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EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED IN THE CUP RACE AT VEGAS

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Armany DePaul

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What’s Happening?

Coming off one of the greatest finishes in NASCAR history, the Cup Series looks to continue its fortunes at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Daytona 500 champion William Byron enters the race as the defending winner while his Hendrick teammate Kyle Larson looks to make it back-to-back trips to victory lane, after his fall win last year clinched him a final 4 berth. Joey Logano starts on the pole, looking to win in Sin City for the second time in four races (2022 fall race winner). With Vegas being the first true mile-and-a-half on the schedule, the true speed of the new Toyota Camry and Ford Mustang Dark Horses will finally be revealed.

Does Chevrolet continue its dominance to start the year? Will the new bodies of Toyota and Ford give them an advantage? Can anyone stop Hendrick in Sin City? Here is everything that happened in the Cup race in Vegas. Check it out!

You Need To Know:

  • Hendrick Motorsports swept the 2023 races, with William Byron and Kyle Larson leading the most laps in each respective race. Both drivers start in the top five, with Larson joining Logano on the front row with Byron starting fourth.
  • The Toyota Camry makes its debut on a one-and-a-half-mile track. The last time Toyota debuted a new Camry, the manufacturer won the championship. But outside of Martin Truex Jr. with Furniture Row, it took until race 19 at New Hampshire to see another Toyota win a race, with Denny Hamlin claiming victory.
  • The Ford Dark Horse also makes its 1 1/2-mile debut. With rumors about a potential break-up from Ford, Stewart-Haas Racing looks to silence the doubters with a strong showing. Chase Briscoe gives the team the best chance with a sixth-place starting spot.

Hendrick Duo Lead Early

The Hendrick duo of Kyle Larson and William Byron wasted no time getting past pole-sitter Joey Logano, as the 5 took the lead on lap 2, with the 24 taking the second spot just a lap later. The gap to the 22 was over one second after eight laps. After the first caution on lap 11, both drivers took four tires on their pit stops, while six drivers took two tires to gain track position. Larson restarted seventh, with Byron restarting eighth. Byron took the lead on lap 17, going from eighth to first after one lap from the restart, getting by his Hendrick teammate in the process. Larson got up to second on lap 21, returning the 24 and 5 to the top two spots, albeit with the positions split.

After the second caution, both drivers came onto pit road, while four drivers stayed out. Larson would restart sixth, beating Byron who restarted right behind him in seventh. Larson took a few laps to get by the cars that stayed out, while Byron brushed the wall and fell to 13th.

Christopher Bell Blows a Right Rear Tire

The first caution came out on lap 11 when Christopher Bell had his right rear tire come apart. The replay shows that the 20 made slight contact with the outside wall coming off of 4, before completely coming apart as Bell was through turns one and two. Bell would pit for fresh tires and repair damage, staying on the lead lap. Tires and tire pressure played a big role with the bumps in turns one and two and Bell became the first victim of the tire game between Goodyear and Las Vegas.

The impact was big enough to have NASCAR do welding work to the wall, which brought out the red flag after 32 laps. Bell would work his way through the field and enter the top 10 in stage two.

Buescher Loses a Tire and Slams Turn One Wall

Chris Buescher would bring out the second caution of the day, after slamming the wall going into turn two. Going into turn one, his right front tire came off the car. His team would confirm that they did not get the lug nut tight on their pit stop. Buescher would DNF from the race, with potential penalties coming to the 17 team for the tire coming off the car. This was Buescher’s first DNF since the Atlanta spring race one year ago.

Byron Overheats From Debris

Byron struggled on the second restart, scrapping the wall and falling outside the top 10. The 24 picked up a large piece of plastic on the front grill that caused the temperatures to overheat and forced Byron onto pit road on lap 48. Byron would come back on track one lap down after the team disposed of the debris under the green flag. Byron worked his way through the field to get back into the top 10 in stage three, eventually recovering to finish 10th.

Kyle Larson Outduels Kyle Busch For Stage 1 Victory

Kyle Larson came off pit road in sixth after the second caution. He made quick work to get himself to second as he chased Kyle Busch for the race lead. Another addition of the Kyle and Kyle show was in store, which ended with Larson taking the lead from Busch with 19 laps to go in stage 1. Despite a hard charge from Tyler Reddick on the final lap, Larson would hold off the hard-charging Toyota to take the stage 1 victory by less than a car length.

Larson Luck Continues Into Stage 2

Kyle continued to flex his muscles as he took the lead from Denny Hamlin on lap 105 in stage 2. As the first cycle of green flag pit stops continued, Larson stayed in command once stops were finalized around lap 121. After Bell brought out the caution on lap 156, Larson would restart second after his teammate Alex Bowman came out of pit road first with right-side tires.

Larson retook the lead with 3 laps to go in stage two, disposing of his Hendrick teammate with ease. With another hard charge from Reddick, Larson outdueled the 23XI driver once again to sweep the opening two stages in Las Vegas.

Spire Races Up Front in Sin City

Corey LaJoie had one of the best races of his career. The driver of the 7 raced in the top 10 for a large portion of the race, getting as high as third during the race. Even after green flag pitstops on lap 119, LaJoie continued to show strength, as he came out ninth after the cycle. Later in the race, his teammate Carson Hocevar would flex his muscles, running inside the top 10 in stage three. While Zane Smith ran into issues at the beginning of the race, the rest of Spire put together strong performances that showed good promise for the organization.

With the massive investments Spire Motorsports made in the past year, seeing LaJoie run up front with the heavy hitters is an encouraging sign for the entire organization.

Bell Spins Out Coming Out of Turn 2

Christopher Bell brought out the yellow on lap 156, less than 10 laps from the end of stage 2. The 20 got loose coming off of turn 2 but avoided hitting the wall or flat spotting any tires, as he continued but dropped to 29th, 1 lap down after running 14th. Bell had to come to pit road before the end of stage 2, putting him two laps down and finishing the stage in 33rd.

Stewart-Haas Shows Promise

Chase Briscoe qualified 6th and ran inside the top 15 all day long, before working inside the top 5 with less than 90 laps to go in the race. New addition Noah Gragson ran a solid race, running as high as 11th in the race and finishing 6th while Josh Berry raced in the top 20 for much of the day. A promising sign for SHR as they begin their journey without star driver Kevin Harvick.

Pit Road Issues Plague Drivers

Bubba Wallace had a nightmare stage three. His pit crew had to cut off a lug nut to get a tire off during a pit stop, before being penalized for too many men over the wall. Wallace finished the race 13 laps down, ending his streak of top 5s to start the season.

Kyle Busch’s pit road woes continued. First, he had a long stop on lap 158 that dropped him from second to 18th. He would work his way through the field but after having his splitter stick out of his pit box, served a penalty for pitting outside the box that put him one lap down and outside the top 30.

LaJoie Spins With 33 Laps To Go

Corey LaJoie got loose during a battle with Brad Keselowski which caused him to spin in turn two and bring out the caution once again. LaJoie’s right rear would blow during the spin as the 7 car came to a stop after hitting the apron. LaJoie was running 18th at the time of the spin.

Larson Wins Another Close Vegas Finish

Tyler Reddick tried all race to get by Larson, nearly edging him out in stages one and two. With less than 10 laps to go, Reddick chipped away at Larson’s lead, getting as close as one car length with two to go. Larson worked his magic by taking away Reddick’s lanes and held off the 45 to claim the checkered flag. Its the 24th career victory for Larson and the 5th time in a row he has won the race after sweeping the opening stages.

Conclusion

Las Vegas Motor Speedway is Hendrick Country once again. Larson put together one of the most dominating performances of his career after leading 180 of 267 laps en route to victory.

Chevrolet continues its stranglehold to start the season, as they have won the opening three races to start the year. Besides Blaney coming within 0.003 seconds of snapping the streak last race no one from Ford or Toyota has come close to matching the Chevys. The Toyotas look to have speed with Reddick challenging in the long run while it looks like it will take Ford some time to figure out the new Mustang, however, Blaney and Gragson did have strong days.

That concludes this weekend at Las Vegas. Be sure to check out the rest of DailyDownforce.com for recaps for all races at Las Vegas as well all the latest storylines and fan discussions.

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Picture of Armany DePaul

Armany DePaul

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