Vegas wasn’t so lucky for half of the Playoff contenders as Brad Keselowski claimed the jackpot in the Playoff opener in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series at the inaugural South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, securing his spot in the second round of the Playoffs.
“I didn’t think it was ever gonna end,” Brad commented about the multiple yellow flag conditions toward the end of the race, which included one red flag for over 10 minutes. “I was worried about running out of gas there at the end. I know the fans can hear on this microphone and I want to say thank you to everyone who braved 100-degree heat all day. You guys are the real heroes. I get paid to do this. You guys pay to watch and thank you for doing that. Thank you for coming out today and tolerating the heat. We’re so glad to be able to win and get in Victory Lane again with the Autotrader Ford. What a special day for 500 wins for Penske, three in a row here, first win in the Playoffs. There are too many storylines for me to get it all right, but we’re very thankful and very proud for all of them.”
Kyle Larson led multiple times throughout the final stage but finished second in his DC Solar Vegas Strong Chevrolet with Chip Ganassi Racing.
“The restarts, a couple of them worked out for me and a couple of them didn’t,” Larson stated about the end of the race. “But, was happy to end up second there. Didn’t really expect to get to second there on that final restart, but it was pretty hectic. Just glad we had a good day after the tire issue we had early in the race. So, yeah, good points day.”
Martin Truex Jr. was the only driver of the “Big 3” that didn’t have major issues in the race and was able to put his No. 78 5-hour Energy Toyota in the third position.
“It took the race from us, no question,” Truex said with frustration about the multiple short runs toward the end of the race. “With 15 laps or so we could take the lead and drive away. We were actually a little too good on the long run, I wish maybe we could have gone the other direction a little bit and still been able to get the lead. If we were the leader, we could do okay, I could maintain, but when I was second or third or fourth, it just made me tight enough that I had to wait for the thing to come to me or wait for other guys to start getting off the bottom in front of me.
“All in all it was a great day for everybody on the Bass Pro/5-hour ENERGY Camry and all the guys did a phenomenal job this weekend. Thanks to all the guys back in Denver at the shop, it’s pretty cool to see the effort going into these last 10 – we’re going to get after them. We had a winning car, just didn’t work out for us today. Really proud of the effort.”
Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Aric Almirola and Kyle Busch completed the first seven positions and were all Playoff drivers. Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman and Paul Menard completed the top 10. Other Playoff drivers finished as follows.
- Austin Dillon (11th)
- Alex Bowman (19th)
- Kurt Busch (21st)
- Jimmie Johnson (22nd)
- Clint Bowyer (23rd)
- Denny Hamlin (32nd)
- Chase Elliott (36th)
- Kevin Harvick (39th)
- Erik Jones (40th)
Ross Chastain, who won yesterday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race, was knocking on the door of a top 10 finish, but a late race incident resulted in a 20th place finish with his No. 15 Xchange of America Chevrolet with Premium Motorsports.
Martin Truex Jr. Keeps the “Big 3” Strong, Wins Stage 1
While Eric Jones started on pole, he was not able to lead a lap as Joey Logano who started alongside him was able to get the advantage on the exit of Turn 4 and lead the opening 33 laps. Kevin Harvick began to hunt him down and lead a small number of laps, but the field started to take green flag pit stops. Toward the beginning of the first stage, Kyle Larson had tire issues and had to pit out of sequence, so his uphill battle started early in the race.
Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin both led one lap each during the cycles, but Regan Smith elected to stay out and lead the next 10 laps. Harvick reclaimed the lead for another 10 laps, but Martin Truex Jr. had a car that was strong on the long runs. He would get by on Lap 60 and secure the win in Stage 1. No cautions came out, and AJ Allmendinger was the beneficiary of the stage caution.
Keselowski Hunts for Three in a Row, Claims Stage 2
While stage one was caution-free, Stage 2 was a new race with three yellow flag incidents. The first was for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in Turn 3 as he smacked the outside wall. He was able to come down pit road and service his No. 17 SunnyD Ford and continue in the South Point 400.
The second yellow was thrown as Ty Dillon crashed along the frontstretch. He was able to continue around the track, but as he drove along the apron of the backstretch, the tread on his front tire fell off as he received more damage to his car.
As the second stage began to close, Kevin Harvick suddenly popped his right-front tire in Turn 2 and collected the pole winner, Erik Jones. Both would be the first of many Playoff contenders to fall victim to the afternoon’s race. Harvick’s car caught fire along the outside wall of the backstretch but he was able to climb out under his own power. Jones’s car was unable to continue as he rested on the apron of Turn 3.
“I am not happy about anything right now,” Harvick proclaimed with extreme frustration since he had a 50 point Playoff cushion coming into today’s race but saw it evaporate before his eyes.
“We have to run well at Richmond and the Roval now,” Jones said as he is now on the outside looking in.
At the final restart of the second stage, Keselowski was able to hold off a hard charging field to win Stage 2. Darrell “Bubba” Wallace was the beneficiary of the Stage 2 caution.
Mayhem Unfolds in the Final Stage of the South Point 400
In the final stage of the first Playoff race of 2018, Las Vegas Motor Speedway began to claim more Playoff drivers. At the start, Jamie McMurray won the race off pit road and led the first five laps. Kyle Larson moved his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet past his teammate to lead for the first time of the day. He soon battled with Keselowski for the top spot. As they battled, William Byron crashed in Turn 3, which was the first of seven yellow flags of the final stage.
The field took the green and the two main drivers talked about were Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. Keselowski seemed to have the strong short-run car, but Truex was able to find a new gear with a long-run setup and start hunting down the top spot around 10 laps into a run.
While completing Lap 212, Jamie McMurray appeared to lose a right rear tire as he entered Turn 3. Committed to the low line, his car slid all the way up the track with hard impact into the outside SAFER barrier wall. Playoff contender Chase Elliott was already set for the high line and was collected in the crash. Neither driver was able to continue in the race.
Kyle Busch drove through the speedy dry where Chase Elliott’s car rested and lost control, spinning into the infield grass. Although the right-front tire went flat during his spin, his car received minimal damage. His crew went to work on his Toyota to put their Playoff driver back out onto the track in competition.
With 30 laps to go, the field took the green for the restart. Brad Keselowski’s crew put his No. 2 Ford in front alongside Martin Truex Jr. However going into Turn 1, Kyle Larson made a three-wide pass on the outside and after another circuit around, claimed the top spot. Truex dropped back to fourth as Logano was able to also get by for the third position.
On Lap 246, Denny Hamlin lost control of his Toyota in the same spot as teammate Kyle Busch just earlier. However, as he slid through the grass, his car took severe front-end damage, ending his day.
“Should’ve just finished 10th, 15th, or wherever we were running,” Hamlin said after a disappointing run at Vegas, sharing that he was trying to get “too much out of the car.”
As the field took the green for the restart, Keselowski had a strong restart and was able to claim the lead in the middle of Turns 1 and 2. There was a three-wide battle for third, but the yellow came out as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got loose on the exit of Turn 2. He slid to the inside of the track and hit the inside wall, similar to Chase Briscoe’s crash in yesterday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race. Stenhouse was able to climb out of his race car under his own power and was checked and released from the infield care center.
On a late restart, Jimmie Johnson got loose and pinched Clint Bowyer into the outside wall. Alex Bowman also hit the wall after a flat left front tire. The track stayed green for a few laps, but NASCAR eventually did throw another yellow flag on Lap 263 after debris was found on the track.
With yet another restart underway, Joey Logano made his way up into the second spot, but as Keselowski started to check out on the rest of the field, multiple cars crashed in Turn 4, including two more Playoff contenders, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer. Michael McDowell, Ross Chastain, Matt DiBenedetto and David Ragan were also involved. With so much debris on the track, NASCAR put out the red flag for just over 10 minutes to clean up the track and set up the race for overtime.
On the first overtime attempt, Team Penske held three of the top four positions. Logano was caught sleeping on the restart, which gave Keselowski all the room he needed to give Roger Penske his 500th victory.
“That’s quite a number,” Keselowski exclaimed as his team celebrated Team Penske’s 500th victory, as well as their second-round pass into the Playoffs. “It’s really great to be a part of that and to get the last four to get us there, that’s one special time.”
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race
Unofficial Race Results for the Inaugural South Point 400 – Sunday, September 16, 2018
Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Las Vegas, NV
|1||13||2||Brad Keselowski (P)||Autotrader||Ford|
|2||11||42||Kyle Larson (P)||DC Solar Vegas Strong||Chevrolet|
|3||10||78||Martin Truex Jr. (P)||5-hour ENERGY||Toyota|
|4||2||22||Joey Logano (P)||Pennzoil||Ford|
|5||6||12||Ryan Blaney (P)||PPG||Ford|
|6||16||10||Aric Almirola (P)||Smithfield||Ford|
|7||4||18||Kyle Busch (P)||M&M’s||Toyota|
|9||22||31||Ryan Newman||Liberty National||Chevrolet|
|11||18||3||Austin Dillon (P)||DOWFROST||Chevrolet|
|13||23||6||Trevor Bayne||AdvoCare Rehydrate||Ford|
|14||29||47||AJ Allmendinger||Kroger ClickList||Chevrolet|
|15||28||37||Chris Buescher||Natural Light Race Day Resume||Chevrolet|
|17||36||23||JJ Yeley(i)||Steakhouse Elite||Toyota|
|18||37||00||Landon Cassill(i)||StarCom Fiber||Chevrolet|
|19||9||88||Alex Bowman (P)||Valvoline||Chevrolet|
|20||34||15||Ross Chastain(i)||Xchange of America||Chevrolet|
|21||8||41||Kurt Busch (P)||Haas Automation||Ford|
|22||17||48||Jimmie Johnson (P)||Lowe’s for Pros||Chevrolet|
|23||15||14||Clint Bowyer (P)||One Cure||Ford|
|24||26||32||Matt DiBenedetto||Zynga Poker||Ford|
|25||35||96||* Jeffrey Earnhardt||American Soldier Network/Xtreme Concepts||Toyota|
|26||33||99||* Kyle Weatherman||StarCom Fiber||Chevrolet|
|27||27||38||David Ragan||MDS Transport||Ford|
|28||38||51||BJ McLeod(i)||Jacob Companies||Ford|
|30||14||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||SunnyD||Ford|
|31||40||7||* Reed Sorenson||Chevrolet|
|32||3||11||Denny Hamlin (P)||FedEx Ground||Toyota|
|33||39||66||* Timmy Hill(i)||Rewards.com||Toyota|
|36||7||9||Chase Elliott (P)||NAPA Auto Parts||Chevrolet|
|37||21||24||William Byron #||AXALTA||Chevrolet|
|38||31||43||Bubba Wallace #||World Wide Technology||Chevrolet|
|39||5||4||Kevin Harvick (P)||Mobil 1||Ford|
|40||1||20||Erik Jones (P)||DeWalt||Toyota|