LAS VEGAS —Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell met each other on better terms in this year’s Las Vegas NASCAR playoffs race than last year.
Last year, Larson and Bell wrecked together on lap 96 of 267. This year, though, they combined to lead 194 of 267 laps with Larson on top.
Bell passed Brad Keselowski for second on lap 245 and charged from two seconds behind Kyle Larson to be on his bumper at the finish.
“We just needed about a car length. He did good blocking me coming to the checkered. I tried making a move and he had me covered up. Even if he didn’t block me, I don’t know if I would’ve had enough momentum to get by him,” Christopher Bell said.
Bell led five times for 61 laps while Kyle Larson led the way seven times for 133 laps.
More importantly, Larson wrapped up his fourth win of 2023 and his second Championship Four berth.
“I saw the 38 go inside and I went to the middle and was loose. Then, Bell bumped me off of four and sealed the win,” Larson said.
TOP-11 FINISHERS: Larson (Playoffs), Bell (P), Kyle Busch, Keselowski, Ross Chastain, Ryan Blaney (P), William Byron (P), Tyler Reddick (P), Martin Truex Jr. (P), Denny Hamlin (P), Chris Buescher (P)
Stage one had just one caution, for Erik Jones blowing a right-rear tire on lap 66.
All day long, it was Larson and Bell as they swapped the lead five times and placed 1-2 in stage one.
STAGE ONE TOP-10: Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Brad Keselowski, Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, William Byron
Stage two started on lap 86 and Martin Truex Jr. led nine laps – the first laps led in the playoffs. However, it happened on 10-lap older tires than everyone else.
Truex dropped to 16th by the time Carson Hocevar brought out the caution on lap 112. Although he jumped from 18th to ninth between laps 117 and 146, when Alex Bowman wrecked exiting turn four, Martin Truex Jr. still struggled.
Meanwhile, several drivers took two new tires, including William Byron and Brad Keselowski. Meanwhile, Kyle Larson led Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin on a charge by on four fresh tires to claim stage two.
STAGE TWO TOP-10: Larson, Ross Chastain, Bell, Hamlin, Keselowski, Byron, Busch, Blaney, Reddick, Bubba Wallace
Truex placed 20th in stage two and was joined back there by Chris Buescher, who placed 15th in the stage after some slower stops.
Stage three wasn’t much better as they battled for 18th. Meanwhile, upfront, Larson dropped to third after Christopher Bell and Ross Chastain’s crews had stellar stops.
Chastain played spoiler but struggled to pass Bell and eventually dropped to sixth.
A caution for Chase Briscoe having a right-rear tire go flat on lap 211 saved Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. Larson’s crew gained him two spots, which put him ahead of Brad Keselowski and Christopher Bell.
After a lap 222 restart after Ty Gibbs lost a tire in turn three, Bell set his sights on Larson.
While Christopher Bell came up short, he sits just two points below the cutline going into the October 22 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET; Broadcast: NBC, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio):
- Kyle Larson (WIN)
- William Byron (+9)
- Denny Hamlin (+2)
- Martin Truex Jr. (+2)
- Christopher Bell (-2)
- Tyler Reddick (-16)
- Ryan Blaney (-17)
- Chris Buescher (-23)