Las Vegas Motor Speedway, March 3, 2019
The final pieces of the new competition package take effect today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Pennzoil 400. If qualifying and practice are an indication of what to expect, the fans are in for a real treat.
The changes to the race cars are designed to provide closer competition on the track. More side-by-side racing and more passing. How it plays out in actual racing remains to be seen. But, on-track activities so far this weekend have not disappointed.
Kevin Harvick(4) in his Stewart-Haas Ford Mustang sits on the pole. Denny Hamlin(11) joins him on the front row. But, all eyes are likely to be on Kyle Busch(18). He won Friday’s NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race. Came back Saturday and won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race. Can Kyle Busch pull the weekend sweep today?
Stages for the Pennzoil 400 are 80/80/107, 38 cars take the green flag today. The fuel window is between 55-65 laps.
Harvick speed off into turn 1 with the lead, Kyle Busch quickly moved into second. Three-wide and four-wide racing stretched back through the field. Side-by-side racing for position occurred all around the racetrack.
Pit stops began on Lap 40 as teams employed different pit strategies. Harvick pitted on Lap 44 and Joey Logano(22) inherited the lead. Logano pitted on Lap 51. While most of the field chose to split the Stage up near the halfway point, some drivers opted to stay on track and hope for a caution. On the mile and a half speedway, you go a lap down on a four-tire pit stop.
Daniel Suarez(41) stayed out until Lap 60, leading the pack in his 2019 Ford Performance Mustang. However, when pit stops cycled through, Harvick was back in front.
Stage 1 Results
|17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*||5|
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||4|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
On the Stage ending pit stops, Brad Keselowski(2) took only two tires and exited the pits in first. Logano followed and the two Mustangs paced the field to the restart. Again wild restarts appear to be the order of the day. Even when the cars settle out the leaders swapped positions for several laps. After Keselowski led, Logano and Kyle Busch took turns at the front.
Pit stops in Stage 2 for the leaders began on Lap 45. Kyle Busch ran five extra laps before pitting. Unfortunately for Busch, he was too fast entering pit road and had to serve a drive-through penalty. This put the race favorite a lap down to the rest of the contenders. Logano returned to the lead just prior to the end of the Stage, with Harvick close behind.
Stage 2 Results
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||8|
|17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*||3|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
Logano exited the pits first. Kurt Busch(1) did not pit so he held the lead on the restart. The pair ran side-by-side for several laps as the rest of the pack jostled for position behind the front row.
With 80 laps to go, it was Harvick back to the lead. With 62 laps to go Kyle Busch had recovered from his pit stop error and moved into 5th. As laps wound down to under 60 to go Logano and Harvick began swapping the lead. Leader pit stops began with 53 laps to go.
The final pit stops occurred with 41 laps to go. The top five were Logano, Keselowski, Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Kurt Busch.
Teammates Logano and Penske swapped the lead several times in the closing laps. Allowing Harvick to get within a car length with 20 to go. Kyle Busch was lurking just two seconds back. Sensing it was go time, Logano moved to the top of the track and began to build a lead.
Logano held on to take the win. Back-to-back for Team Penske after Keselowski won last week at Atlanta. Logano books his ticket to the playoffs where he will be able to defend his title from last year.
The 1-2 finish for Ford continues to show the Mustang’s early-season dominance. Five of the top seven finishing positions went to Blue Oval ponies.
Logano’s win also moved him to the top of the Points Standings.
Results of the Pennzoil 400
|6||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||19.287||267|
|8||19||Martin Truex Jr.||19.748||267|
|9||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*||91||0|
|11||Martin Truex Jr.||86||0|
|Playoff Cut Line|
*Ford Mustang Drivers