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140 laps into the South Point 400, Kyle Larson pushed off Turn 2 a little too hard and paid the price. In a matter of seconds, a successful run at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was sliding into dangerous territory.

That's when the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion reminded everyone why he's primed and ready to do it again.

Said Larson's crew chief Cliff Daniels: "It was a ridiculous save."

Critics might say the luck of the wall caught Larson's rear bumper and straightened it out. Most should give this sprint car legend credit for dirt tracking it on asphalt at 150 miles an hour. Whatever your view, Larson laid it all on the line at the gambling capital of the world, and this time, rolling snake eyes paid off.

"We all have been looking forward so much to a moment like this," Daniels said, "When our day does go well and things do go right."

That's been the problem for Larson, the fastest driver on-track much of the season with a series-high 1,031 laps led. But he's struggled to find his limits with this Next Gen car, pushing too hard to the tune of seven DNFs, the most of any playoff driver. All of them have been for wrecks and most came while fighting out front, jeopardizing his ability to contend for this year's championship.

Rock bottom nearly happened in the Round of 12. Larson wrecked from the lead while racing Bubba Wallace at Texas, spun across the finish line at Talladega, then crashed in practice at Charlotte and had to start 36th. Somehow, he climbed up to 13th in that track position race and found a way to advance.

"I knew when they got through the Roval," Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon said, "This round was going to be extremely good for them."

It also came with a few key breaks. Larson limped around after his bout with the wall Sunday, but a caution almost immediately limited his drop through the field. Indeed, cautions seemed to fall at the perfect time for the No. 5 team, contributing to two stage wins before a final yellow-flag stop in the last one leapfrogged him from third to first over Christopher Bell.

Larson then started pulling away, building up a two-second lead over the final 45 laps only for Bell to wipe it all out down the stretch. The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver gave it all he had off Turn 4, pulling his No. 20 to the rear bumper of the No. 5, but came up just short in his bid to advance.

"I don't know what else I could have done," Bell said. "I feel like that was my moment. That was my moment to make the Final Four. Didn't quite capture it."

Other drivers in that situation with Larson may have roughed him up based on previous scuffles. Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain come to mind. Instead, Larson got dealt one of the most respectful drivers inside the Cup garage, who raced to the line cleanly and with respect that comes from years racing together on dirt tracks throughout the Midwest.

It was the last bit of good fortune in a race littered with it for a No. 5 team that's now well positioned for a second title in three years. A team that's won four times in 2023 now has a few more opportunities to trophy hunt.

"It's nice to win and lock in," Larson explained, "You can focus on Phoenix. At the same point you really can't look too far ahead of yourself. There's still other races before then.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself going to Homestead [next week]. I want to dominate honestly. I want to win both stages by 15 seconds and win the race by 30. That's my goal."

Traffic Report

Green: William Byron. A sixth-place finish left Byron the best of the rest with three more Championship 4 tickets left to punch. Recent wins at Homestead (2021) and Martinsville (2022) lead to high confidence within the No. 24 camp that they'll be joining teammate Larson in the title race soon enough.

Yellow: Martin Truex Jr. Poor decisions on pit strategy, again, by crew chief James Small left Truex battling for track position with an ill-handling car much of the race. Colorful language left their radio channel rated R.

Despite it all, the regular-season champ still accomplished some important milestones, leading his first laps of the postseason and recording his first top-10 finish in eighth. Whether that's enough to salvage the season remains to be seen.

Red: Alex Bowman. A midrace wreck after a similar slide as teammate Larson took away the best run for the No. 48 in months. Bowman has now gone without a top-five finish on an oval track since the last time NASCAR visited Las Vegas, way back in March.

Speeding Ticket: Ryan Blaney. After a solid top-10 run at Vegas, NASCAR disqualified Blaney's No. 12 after his left-front shock failed to meet its specified length. The rule ( has never been used to disqualify someone before, never mind a potential championship contender.

It's unknown whether Blaney and Team Penske will appeal, but implications here are huge. Without an appeal, he falls to 69 points below the cutline and must win either of the next two races in order to advance.


Tires were a problem for several teams at Las Vegas, but Ty Gibbs got the worst of it. After hitting the outside wall on a restart during the final stage, the rookie tried to limp to pit road but couldn't get there before the wheel and its hub ripped completely off his No. 54 Toyota.

Was it contact or a poor pit stop that caused the wheel to pop off? NASCAR thought the latter, penalizing Gibbs two laps under the rules. Most importantly, Gibbs' issue led to the final caution and more pit road trouble for JGR, as Bell lost the lead to Larson there and never regained it.