The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts its western swing with a stop at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The third race of the 2018 season, the Pennzoil 400, sees Ryan Blaney(12) lead the field to the green flag. The race in the desert takes on extra importance this year. A change in the schedule has a second race scheduled for Vegas during the playoffs. Crew chiefs will be taking notes on what works, and what doesn’t. Prepping for a return to the track in September to kick off the 1st round of the postseason.
Blaney led the first lap Of the Pennzoil 400. Last week’s winner Kevin Harvick(4) picked up where he left off in Atlanta and went to the lead on lap 2. Seven-time Champion Jimmie Johnson’s(48) 2018 season is off to a tough start. Wrecking out of Daytona and never competitive in Atlanta, Johnson encountered more trouble this week in Vegas. His car failed pre-race inspection. Leading to the expulsion of his car chief and relegation to the rear of the field for the start of the race. On Lap 35 Harvick passed Johnson putting the 48 car a lap down early.
By the end of Stage 1, Harvick lapped the majority of the field on 15 cars remained on the lead lap. Besides Johnson, other notables a lap down included Austin Dillon(3), Daniel Suarez(19), Ryan Newman(1), Alex Bowman(88), Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17), and Darrell Wallace Jr.(43). Six Fords(*) earned points in the Stage.
Austin Dillon returned to the lead lap as the lucky dog. So 16 cars started the next stage on the lead lap.
During the Second Stage, more of the same. Harvick continued to lead and the race remained green with no incidents on track. Team Penske moved to the front with Blaney, Joey Logano(22), and Brad Keselowski(2) running second, third, and fourth most of the 80 lap run. As the laps wound down drivers began to jockey for Stage point positions.
Austin Dillon and Denny Hamlin(11) dropped from the lead lap to leave 13 cars unlapped at the end of the Stage. Again six Fords(*) earned points in the Stage
A total of 107 laps make up the final stage of the race. Expect action to pick up during the run to the checkered flag. Austin Dillon earned the lucky dog and for the second time returned to the lead lap during the caution period.
The Final Stage
Logano, Kyle Busch(18), and Blaney beat Harvick out of the pits during the stage ending caution period pit stop. Chase Elliott(9) passed Harvick briefly on the restart until Harvick started his march back to the front.
The first accident related caution of the day flew on lap 176. Jammie McMurray(1) cut a tire and hit the wall on the backstretch. He demolished the right side of his car sliding along the wall and ended up parking it for the day.
On the restart from the McMurray caution, trouble occurred before the field completed a lap. Coming out of turn 4, Kurt Busch slid up the race track and made contact with Elliott. Sending both cars to the garage on the back of tow trucks.
Harvick led 214 of the 267 laps in another dominating performance. Kyle Busch finished second almost three seconds behind. Larson finished third, Truex Jr. fourth, and Blaney in fifth. In another great week for the Blue Oval, six Fords finished in the top 10.
Next week the series stops in Phoenix at the re-branded ISM Speedway for the TicketGuardian 500. As the western swing continues race time is again 3:30 pm on Fox.
Results of the 2018 Pennzoil 400
|4||78||Martin Truex Jr.||15.166||267|
|14||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-2||265|
|21||43||Darrell Wallace Jr.||-3||264|
|5||Martin Truex Jr.||115||0|
|15||Darrell Wallace Jr.||68||0|
|Playoff Cut Line|
|18||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*||66||0|