Kyle Larson paced the field for 142 laps to earn his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Boyd Gaming 300.
The final restart resembled closely that of the first start, as Larson pulled away from pole-sitter Christopher Bell after a late race caution for the final seven laps with a margin of victory of 0.881 seconds. The victory was Larson’s first of the season, ninth of his career and first at the speedway.
“It was an awesome day,” Larson mentioned during his Victory Lane interview. “This car was so fast. It was really fast last year, but you really never know, and this was my first time racing with this new (composite) body, and it performed well.”
The driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet overcame a pit road issue that dropped him to eighth for a restart on Lap 139, but it didn’t take long to find his way to the front, pushing the issue three-wide to fight his way through the field quickly.
“Normally my guys are some of the best on pit road,” Larson said. “They said the left-rear (tire) just wouldn’t come out (of the wheel well). I had been fighting a tight issue all day and then finally we got our car to turn better.
“It allowed me to get to the lead fairly easily, and then I was saving fuel in case the race stayed green.”
Larson and Bell have found themselves in this position before. They frequently battle each other on dirt tracks. During the off-season, Bell was the driver in Victory Lane in last November’s Turkey Night Classic and January’s Chili Bowl, one of the biggest midget races of the season. Bell was excited to see the friendly face extend their close competition into the stock car series.
“That was really cool, and there will be a lot more of that,” Bell hinted, who beat Larson earlier in the event at the end of Stage 1. “We were close, running second to Kyle – if I’m going to run second to anyone, I guess I would rather it be him.
“Special day, we were able to win a stage and get a Playoff point. We need to keep racking those up and get some race wins here.”
As Bell mentioned, he did win a playoff point and becomes only the second Xfinity driver to earn any playoff points. As for Larson, his feelings about the competition with Bell were mutual.
“It’s always fun to get to race Bell,” Larson said. “He seems to beat me all the time in the dirt stuff, and he edged me out there in qualifying. That first stage kind of felt like we were dirt-track racing there, swapping lanes and stuff. I was trying to take the air off him, and he got by, and yeah, it was fun.”
As for the rest of the field, JR Motorsports had a strong showing with three of their four drivers finishing in the top eight with Justin Allgaier (third), Elliott Sadler (fifth) and Daytona 500 winner, Tyler Reddick (eighth). Kyle Busch, yesterday’s Camping World Truck Series winner, struggled all day with an ill-handling race car and faced a pit road penalty on his final stop when his gasman grabbed a tire. This year, the new rule states that they are only allowed to ‘kick’ a tire and fuel the car, and no other service is allowed to be done on the car or in the pit box. His No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota finished in a disappointing 14th position.
Ryan Blaney, who will start on the pole for tomorrow’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, led 33 laps and finished in fourth. Cole Custer, who makes his Monster Energy Cup series debut tomorrow, finished in the ninth position. Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones, and Spencer Gallagher also finished the weekend with top-10 results.
Tyler Reddick and Elliott Sadler are tied at the top of the Xfinity Series points after three races. The Xfinity series will continue their west coast swing at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona next weekend on March 10. Tickets are still available for purchase on the track’s website at http://www.ismraceway.com/Buy-Tickets/NASCAR-Ticket-Prices.aspx.