CONCORD, N.C. -- Cliff Daniels now can add NASCAR Cup Series-winning crew chief to his résumé. He celebrated in victory lane with driver Kyle Larson at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday after Larson took the checkered flag in the City of Lights.

It marked Larson’s first win with Hendrick Motorsports and his first win on 1.5-mile track. While Daniels found success working with the No. 48 team under Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson, this was the first time he won a race as a crew chief in the highest level of stock-car racing. It only took Larson and Daniels four races together to notch a win.

“It’s been quite a journey for this team and for Kyle,” Daniels said. “For all of us to get to this moment, it’s been a long time coming and from everything we’ve learned from Jimmie (Johnson) and Chad (Knaus) and those guys over the years. All the valuable lessons and skills and everything that we’ve learned, then having Kyle come in and just drive the race that he drove (Sunday); he was incredible.”

Daniels said he and Larson were methodical in their approach and pored over notes from their past races at Las Vegas. Daniels was atop the pit box for Johnson during last year’s spring event at Las Vegas where the duo earned a fifth-place finish. Combined with Larson’s two runner-up results at the track, Daniels felt the No. 5 team had all the pieces in place to win.

“It’s such a tough balance here to have a car that’s fast out front and can handle well in traffic,” Daniels said. “Certainly, our car had a decent balance of that today. I’m not going to say it was perfect, but it had a good enough balance out front versus in traffic to make that work.

“And you got to have good pit stops. You got to take advantage of the track position when you can, which Kyle did on restarts (and) our guys did on pit road. It was cool to have the Chevy out front.”


Part of that preparation included how to handle a late-race caution. Daniels said he and the No. 5 team had several contingency plans should Larson’s momentum be halted as he led the field in the final laps of the race. Luckily for Daniels, he didn’t have to make any strategic calls due to a caution. Larson handedly crossed the finish line first after leading for 103 laps of the 267-lap event.

That dominance only reinforced Daniels' comment from last week when he compared Larson to a lion.

“He’s a lion with a really long mane,” Daniels laughed. “He was a phenomenal restarter (Sunday), putting himself in good positions. The moves that he made once the field got strung out and we were three wide at times and changing lanes, that was so cool to see. He has so much talent that to just let him go run free, that was cool.”