Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, NV — March 5, 2023
The NASCAR Cup series is in Las Vegas this Sunday. However, the biggest racing news of the weekend came from 550 miles to the northeast on the ski slopes of Colorado. Chase Elliott broke the tibia in his left leg in a snowboarding accident.
Elliott underwent successful surgery and is expected to be out for an undeterminable number of weeks as he rehabs the leg. Josh Berry will fill in for Elliott today in the #9 car for the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube.
Berry drives in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports. In 65 starts, Berry has scored five wins in the second-tier national series.
Other Story Lines
Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch didn’t take much time finding Victory Lane with his new team. The Las Vegas native scored his 61st career win last weekend at Auto Club Speedway – in just his second start with RCR.
With the win, Busch is now the second driver to lock themselves into the Playoffs this season, joining JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who won the season-opening Daytona 500.
The Fontana victory also etched Busch’s name on another page of the series’ record books, bringing his consecutive seasons with a win total to 19 NASCAR Cup Series seasons (2005-2023), the most all-time, breaking the tie with NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty (18 seasons, 1960-1977).
This weekend, Busch returns to his home track, looking to keep the early season momentum going. Busch has made 23 series starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, putting up two poles, one win, 11 top fives, and 14 top 10s. His average finish at the 1.5-mile track is 10.8 – third-best among active drivers.
If you thought Trackhouse Racing driver Ross Chastain’s success last season was a fluke – think again. The Florida native is full throttle this season, and following a dominant performance at Auto Club Speedway, he now leads the NASCAR Cup Series point standings by one point over Team Penske’s Joey Logano in second – this is the first time Chastain has held the series’ point standings lead in his career.
The Pennzoil 400, presented by Jiffy Lube, will consist of 267 laps over the 1.5-mile with Stages set for 80/85/102 laps. Alex Bowman is the defending champion of the race.
Ford Mustang drivers dominate the active winner’s list at Las Vegas, with Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano holding three each.
|Active Las Vegas Race Winners||Wins||Seasons|
|Brad Keselowski*||3||2018, 2016, 2014|
|Joey Logano*||3||2022, 2020, 2019|
|Kevin Harvick*||2||2018, 2015|
|Martin Truex Jr||2||2019, 2017|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Logano sits on the pole for today’s race with a speed of 186.053 mph. William Byron starts beside Logano after posting a lap just a tic slower at 185.153 mph.
In true Vegas style, headliner ventriloquist Terry Fator, the winner of season two of America’s Got Talent, will perform the national anthem.
Showing the pole-winning speed of his Ford Mustang, Joey Logano(22) ran away from the field at the drop of the green flag. But, nine laps in, William Byron(24) drove by to take over the top spot.
Tire fall-off is a problem at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Ryan Blaney(22) became the first of the leaders to pit on lap 34. By lap 40, all but five of the 36 starters visited the pit road for fresh Goodyear tires.
Kyle Busch(8), who brushed the wall early in the race, had his car checked by his crew during his pit stop.
When all the cars had cycled through their first service stop, Byron returned to the lead. Kyle Larson(5), Ross Chastain(1), Christopher Bell(20), and Denny Hamlin(11) made up the remainder of the top five.
|6||19||Martin Truex Jr.||5|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Stage-ending pit stops resulted in a slight change in the top five. Byron and Larson retained the top two spots. Hamlin, Chastain, and Martin Trux Jr. followed as they chose lanes for the restart.
The pole-sitter Logano restarts 14th, and Josh Berry(9), subbing for Elliott, is the first driver a lap down in 24th.
Byron quickly pulled away when racing resumed, and Larson held off a charge by Hamlin to hold second. Hamlin overheated his tires trying to make the pass for second, allowing Bell, Martin Truex Jr.(19), and Alex Bowman(48) to move by.
Tire wear seemed to improve as race cars put down more rubber on the race track. This delayed the timing of pit stops in Stage Two. Until Truex became the first of the leaders to pit on lap 124. All the field completed pit stops within the next three laps. With Byron and Larson returning to the front.
While there was some movement up and down the leaderboard, the top two remained consistent to the end of the Stage.
Stage Two Results
|4||19||Martin Truex Jr.||7|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
Different Stage, same results. Byron and Larson into the pits one-two. Off of pit road one-two. So far, the only cautions in the race have been to end the Stages.
It did not take long in Stage Three for that to change. Three-wide racing off turn four saw Keselowski, in the middle, slide up into Logano on the outside. He taps Logano sending the #22 car into a spin down the front oval grass on lap 182.
Despite having stopped just a few laps previously, everyone came to pit road for fresh Goodyear rubber. That did shuffle the cars at the front of the pack. Hamlin was the new leader, with Truex in second, followed by Bowman, Larson, and Chastain.
The damage to Logano’s car forced him to retire to the garage.
With 71 laps to go, Larson took over the top spot. Byron was back in traffic fighting for third with teammate Bowman.
Pit stops began with 47 laps to go. Hamlin was the first in for service, trying to gain an advantage on Larson. However, when all the leader’s stops had been completed, it was still Larson first, Hamlin second.
As the laps wound down, Byron worked his way around Hamlin. With 25 laps to go, the interval between Larson and Byron was almost five seconds. Clean air on the front of these next-generation cars is vital. Byron cut the lead interval but could not catch Larson.
Aric Almirola(10) threw the entire race into a two-lap sprint for the win when he crashed with four laps to go bringing on NASCAR overtime.
Everyone but Truex pitted for fresh tires. Byron, first off of pit road after changing two tires, lined up next to Truex on the front row. When the green flag waved, Truex tried to hang in with older rubber but could not maintain the grip through the corners allowing Byron to pull away.
AJ Allmendinger spun on the back stretch after the field took the white flag. The race stayed under green, but no one had anything for Byron. Larson finished second and Bowman third giving Hendrick Motorsports the one-two-three finish.
Byron led a race-high 176 laps, including the most important one.
|2||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||86||In-Win|
|8||Martin Truex Jr.||102||+33|
|NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Results of the Pennzoil 400 by Jiffy Lube from Las Vegas Motor Speedway
|7||19||Martin Truex Jr.||1.390||271|
|24||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-1||270|