Las Vegas Playoff Opener Goes to Keselowski, His 3rd Win in a Row

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The green flag drops on the opening round of the NASCAR Playoffs today from Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The South Point 400, the first of 3 races in Round 1, will be hotly contested as temperatures in Vegas are expected to reach 100 degrees by race time.

Photo Credit: Zack Albert / NASCAR.com

Byron, Michigan native Erik Jones(20) sits on the pole after posting a speed of 188.121 mph. Joey Logano(22) joins him on the front row. The first 11 qualifying positions were taken by playoff drivers. In total the title contenders filled 16 of the top 18 spots.

Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan / Getty Images

Jimmie Johnson(48) and Austin Dillon(3) start 17th and 18th. Two drivers who may not make it out of the first round. Alex Bowman(88), another suspected 1st round casualty, starts 9th.

Photo Credit: Branden Williams / NASCAR Digital Media

A driver scoring a win in Round 1 automatically advances to Round 2. Expect that to be a significant factor in closing lap battles as Kyle Busch(18), Kevin Harvick(4) and Martin Truex Jr.(78) are expected to advance barring a total collapse in the round.

Playoff Points Standings

Rank Driver POINTS WINS
1 Kyle Busch 2050 6
2 Kevin Harvick* 2050 7
3 Martin Truex Jr. 2035 4
4 Brad Keselowski* 2019 2
5 Clint Bowyer* 2015 2
6 Joey Logano* 2014 1
7 Kurt Busch* 2014 1
8 Chase Elliott 2008 1
9 Ryan Blaney* 2007 0
10 Erik Jones 2005 1
11 Austin Dillon 2005 1
12 Kyle Larson 2005 0
13 Denny Hamlin 2003 0
14 Aric Almirola* 2001 0
15 Jimmie Johnson 2000 0
16 Alex Bowman 2000 0

*Ford Fusion Drivers

The Start

Jones led the pack into turn one, Joey Logano and Kurt Busch ran him down and passed Jones who settled into third. Just prior to green flag pit stops beginning at lap 36, Harvick drove to the front. Truex Jr. was also hanging around the top 5, as the “Big 3” began to assert themselves.

Stages are 80, 80, and 107 laps for The South Point 400 with each segment requiring at least 1 pit stop. After 60 laps Truex Jr. took the lead. With 10 laps to go in Stage 1, the Big 3 were in the top 4.

Photo Credit: Branden Williams / NASCAR Digital Media

Truex Jr. held on to win the Stage. Harvick finished second. Kyle Busch finished in 6th as Chase Elliott(9) passed him coming to the green/white checkered flag.

Stage 1 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
78 Truex Jr 10
4 Harvick* 9
88 Bowman 8
41 Kurt Busch* 7
9 Elliott 6
18 Kyle Busch 5
22 Logano* 4
20 Jones 3
10 Almirola* 2
31 Newman 1

* Ford Fusion Drivers

Stage 2

On lap 147 Harvick lost a right front tire and hit the Turn 1 wall. Erik Jones could not avoid him and ran into the back of Harvick’s car. Harvick had accumulated 50 playoff points going into this race. Jones just 5. It will put Jones in a difficult position with 2 races to go.

Brad Keselowski(2), going for his third win in a row, used fast pit stops to take and maintain the lead late in Stage 2. Kurt Busch(41), and Truex Jr. followed him across the line. If Keselowski can win the South Point 400, it will be the 500th win for Team Penske in all forms of motorsport.

Stage 2 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
2 Keselowski* 10
41 Kurt Busch* 9
78 Truex Jr. 8
48 Johnson 7
1 McMurray 6
22 Logano* 5
9 Elliott 4
12 Blaney* 3
88 Bowman 2
42 Larson 1

* Ford Fusion Drivers

The Final Stage

The intensity really cranked up in the final stage of the race. It was almost unreal the number of playoff contenders that encountered difficulty during the last 100 laps of the race.

On Lap 213 Chase Elliott could not avoid the car of Jamie McMurray(1) who spun directly in front of Elliott entering Turn 3. The resulting damage eliminated both cars from the race.

With 38 laps to go, Kyle Busch’s car turned sideways coming out of Turn 4 and slid towards the infield grass. Busch managed to somewhat straighten the car and keep the front splitter from being torn apart. He was able to continue after repairs on pit road by his crew.

With 24 laps to go Denny Hamlin lost control in almost the same spot as Kyle Busch. The difference, Hamlin slid sideways into the grass and completely destroyed the front end of the race car ending his day.

Overtime Finish

A caution for debris on the track with 9 laps to go bunched the field for a late restart. The tight racing for position triggered an incident that damaged Kurt Busch’s car and his chances at a top finish.

While all this was going on Keselowski battled Kyle Larson for the lead. The final restart came in a NASCAR Overtime shootout. Ultimately prevailing for his 3rd victory in a row Keselowski gave Roger Penske his 500th team win in dramatic fashion.

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan / Getty Images

Playoff Picture

Hamlin and Jones are in the biggest danger. Point differentials of 19 and 20 points are a daunting task to overcome. Of course, if Saturday night at Richmond Raceway turns into a demolition derby like Las Vegas things will be wide open for the Roval at Charlotte.

Despite finishing 39th, Harvick sits in 4th position. He is 32 points above the cut line where Alex Bowman sits. Without the 50 playoff points earned during the regular season, Harvick would be 14th in the standings. In the company of Hamlin and Jones, 18 points below the cut line.

Position Driver Points Behind Cut Line Playoff Points
1 Martin Truex Jr. 2087 Leader In 36
2 Kyle Busch 2085 -2 In 50
3 Brad Keselowski 2069 -18 In 25
4 Kevin Harvick 2060 -27 In 50
5 Joey Logano 2056 -31 In 14
6 Kurt Busch 2046 -41 In 14
7 Ryan Blaney 2042 -45 In 7
8 Kyle Larson 2041 -46 In 5
9 Aric Almirola 2034 -53 In 1
10 Austin Dillon 2031 -56 In 5
11 Clint Bowyer 2029 -58 In 15
12 Alex Bowman 2028 -59 In 0
13 Jimmie Johnson 2022 -65 -6 0
14 Chase Elliott 2019 -68 -9 8
15 Erik Jones 2009 -78 -19 5
16 Denny Hamlin 2008 -79 -20 3

 

 

 

 

 

Results of The South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Position Car Driver Behind Laps
1 2 Brad Keselowski 272
2 42 Kyle Larson 1.276 272
3 78 Martin Truex Jr. 1.331 272
4 22 Joey Logano 1.495 272
5 12 Ryan Blaney 2.332 272
6 10 Aric Almirola 2.343 272
7 18 Kyle Busch 2.365 272
8 19 Daniel Suarez 2.469 272
9 31 Ryan Newman 2.619 272
10 21 Paul Menard 2.623 272
11 3 Austin Dillon 2.653 272
12 95 Regan Smith 3.029 272
13 6 Trevor Bayne 3.037 272
14 47 AJ Allmendinger 3.252 272
15 37 Chris Buescher 3.690 272
16 72 Corey LaJoie 3.706 272
17 23 JJ Yeley 4.443 272
18 0 Landon Cassill 6.610 272
19 88 Alex Bowman -1 271
20 15 Ross Chastain -1 271
21 41 Kurt Busch -1 271
22 48 Jimmie Johnson -2 270
23 14 Clint Bowyer -2 270
24 32 Matt DiBenedetto -3 269
25 96 Jeffrey Earnhardt -3 269
26 99 Kyle Weatherman -3 269
27 38 David Ragan -3 268
28 51 BJ McLeod -4 268
29 34 Michael McDowell -7 265
30 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -21 251
31 7 Reed Sorenson -26 246
32 11 Denny Hamlin -27 245
33 66  Timmy Hill -41 231
34 13 Ty Dillon -54 218
35 1 Jamie McMurray -61 211
36 9 Chase Elliott -61 211
37 24 William Byron -62 210
38 43 Bubba Wallace -108 164
39 4 Kevin Harvick -125 147
40 20 Erik Jones -125 147

Playoff Driver’s in Bold