Kyle Larson, who lost his job with Chip Ganassi Racing four races into the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, won for new team Hendrick Motorsports four races into the 2021 season.
Larson dominated Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading a race-best 103 of 267 laps.
In doing so, he beat runner-up Brad Keselowski of Team Penske to the finishing line by 3.15 seconds.
The win was the seventh of Larson’s career but first on a 1.5-mile track. He has nine runner-up finishes on intermediate tracks.
Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin finished third and fourth respectively.
Busch’s finish on his hometown track was his best of the season.
Ryan Blaney, Keselowski’s teammate finished fifth, and a third Gibbs driver, Martin Truex Jr., finished sixth.
Larson didn’t lose his job at Ganassi because of a lack of on-track performance. He lost it for insensitive behavior.
He was driving in televised online virtual races with other NASCAR drivers during the pandemic-forced hiatus last year when he used a racial slur. NASCAR indefinitely suspended him, his sponsors dumped him and Ganassi fired him.
He was reinstated in October and the quickly hired by Hendrick.
Defending series champion Chase Elliott had a tough day. The Hendrick Motorsports driver led three times for 22 laps in the first stage but his car suffered minor damage late in the stage and then more significant when spun on Lap 170.
Elliott restarted four laps later in 27th-place and rebounded to finish 13th.
Christopher Bell of the Gibbs team, a winner in the Daytona road race, was seventh.
Hendrick’s William Byron, who won last weekend’s race at the 1.5 Homestead-Miami Speedway oval, was eighth.
Keselowski survived a battle with Elliott to win the first stage. It was his first stage win of the season.
Larson was an easy winner in Stage 2.
The series stays in the desert Southwest as it moves to Arizona this week for a 312-miler at the 1-mile Phoenix Raceway oval.