It wasn’t a question of “if” Kyle Larson could find his way back to Victory Lane, it was a question of “when.” But I still think it is safe to say that Kyle Larson winning at Las Vegas continues the streak of surprise winners this season. Larson has run well at mile and a half tracks but hasn’t won on one, so this victory so soon after his return to Cup racing was a bit of an eye opener. It was also surprising since Ford has been so dominant as of late at Vegas. Larson led 103 laps of the 267 laps, so let’s call that a spanker as well.
I was not the only one who expected the “usual” front runners to be high on the list for Victory Lane. Among them, Brad Keselowski (P2) led 27 laps , Denny Hamlin (P4) led 47, Martin Truex, Jr. (P5) led 6, Joey Logano (P9) led 7, Chase Elliott (P13) led 22, Daniel Suarez (P26) led 9, and a strong running William Byron (P8) led 25. That gives you a feeling for just how many drivers were at the front at one point or another through luck, strategy or sheer speed.
Thumbs Up For Restarts
The race featured wild restarts and those translated into some hard 3 and 4 wide racing for several laps each time. Cars would get strung out but it would take quite a while for that to happen and even then the racing behind the leaders was still side by side. That led to a lot of changes for the lead and interesting racing that we don’t normally see at Vegas. It would be awesome to see that kind of racing translate to the other mile and a half tracks this year.
And The Rest Of The Field
Aric Almirola was the first car out after a brush with the wall. He really needed a strong finish at Vegas since he sits mired 28th in points right now. There is still plenty of racing to do and he is a top 5 rated driver at Phoenix, but with the Bristol dirt race coming up, his time to grab a win before the pressure really starts to build is coming up fast. Kevin Harvick (P20) had a terrible race but still sits in the Top 10 in points. Harvick was “the man” at Phoenix for some time but he hasn’t won there since 2018. Chris Buescher (P14) was the best running Stewart-Haas Ford.
Chase Elliott looked like a race contender early on but a Stage 2 spin sent him to the back and he spent the rest of the race catching up. Ryan Blaney (P5) finally ran well but was short of real speed as he got closer to the front runners. Christopher Bell (P7) backed up his recent win with another strong run keeping him in the top 5 in points right now. Michael McDowell (P17) led 9 laps but faded a bit at the end to keep him in the top 10 in points for now. Matt DiBenedetto (P16) needed a really good run to kick start his 2021 run and while this wasn’t a top 10, it wasn’t too bad.
Kyle Busch Watch
While Kyle Busch (P3) didn’t lead any laps, this was more of a run like we are used to seeing from him. He didn’t crack the top 10 until Stage 2, but they kept after it all race long and there he was at the end. With that said, there is no practice at any track until the Bristol Dirt race and that lack of practice has proven to be an issue with the 18 car. Busch has won two of the last five races at Phoenix so the team has high hopes for a return to Victory Lane.
Phoenix Race Watch
Kyle Busch stands at the top of the charts in a normal year, but he only managed an 11th place finish last November in addition to his 3rd place run in March.
Kevin Harvick has been without a win since 2018 but has 5 Top 10 and 3 Top 5 finishes in the last 5 races.
The last three races have seen Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin go to Victory Lane at Phoenix.
Kyle Larson has been no slouch at Phoenix either, gathering 4 Top 10 and 3 Top 5 finishes in his last 5 races.
Ones to watch: William Byron and Christopher Bell could be Top 10 contenders.
Must do better: Aric Almirola needs a Top 10 to show they are improving. He SHOULD be a Top 10 car and a Top 5 would really be strong medicine.
Featured Image Photo by Jim Fluharty/HHP for Chevy Racing