevin Harvick

17. Michael McDowell

18. Austin Dillon

19. Corey LaJoie

20. Harrison Burton

21. AJ Allmendinger

22. Justin Haley

23. Austin Cindric

24. Ty Dillon

25. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

26. Ryan Preece

27. Todd Gilliland

28. Erik Jones

29. JJ Yeley

30. Brennan Poole

31. BJ McLeod

32. Chase Elliott

33. Chase Briscoe

34. Ty Gibbs

35. Alex Bowman

36. Carson Hocevar