It didn’t look like Joey Logano was going to win the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas but he got all the luck there was and brought home the checkers.
The start of the race saw the Toyotas of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell go to the back for unapproved changes to the nose of the car that were found in inspection. Qualifying was washed out by rain so the field was set by owner’s points.
Kevin Harvick had speed on the restarts and jumped out to a lead each time but he didn’t have a car set up for the long run. That car belonged to Chase Elliott. Elliott won both stages and looked like the car to beat. But while leading late in the race, a flat tire sent him spinning and needing to pit to repair his damaged Chevy. He wasn’t the only leader to find the wall. Martin Truex, Jr., the best running Toyota most of the day, also found the wall while running up front putting him back in the field for a 20th place finish.
After Elliott lost the lead, it looked like the race belonged to Ryan Blaney who had a loose but fast car. He battled with Logano and looked like he was on his way to his first win of the season. Logano looked like he was going to be relegated to third after being passed by Alex Bowman, whose car came alive at the end and was just .6 seconds behind Blaney when the caution came out with just 5 laps to go.
Blaney got the call to pit while Joey Logano and his crew chief had a miscommunication. Instead of pitting, Logano stayed out. That call would prove to be fortuitous. Not many lead cars pitted and Blaney was mired in traffic after the pitstop. Clean air was all that Logano needed and he got a push to the lead and that was all it took. As soon as he took the white flag, the field started to wreck and the yellow came out, freezing the field and securing the won for Logano.
That wreck certainly changed the outcome of the race but it was nice to see a lot of new names amongst the top 10 finishers. Matt DiBenedetto finished second in his first year for the Wood Brothers. That is their best finish ever at Las Vegas and as much as Matt was smiling, you would have thought he won the race. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. finished third and continued to look strong at the beginning of the year. Auston Dillon finished 4th in another strong performance and Jimmie Johnson snared a top 5. Bubba Wallace finished 6th and Ty Dillon 10th, rounding out the top 10 for younger drivers.
Chevy had 6 cars in the top 10 with Ford running 1-2 and with four cars in the Top 10. Toyota’s best finish was Kyle Busch in 15th. Rowdy was running better but the late wreck and wild restart pushed him back. Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin finished 17th and certainly didn’t look like the winner from the past week.
Chevy ran well at Las Vegas last year too, so the proof will be in the next few races as to whether or not the new Camaro will be the cure the Chevy teams have been waiting for.
A Bounty on Rowdy?
In the truck series, Kyle Busch won his 57th race prompting Kevin Harvick to put up $50,000 to any Cup driver that can get a truck ride and defeat Rowdy in one of the next 4 races. That amount went to $100,000 when the series CEO doubled the bonus. Rowdy was unflustered by all the attention and simply said, “Bring it.” Busch is virtually unbeatable in the truck series as long as his ride doesn’t explode. It would certainly bring a few more eyes to some of the best racing in NASCAR if any Cup driver takes up the challenge.
Ryan Newman update
As miraculous as it sounds, Ryan Newman left the hospital last week after his massive wreck at Daytona. In a statement, Newman said he suffered a head injury but was otherwise fine. I assume that means some sort of concussion. Truex said that since Newman has no neck and a hard head, he wasn’t surprised at his recovery. Roush Fenway Racing has said the 6 ride is Newman’s when he eventually returns to the track. Continued prayers for Newman and his family and thanks to NASCAR for the incredible improvements in safety and perhaps the driver cage “Newman bar” is what saved Newman from any further harm.
Image courtesy of NASCAR Media.