Kyle Larson wins duel in the desert

Kyle Larson crosses the finish line to win the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photo by David Barks.

Larson and Tyler Reddick battle the entire day for the win

LAS VEGAS – Kyle Larson secured his spot in the season-ending NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with the win in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The only one standing between Larson and his third victory in the Nevada desert was Tyler Reddick.

Larson was able to hold him off for his 24th win in the Cup Series.

Kyle Larson holds the champion’s trophy after winning Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photo by David Barks.

“I knew Tyler was gonna be there from the first stage,” said Larson. “You know, he was he was really fast there. He was running really hard and getting close to catching me at the end and thankfully I was able to air-block a couple of laps and get him tight. I thought he and (Reddick’s 23XI Toyota teammate) Bubba (Wallace) were gonna together at the end to build a run. So, I was I was happy that didn’t happen. But all in all, such a great, great job by this Hendrick Cars Chevy team. Their execution on pit road was great. So cool. Get a win in here, Vegas again. Back-to-back swept on stages again, so I can’t ask for us more.”

On paper, Reddick never had a chance.

Larson led 181 of the 267 laps over the speedway’s 1.5-mile oval in the 400.5-mile race.

Reddick led one.

But the race is run on the track, not on paper, and out on the oval, Reddick dogged Larson’s heels the entire afternoon.

Larson won both stages. Reddick was second each time; by 0.206 seconds in Stage 1, by 0.172 seconds in Stage 2, and, after getting within one car length with two laps to go, by 0.462 seconds at the finish line.

“Kyle did a really good job,” said Reddick. “He pretty much took away every option I had to close the gap. So yeah, he was you know, he seemed pretty good in the middle and I was obviously really good on the bottom and he just never let me have it. So, I kept trying to run higher and higher and you know, he was kind of running right in the middle of the racetrack. it’s kind of frustrating so we’ll continue to work on it but good rebound for the team today.”

Ryan Blaney finished third, followed by Ross Chastain, Ty Gibbs, Noah Gragson, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Logano, and William Byron.

Logano started on the pole with Larson right beside him.

Joey Logano (22) leads Kyle Larson (5), Auston Cindric (2), and William Byron (24) at the start of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race in Las Vegas. Photo by David Barks.

Larson took his first lead early, on Lap 3, but lost it after the day’s first caution when Christopher Bell blew his right rear tire on Lap 9.

Chris Buescher didn’t pit and was in front at the restart but it was only moments before Larson’s Hendrick teammate Byron moved up front.

Buescher was out of the race soon after that when he crashed into the wall after his right rear tire went down in Turn 1 of lap 26.

Byron, after leading 15 laps, had his own problems when a large plastic trash bag blew out of the stands and onto his hood, completely covering it and leading to an overheating engine.

Byron was forced to pit to get rid of it, dropping two laps down.

His speed was obvious when he recovered to finish 10th.

If the bag hadn’t trashed his afternoon, Byron stood a good chance of vying with Larson and Reddick for the win.

Chastain and Gibbs each overcame penalties to rebound for their Top 10 finishes.

Denny Hamlin (16 laps), Daniel Suarez (15 laps), and Kyle Busch (8 laps) each held the lead at some point, mostly after restarts or green flag pit stops but they were just placeholders until Larson and Reddick could get back up front to resume their duel in the desert.

This was the third time Larson and Reddick have battled down to the wire for the win with Larson coming out on top each time.

“I have a lot of fun racing Tyler,” said Larson, “You know, we’ve grown up together racing and had great races back to when we were like seven-eight years old, so it’s cool to have another fellow in Northern Californian from the Outlaw car ranks in the race.”

NASCAR stays out West for another week, heading to Phoenix Raceway for Xfinity and Cup races next weekend.

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