Joey Logano wins the first west coast race in the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
“I said we’re going to do donuts on that giant infield logo after the race, and we were able to do it,” Logano shared after winning for the first time in his career at Las Vegas.
With over 3,300 green flag passes and 47 green flag passes for the lead, NASCAR’s new aero package saw much more competitive racing. The leaders could not get further than a couple seconds out front before being reeled back in, and a lot of draft was being manipulated. Logano shared that it really was more of a mental game.
“What a great race. Brad and I were so evenly matched, and you just can’t drive away (with the lead). In the last five or six laps, Brad was catching me so quick, and I got stuck behind a lapped car. Man, it was so close. Lots of fun – my heart’s still running hard.”
Teammate Brad Keselowski put on a couple late run charges, even coming to the checkered flag. Out of Turn 4, he came up one spot short of going back to back to win two of the first three races of the season. Team Penske finished 1-2.
“It was a good battle,” Keselowski said. “We were both running really hard on the top. It seemed to come down to what the lapped cars were going to do. The lapped cars screwed the leader, and the second-place guy got a really good run. It happened over and over again. First, Joey got hosed by a lapped car, and I got by him. Then I got hosed by a lapped car, and he got by me. But it was definitely a good event.”
Kyle Busch was able to recover from a pit road speeding penalty and a six second deficit to the leaders to pass Kevin Harvick for third. Time ran out and Busch was three spots short of the weekend sweep across all three NASCAR touring series.
“I certainly screwed up our day coming to pit road,” Busch said disappointed after a green flag pit road speeding penalty during Stage 2. “Trying to make up time and just ruined it for us.”
Stage 1 winner Harvick finished fourth with Kurt Busch utilizing some late race pit road strategy rounded out the top five. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Aric Almirola, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott and Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin completed the top 10.
Harvick Begins His West Coast Swing in Stage One
Harvick and Hamlin started side by side on the front row at the initial start of the race. Landon Cassill and Ty Dillon moved to the rear of the field after both a gear change and an engine change. Hamlin, inside, pulled out to a brief lead on the back stretch, but Harvick marched his way through Turns 3 and 4 to lead the first lap as the crossed the start finish line. Harvick ended up leading virtually all the laps, aside from the green flag pit stops cycle. Daniel Hemric started in the fifth position, but quickly dropped through the field and lost a lap deeper into the stage.
Unique penalties were handed out during green flag pit stops. Austin Dillon, who was running inside the top five most of the first stage was caught with too many crew members over the wall. The call came from NASCAR after two crew members retrieving tires from the tire changers fell over the wall after reaching too far for a tire. Kyle Larson, who also was running in the top 10, had a penalty with too many crew members over the wall. For his pit stop, the crew member also responsible for retrieving a tire swept their hand over the pit stall and made contact with pit surface. After some social media controversy, FOX Sports Bob Pockrass posted on Twitter the rule that states the following.
Ryan Blaney had an extra unscheduled pit stop for a tire that lost a valve stem on his original pit stop.
During the green flag pit stops, Joey Logano led for six laps before his pit stop. Daniel Suarez led his first career laps on a 1.5 mile oval before taking two tires to gain some track position. Harvick reclaimed the lead and led the final 19 laps to the green-checkered flag that signifies the end of the stage.
Team Penske Working Together During Stage Two
Keselowski led the field to the green on the restart, but because he elected to take two tires, he was quickly overtaken by Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, and the two battled for the lead for most of the stage.
Blaney visited pit road early, and quickly caught the leaders. At this time, he was three laps down and passed the leaders to get one of his laps back the old school way. Logano saw his speed, and the No. 22 team elected to pit for fresh tires. That brought all the lead lap cars to the pits.
As Busch came to pit road, he locked up the brakes and sped during the first segment. He immediately served his penalty per instructions from his crew chief before his car got up to full speed.
“There’s no f****** way…” Kyle dejectedly stated over the radio, knowing he had gone too fast during the first section.
William Byron played a similar strategy as Suarez in the first stage and led for 21 laps before his pit stop. Logano reclaimed the lead for the final 11 laps to win Stage 2.
Team Penske Puts on a Show in the Final Stage
A variety of strategies shuffled the running order as the green flag flew for the start of the final stage, including Kurt Busch staying out during the stage caution. Eventually, the two drivers that showed strength in the early parts of the final stage were Logano and Harvick. The two were at the front during the stage before the last set of pit stops.
The biggest trouble Harvick had was on pit road. Throughout the day, his team constantly gave him fast pit stops, but Harvick’s car had no traction as he left his pit stall. Comparing to the others, Harvick kept spinning his tires before being able to leave pit road.
After final pit stops, it became a four-way battle for the lead between Logano, Keselowski, Harvick and Kyle Busch. Keselowski was able to briefly get by Logano to lead a couple laps before Logano reclaimed the lead and won the second stage. Harvick closed the gap to start becoming involved, and Kyle Busch fought from over a six second deficit. However, time ran out for everyone as Logano crossed the line first after a close battle with teammate Keselowski.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series continues their west coast swing next weekend in Phoenix, Arizona at ISM Raceway, Sunday, March 10 at 3:30 p.m. ET.