LAS VEGAS – Noah Gragson brought home the No. 48 Ally Racing Chevrolet in the 11th spot on Sunday afternoon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series Round of 8 opener. The result was the best of the Hendrick Motorsports quartet.
William Byron crossed the line in the 13th spot. Byron, who entered the race eight points below the cutline, heads to next weekend’s event at Homestead Miami Speedway six markers below.
“Ultimately, (we) just struggled all day with kind of the same thing; we were just kind of bouncing,” said Byron. “I would be able to run the middle okay through the beginning of the race but as soon as the bottom and the top came in, I wasn’t really great at either one of those."
Chase Elliott ended the day in Las Vegas in the 21st position. Despite the result, the 26-year-old driver still holds a 17-point advantage over the final transfer position to make the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway.
Stage two brought an abrupt end to Kyle Larson’s day after Bubba Wallace contacted Larson’s right rear quarter panel. The contact resulted in a 35th place finish for Larson.
“I obviously made an aggressive move into (turn) three; got in low, got loose and chased it up a bit,” said Larson. “He (Bubba Wallace) got to my right front, and it got him tight and into the wall. I knew he was going to retaliate. He had a reason to be mad, but his race wasn’t over until he retaliated.”
Alex Bowman did not race at Las Vegas after suffering a concussion during a crash at Texas Motor Speedway.
Next weekend’s Cup Series main event will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the first visit to the 1.5-mile oval this season. Catch the action from the second race in the Round of 8 on Sunday, Oct. 23, at 2:30 P.M. ET on NBC, MRN Radio, and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio (channel 90).
Noah Gragson, No. 48 Ally/Koker's Garage Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 11th
Stage one: Gragson began his first Cup Series start at his home track in the 17th position. After the green flag came out to begin the race, the 24-year-old driver fell back to the 21st spot by lap 15. Over the radio, crew chief Greg Ives radioed his driver encouraging him to manage the race car’s loose condition, saying they’ll, “Get the car freed up”, during the race’s first pit stop. After cycling to the lead under green flag pit stop, Gragson made his way to pit road on lap 41 for four tires and fuel. Following the pit stop, the No. 48 Ally Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 blended back into the 21st position. The race’s first caution flag came out on lap 77 and brought an end to stage one three laps later. Gragson would end the stage in the 20th position.
Stage two: After taking four tires and fuel under the caution flag, Gragson began stage two in the 17th position. The race’s second caution flag came out on lap 94 with the No. 48 Ally Racing team still in 17th. After pitting under the caution flag, the No. 48 pit crew turned an extremely quick pit stop, promoting their driver to the 10th spot on the restart. The green flag run lasted only until turn one when the caution flag returned on lap 104 with Gragson maintaining the same position on track. Lap 107’s restart saw a return to green-flag racing with Gragson holding his position inside the top-10. When the caution flag came out to end stage two on lap 165, the No. 48 Ally Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 held the 15th position.
Final stage: Following another quick pit stop under the caution flag, the No. 48 pit crew earned Gragson four spots. After choosing the bottom, Gragson lined up in the 11th spot for the start of stage three. The beginning of stage three saw Gragson drop back to the 16th position by lap 189. On pit road, Gragson received four tires and fuel and restarted in the 12th position. After the green flag returned, Gragson fell back to 20th as he battled a loose condition from within the race car. Yellow flag laps returned to Las Vegas on lap 227 with the No. 48 Ally Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 holding the 17th position. Under the caution, Gragson radioed his crew saying, he was struggling with, “right rear and right front (grip)”. Following another four-tire pit stop with fuel, Gragson lined up in the 14th position. Under the green flag, he gained three positions before the caution returned on lap 241. Under the yellow flag, Ives chose to keep his driver on the racetrack to maintain track position, lining him up in the 10th spot for the lap 245 restart. Under the green flag, Gragson dropped back to 13th while fighting for a spot inside the top-10. After restarting in the 12th position, the Las Vegas, Nevada, native finished the race in the 11th spot, the highest of any Hendrick Motorsports driver.
William Byron, No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 13th
Stage one: Byron rolled off the grid in the third position and settled into that spot after the green flag came out. By lap 32, the driver of the No. 24 radioed his team saying he was, “really tight”, as he slipped down the order into the eighth position. Under the green flag, crew chief Rudy Fugle brought his driver into the pits for four tires and fuel on lap 38. Following the pit stop, Byron blended back into the back in the ninth position. The race’s first caution flag came out on lap 77. The incident also brought an end to stage one with Byron earning the 10th position and a single stage playoff point.
Stage two: Under the caution flag prior to stage two, the No. 24 pit crew earned their driver four spots on pit road with a quick pit stop, taking four tires and fuel. Byron began stage two in the sixth position. The caution flag returned to the track on lap 95 with the No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 occupying the seventh spot. While an issue with the right front tire on pit road caused Byron to restart 10th on lap 102, the caution flag came back out shortly after the restart. Under the yellow flag, Byron chose the top lane for lap 107’s restart, putting him in the eighth position. Under green-flag conditions, the 24-year-old driver began to move his way to the front, radioing his team saying, he was, “much better”, as he cracked the top-five on lap 123. Despite losing one position on the racetrack, Byron crossed the line on lap 165 to end stage two in the sixth position.
Final stage: After pitting for four tires and fuel during the stage break, Byron began the final stage in the third position. The caution flag came back out on lap 194 with Byron in the seventh spot. After quick service from the No. 24 pit crew, Byron restarted the race in the third position with 63 circuits remaining. Under green, Byron got loose in turn one while battling for the runner-up position but managed to keep the No. 24 RaptorTough.com from sustaining any damage. After regrouping, he dropped back into the ninth spot by the time the caution flag returned to the track on lap 229. After another lightning-fast pit stop from the No. 24 pit crew, Byron gained four positions on pit road and restarted in the fourth spot. On lap 247’s restart, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native was forced to slow down to avoid Tyler Reddick, who was hard on the brakes after making slight contact with Ross Chastain. The stack up forced Byron back into the 11th spot and influenced the driver’s decision to pit under the yellow flag. Following his service of four tires and fuel, he lined up in the 25th spot. By the time the checkered flag flew on lap 267, Byron brought home the No. 24 RaptorTough.com Camaro in the 13th position.
Chase Elliott, No. 9 Hooters Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 21st
Stage one: The driver of the No. 9 began the race in the 20th position. By lap eight, Elliott had made up five spots on the field. Lap 41 saw the No. 9 Hooters Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 make its way down pit road for four tires and fuel with crew chief Alan Gustafson calling for a half round to be taken out of the right rear. Following the service, Elliott fell back to the 20th position on the racetrack. Lap 77 saw the caution flag come out which also brought an end to the first stage on lap 80. Under the yellow, Elliott occupied the 19th position.
Stage two: For the pit stop prior to stage two, Gustafson chose to undo the change that was made during the green flag pit stop. Following the trip down pit road, Elliott restarted in the 18th spot. Lap 95 saw the race’s second caution flag come out with the No. 9 entry in the 19th spot. After pitting, Elliott returned in the same position on the racetrack. Lap 104’s restart saw another caution flag come out with Elliott still in 19th. After choosing the top, the driver of the No. 9 occupied the 20th spot for the restart on lap 107. The caution flag to end stage two came out on lap 165 with Elliott running in the 23rd position.
Final stage: Under the caution flag, the No. 9 crew took four tires and fuel with an adjustment to tighten up the car for Elliott. For the beginning of stage three, the No. 9 Hooters Racing Chevrolet lined up in the 20th position. After the green flag returned to the sky, Elliott maneuvered his way around three cars ahead of him to get into the 17th position. Caution returned to the track on lap 194 with Elliott in the 20th position. Under the yellow, the driver of the No. 9 radioed his crew saying, “I don’t have anything to lean on in the back when I get square,” as the crew discussed how to improve the rear grip of the car. Following a quick pit stop from the No. 9 pit crew, Elliott took the green in the 14th spot. By lap 221, the Dawsonville, Georgia, native had fallen back to 19th, where he ran when the caution flag came out on lap 228. Under the yellow flag, Elliott made two trips to pit road to allow for more adjustments to be made to the No. 9 Hooters Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. For the restart on lap 232, Elliott lined up in 28th spot but gained six spots under the green flag. Caution returned to the track on lap 241 with Elliott in the 22nd position. Under the caution, Gustafson called Elliott to pit road for four tires and fuel, putting his driver in the 22nd spot for the restart. Following a chaotic restart on lap 245, Elliott dropped back to the 25th position. After choosing the top, Elliott restarted in the 22nd position. When the checkered flag came out on lap 267, the No. 9 Hooters Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 crossed the line in the 21st position.
Kyle Larson, No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Where he finished: 35th
Stage one: Larson began the 400-mile event in the 14th spot on the grid but quickly worked his way through the pack, breaking the top-10 by lap six. On lap 41, the 30-year-old driver came into the pits for four tires and fuel. Following the pit stop, crew chief Cliff Daniels radioed his driver giving an update on the cording (wear) of his tires saying, “everybody else had cording on their tires but you did not. Your tires looked really good.” By lap 50, Larson ran in the 10th position. The race’s first caution came out on lap 77 with Larson occupying the seventh position. Stage one ended under the caution flag with Larson still running in the seventh spot.
Stage two: Under the yellow flag, Larson came to pit road for four tires and fuel. The restart to begin stage two saw the No. 5 HendrickCars.com entry line up in the eighth spot. While battling inside the top-10, Bubba Wallace made contact with the right rear of Larson’s car, sending both drivers into the wall. The incident brought an end to Larson’s race and resulted in a 35th place finish.