Auto racing roundup: William Byron leads Hendrick’s top-three sweep in Vegas

AP photo by Ellen Schmidt / NASCAR Cup Series drivers begin their final laps during Sunday's race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
AP photo by Ellen Schmidt / NASCAR Cup Series drivers begin their final laps during Sunday's race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

LAS VEGAS — One way or another, a Hendrick Motorsports driver figured to win Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Kyle Larson nearly won the NASCAR Cup Series race in regulation, but a late caution put teammate William Byron in position to capture the checkered flag in overtime.

Byron took the lead on the second-to-last lap of bonus racing to put an exclamation mark on a dominant day for Hendrick. The top three were from Hendrick, with Byron, Larson and Alex Bowman driving their Chevrolets across the finish line in that order.

Bowman won last year's March race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Byron led 176 laps and won for the fifth time in his six Cup Series seasons.

"I've led a lot of laps in a couple of races, but to be this good with this team is definitely a good sign," Byron said. "It's a different feeling for me having a team around me that can execute that well. That's just a team effort."

Larson appeared headed for victory lane when when Aric Almirola hit the wall in turn four on lap No. 264, leading to the second caution of the day.

"I feel like I could have eight or 10 more Cup wins if it wasn't for cautions in the last five laps," Larson said. "I don't remember many of those working out in my favor."

Most of the leaders pitted a lap later, with only Martin Truex Jr. in his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota choosing to stay out. Byron, in the No. 24 Chevy, came out of pit road ahead of Larson and then easily overtook Truex after the restart.

Byron, who started in the first row with pole-sitter Joey Logano of Team Penske, swept both stages for the first time in his career. Truex in 2017 and Kevin Harvick in 2018 also won both stages in Las Vegas and went on to win.

Logano, the reigning Cup Series champion who won the Las Vegas race last October, hit the wall in in turn four on lap No. 183, ending his day. He was running three wide with RFK Racing's Brad Keselowski in the middle and Richard Childress Racing's Kyle Busch on the apron when Logano bumped into Keselowski, sending his No. 22 Ford into the wall.

It was a tough day all around for Logano, who was running 15th after starting up front.

"Considering how we've been here in the past, you kind of expect it a little bit more performance today than what we had," Logano said. "Just off on overall speed."

Bubba Wallace, who drives the 23XI Racing No. 23 Toyota, finished fourth.

"It was right there in the top seven or eight the whole time," Wallace said. "I was going to settle for sixth, and the caution came out. My car fired off really, really good (on the restart), the best it had all race."

Rough start for Indy

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Jack Harvey was taken to a hospital. Helio Castroneves needed an ice pack and X-rays. A pair of cars went airborne, the leaders crashed each other, and the entire Andretti Autosport fleet was eliminated.

Marcus Ericsson, meanwhile, won IndyCar's season opener.

Last year's Indianapolis 500 winner came through the carnage on the downtown streets of St. Petersburg for a surprise victory for Chip Ganassi Racing on a swampy Sunday in Florida. It was the fourth IndyCar win for the 32-year-old from Sweden, a former Formula One driver.

"I think people forget us in some conversations when they talk about the championship," Ericsson said. "We're here to win. We won the 500. We were leading the championship for a long time. We're here to win."

It was supposed to be an Andretti car in victory lane, at least based on the speed the team showed all weekend. Romain Grosjean and Colton Herta started on the front row, but things began to unravel right at the start.

A seven-car wreck on the very first lap knocked five out of the race, including Andretti's Devlin DeFrancesco, who was sent airborne when rookie Ben Pedersen slammed directly into his stopped car. Castroneves, a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, limped away from the crash, while Meyer Shank Racing teammate Simon Pagenaud clutched his hand.

Castroneves left IndyCar's new mobile medical care center with an ice pack on his right hand, having had a clean X-ray taken on his right knee. Pagenaud said his finger was bruised but he was fine.

Harvey wasn't so lucky and was briefly examined at a local hospital after Kyle Kirkwood became the second Andretti driver to go airborne and sailed directly over Harvey's head. Rinus VeeKay had slid into a tire barrier, Harvey ran into the back of VeeKay, and Kirkwood launched over both cars.

Ericsson passed Pato O'Ward for the win with three laps remaining when O'Ward suffered a brief loss of power. He pounded his fist in disgust as Ericsson sailed past for the win for Honda.

O'Ward was second in a Chevrolet for McLaren and could barely find any words to speak in his initial disappointment.

"Just very annoying to give it away like that," O'Ward said with a sigh. "The team can't have this happen. We just got 10 points thrown away. We'll have a look at all the data and make sure that doesn't happen."

Scott Dixon, the six-time series champion, was third for Ganassi for his 193rd top-five finish, tying him with Mario Andretti for the most in IndyCar history. Dixon's top-five percentage is 52%.

Alonso impresses in F1 season opener

SAKHIR, Bahrain — New season, old story.

But with an interesting subplot.

Max Verstappen started in pole position and won the Bahrain Grand Prix, leading almost the entire race as he began his bid for a third straight Formula One championship.

Red Bull also clinched a dominant 1-2 finish with Sergio Perez 12 seconds behind Verstappen, but the unique development was 41-year-old Fernando Alonso taking a brilliant third place — and 99th podium finish of his F1 career — in a stunning debut for Aston Martin.

His fans are already referring to this season as "Mission 33,"hopeful the Spanish driver can earn a 33rd career win 10 years after his most recent victory with Ferrari. The two-time F1 champion (2005-06), who joined Aston Martin after an acrimonious split with Alpine, pumped his fist at the finish line and then hugged his race crew.

"To finish on the podium first race of the year is just amazing," Alonso said.

It was Verstappen's 36th career win but the Dutchman's first at the Sakhir circuit, where he retired just laps from the end in last year's opener.

"That was exactly the start to the season we needed," Verstappen said. "I'm very happy to finally win a race here."