Kyle Larson took a dominant victory in Las Vegas on Sunday to score his first NASCAR Cup Series win in just his fourth start since returning from suspension.
Larson was handed a season-long suspension and fired by Chip Ganassi Racing after using a racial slur during an iRacing event last April, but was announced as a Hendrick Motorsports driver for 2021 back in October.
The Vegas win was the 28-year-old’s first on a 1.5-mile speedway and booked his place into the Playoffs alongside Hendrick team-mate William Byron. Post-race, Larson immediately thanked his team owner for giving him the opportunity to return after his actions last year.
“Thanks Mr. H. for believing in me,” he said over team radio.
Larson underwent mandated sensitivity training as part of his suspension and attended a variety of classes beyond the required training set by NASCAR last year during his time away from the Cup Series.
— Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) March 8, 2021
NASCAR’s only African-American driver Bubba Wallace was one of the first drivers to congratulate Larson in victory lane after the race.
“Thank you so much Mr. H [Rick Hendrick], Jeff Gordon, Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports,” Larson added out of the car.
“I know this is Rick’s most special paint scheme for obvious reasons and it’s just an honour to grab (the win) our first time out. I’m just blessed.”
Larson was victorious by over three seconds to Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, taking the lead during the final stage and driving away from the rest of his pursuing rivals.
The win is Hendrick’s second in succession after Byron’s win at Homestead Miami. The No24 secured another top 10 finish in eighth. Reigning champion Chase Elliott recovered from mid-race contact to end up 13th while No48 driver Alex Bowman suffered a late flat tyre and dropped to 27th.