Hendrick intervened in a competition matter for Kyle Larson's first time joining the team. He squashed any beef between his stars after their California run-in.
Chase Elliott, NASCAR’s most beloved driver, was caused by Larson, the reigning Cup champion. The two were racing for victory last week. Larson failed to see Elliott on his outside, and his spotter also missed Elliott, which caused Larson to run Elliott into the wall.
Furious, Elliott launched an expletive-ladentirade. Larson immediately apologized.
Hendrick acted quickly to avoid the first drama of this season taking place in his own home. Hendrick Motorsports owner attended the weekly Hendrick Motorsports competition meeting. He made it clear to Elliott, Larson and Alex Bowman what he expected.
Larson, who was hired in 2020, stated that "That's my only meeting that Rick has been part of since I've been there." Larson has been to competition meetings, and other such things. We've also had many meetings about different topics. However, he was the first to get involved in racing and other activities.
We all know his expectations, and it was great for him to come back and share them with us after the incident of last week.
Larson was unable to speak with Elliott in person until Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Larson is currently the defending race winner and wants to continue his streak. As he defeated Elliott to become champion, he became the fourth NASCAR driver to win more than three consecutive races.
Even though they are close friends, Elliott and Larson don't know each other very well. Since Larson joined Hendrick Motorsports, the team has been operating mostly under pandemic restrictions and there have been very few interactions between drivers.
Larson stated that Hendrick's meeting was "from my spot", but Elliott proved to be professional Saturday.
"We were able to review what had happened from all perspectives. Larson stated that it was great to have a conversation, and to hopefully move forward from it. It went very well. I was surprised at how much better it turned out. He is a great teammate, and I will do my part to be a great friend every week.
"Hopefully, we will never again have incidents like the one last week."
FanDuel lists Larson as the favorite -- 7-2 by FanDuel -- for a third consecutive week. He starts second on Sunday alongside pole-sitter Christopher Bell.
BELL TO THE FRONT
Bell won his first pole in his 75th Cup race, which was also one of his few chances to win a qualifying session.
For most of the past two years, NASCAR led the field in points. Practice and qualifying were stopped due to pandemic restrictions. Bell was able to get to the front with the return of a short practice session and shootout-style qualifying this year.
To place Joe Gibbs' entry on pole, he ran a lap of 182.673 mph with his Toyota. Larson finished second, but the parity in the Next Gen car was behind him.
Austin Cindric, the Daytona 500 winner, qualified third in a Ford Ford for Team Penske. Cindric is the first rookie to lead the Cup points standings in NASCAR history for more than one race.
Chase Briscoe continued to have a strong start to his second year by qualifying fourth in Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing. Briscoe started the season in third place at Daytona, and led 20 laps last Wednesday in California. He currently ranks fifth in the standings.
Richard Childress Racing continued to show strong results: Tyler Reddick finished seventh, and Austin Dillon was 10th. Reddick won California last week until he was involved in a crash. Dillon came second.
BUSCH TO A BACKUP
Kyle Busch, a Las Vegas native, crashed his Toyota in practice. He didn't qualify for the race. Joe Gibbs Racing provided a backup car. He will start last among the 37-car field.
NASCAR has a shortage in finished cars for its Next Gen rollout. The backup JGR at Las Vegas was not a "parts vehicle" and wasn't meant to compete.
After Busch spun into the wall, his crew was readying it to go for Sunday.
Larson thought Busch was being spun by wind. Saturday's speed reached 30 mph and the Xfinity Series race had to be stopped briefly due to snow flurries.
Larson stated, "I was right behind Kyle when he crashed. That was insane." It turned backwards so quickly. It was wild. I don't know what the wind did. He hit a seam, or something. It was wild."