One way or another, a Hendrick Motorsports driver was hoping to win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race in Las Vegas.
Kyle Larson came close to winning the Pennzoil 400 in regulation, but a late warning put teammate William Byron in position to capture the checkered flag in overtime.
Byron took the lead on the penultimate lap of extra time to put an exclamation point on a dominant day for Hendrick. The top three drivers were from Hendrick, with Byron, Larson and Alex Bowman pushing their Chevrolets across the finish line in that order.
Bowman won last year’s March race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Byron led 176 laps and won for the fifth time in his six Cup seasons.
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«I’ve led a lot of laps in a couple of races, but to be this good with this team is definitely a good sign,» Byron said. «It’s a different feeling for me to have a team around me that can execute so well. That’s just a team effort.»
Larson looked poised for victory when Aric Almirola hit the wall in turn four on lap 264, bringing out the second caution of the day.
«I feel like I could have eight or 10 more Cup wins if it wasn’t for the cautions in the last five laps,» Larson said. «I don’t remember many of them working in my favor.»
Most of the leaders pitted a lap later, with only Martin Truex Jr. in his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota opting to sit out. Byron, in the No. 24 Chevy, exited pit road ahead of Larson and then easily passed Truex after the restart.
Byron, who started on the front row with Joey Logano, swept both stages for the first time in his career. Truex in 2017 and Kevin Harvick in 2018 also won both legs in Las Vegas and went on to win.
ELLIOTT TO BEGIN REHAB
Chase Elliott, the 2020 Cup Series champion, will begin physical therapy Monday, his team owner Rick Hendrick told Fox Sports.
Elliott underwent surgery Friday to repair a fractured tibia, and Hendrick said Elliott returned home to Dawsonville, Georgia. Elliott was injured in a snowboarding accident on Friday. He and his family own a home in Vail, Colorado.
Elliott quipped on Twitter that «the formal request I submitted for a light edit to the March section of my script was in fact…rejected.»
MEET THE AMERICAN WHO CREATED NASCAR: BILL FRANCE SR., DAYTONA SPEED DEMON AND PIONEER OF THE RACE TRACK
«In all seriousness, the support I’ve received in the last few days is way more than I deserve,» he posted in a follow-up tweet. «I want to thank everyone who has lent it in any way!»
Josh Berry took Elliott’s seat in the No. 9 Chevy and finished 29th. Hendrick general manager Jeff Andrews said a decision will be made on who will drive that car next weekend in Phoenix.
THE DEFENDING CHAMPION HIT THE WALL
Logano, the defending Cup champion who won the Las Vegas race in October, hit the wall in turn four on lap 183, ending his day. He was running three at a time with Brad Keselowski in the middle and Kyle Busch on the platform when Logano tripped into Keselowski, sending his No. 22 Team Penske Ford into the wall.
«I’m sure (Keselowski) didn’t mean to do it,» Logano said. «What are you going to do, right? We closed in.»
It was a tough day for Logano, who was running 15th after starting on the pole.
«Considering how we’ve been here in the past, today you expect a little bit more performance than we had,» Logano said. «Just off overall speed. We had the balance a little bit close, but not fast.»
TOP CAR WITHOUT HENDRICK
Bubba Wallace, driving the No. 23 Toyota 23XI Racing, finished fourth. He was the top qualifier not in Hendrick’s garage.
«He was up there in the top seven or eight the whole time,» Wallace said. «I was going to settle for sixth and the caution came out. My car fired up really, really good (on the restart), the best it had ever been in the whole race.»
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NO HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
The first stage on Sunday was not kind to the Las Vegas drivers Busch and Noah Gragson. Busch hit the wall and Gragson was penalized twice for speeding on pit road. Gragson later received a third speeding ticket.
Hometown struggles are nothing new for the two-time Busch Cup Series champion, whose only top-level win in Las Vegas came in 2009. He was 14th Sunday.
Gragson, a Cup Series rookie, finished 30th.