Kyle Larson Holds Off Bell to Win at Las Vegas; Secures Championship 4 Berth

Kyle Larson is the first driver officially locked into the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 after a dominant day, and a narrow win over Christopher Bell in the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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hero image for Kyle Larson Holds Off Bell to Win at Las Vegas; Secures Championship 4 Berth

Kyle Larson held off Christopher Bell by a narrow margin of under a tenth of a second to cap off a dominant day in the NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a win.

Larson took the win in Stage 1, and Stage 2, and he led a race-high 133 laps on his path to his fourth victory of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, however, he felt Bell breathing down his neck in a nerve-racking march to the checkered flag.

RELATED: NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 Race Results

"I could see him coming in my mirror, for sure," Larson admitted in his victory interview on NBC. "I was hoping those lappers were going to give me the bottom, and [Todd Gilliland] peeled off the bottom, and I knew I couldn't follow him. I just didn't want to go all the way to the top, and leave the middle open."

Here is a video of the ultra-close race for the win:

While he narrowly held on for the win, Larson credits his competitor Bell for racing clean on the final lap of the race.

"Thankfully, Christopher always races extremely clean. It could have gotten crazier than it did coming to the start-finish line," Larson explained. "Thank you to him for racing with respect."

On paper, it looks like it was a nearly perfect day for Larson, however, the win was almost not to be. On Lap 141, Larson made a mistake while running in the runner-up position, and his car cut loose on him.

Incredibly, after a slight brush of the wall with the right rear of his car, Larson was able to wrangle his loose race car without spinning out. Larson says that he and his team just got a little behind on the balance of his car at that point in the race.

"What a job done by my team, too. Just a great race car. I almost gave it away there in [Turns] 1 and 2 getting sideways, getting the wall," Larson stated. "I had to fight back from there with our balance."

They fought back, and Larson will now battle for a championship at Phoenix Raceway in a few weeks as his victory secured his place in the Championship 4 field.

While everything went Larson's way on the day, and it resulted in a Championship 4 berth-clinching win, Bell, who just missed out on the win by 0.082 sec., was left disappointed as he knew this was his shot to lock into the championship battle.

"I mean, I don't know what else I could have done," Bell said about the closing laps of the race. "Very -- I don't know. I feel like that was my moment to make the final four, and didn't quite capture it. We'll -- I don't know. Coming to the checkered, there, I knew he was going to be blocking, so I was going to try to go high. He went high, and I don't know if I even had a run to get by him there coming to the line.

"Wasn't enough, but great day, great day for sure. To get those Stage Points, and get a second-place finish out of it. I think I saw we're minus two [points to the cutline] so we're not out of it by any means, but it would have been nice to lock in."

Sure, he didn't lock into the Championship 4, and he didn't even officially work his way inside the cutline, but Bell put in a great performance from the pole position, which will put him a decent position to attempt to work his way into the Championship 4 over the next two races.

Las Vegas native Kyle Busch finished the race in the third position in his No. 8 Morgan & Morgan Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. It was a solid, yet quiet day for Busch, who continues to build momentum for next season.

Brad Keselowski, likewise, continues to rack up solid efforts as he came home in fourth on the day. Keselowski led the race on five occasions for a total of 38 laps before ultimately settling for fourth. While he doesn't have a win since joining RFK Racing at the beginning of the 2022 season, a win seems to be just around the corner.

Ross Chastain capped off a trio of non-Playoff drivers between the third and fifth positions in the final running order of Sunday's race.

The remainder of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff contenders finished in sixth-through-11th.

Ryan Blaney came home in sixth in the No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang, while William Byron, Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex Jr., and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-10 finishers.

Chris Buescher was the lowest-finishing Playoff contender in the 11th-finishing position.

However, Blaney's No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang failed post-race inspection due to issues with the left-front shock on his car. As a result, he forfeited his sixth-place finish, and will now be credited with a last-place finish.

Here is how the Round of 8 Playoff Grid looks after the opening race of the round:

  1. Kyle Larson (LOCKED IN)
  2. William Byron, +11 points
  3. Denny Hamlin, +4 points
  4. Martin Truex Jr., +3 points
  5. Christopher Bell, -3 points
  6. Tyler Reddick, -15 points
  7. Chris Buescher, -23 points
  8. Ryan Blaney, -56 points

The second (of three) races of the NASCAR Cup Series Round of 8 will take place on Sunday, October 22nd at Homestead-Miami Speedway. That event will be televised on NBC beginning at 2:30 PM ET. The Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the radio broadcast of the race.

Photo Credit: Craig White, Racing America

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