Las Vegas NASCAR: Martin Truex Jr wins as playoffs begin

Dominik Wilde
Truex wins at Vegas as playoffs begin
Truex wins at Vegas as playoffs begin

Martin Truex Jr secured his spot in the next stage of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs by winning the first race of the post-season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Toyota driver came to the fore in the second stage of the 267-lap race and was consistently the fastest car on track as night fell.

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Truex finished the first stage of the race in eighth place, but worked his way to the front to pass a previously dominant Joey Logano in the final laps of the second stage.

Logano came across Leavine Family Racing's Matt DiBenedetto, who was a lap down but didn't make life easy for the leader and aided fellow Toyota driver Truex as he took the lead.

In the final stage Truex initially battled for first place with Chase Elliott, but dropped back to fifth in fewer than 10 laps.

He returned to the lead after the final round of green flag pitstops, breezing past Kevin Harvick around the outside of Turn 2 with 20 laps to go.

Since stage racing was introduced ahead of the 2017 season, every single stage two winner at Las Vegas has gone on to win the race - a trend Truex continued.

Harvick, who led 47 laps and spent much of the night in the top five, finished second, ahead of Brad Keselowski - the only one of the three Penske runners to not lead a lap.

Elliott led 12 laps in the final stage and finished fourth, ahead of another brief race leader in Ryan Blaney.

Alex Bowman was sixth, followed by his Hendrick Motorsports team-mate William Byron - who survived a spin that brought out the first regular caution of the race.

Kyle Larson, Logano, and Ryan Newman ensured that the top 10 positions were locked out by playoff drivers.

Aric Almirola and Denny Hamlin, who are both also in playoff contention, led three laps apiece but missed out on the top 10. They finished 13th and 15th respectively.

Truex wins at Vegas as playoffs begin
Truex wins at Vegas as playoffs begin

Logano's ninth place finish came despite him leading a race-high 105 laps and winning the first stage.

The Penske Ford driver made up 21 positions to move from 22nd to first in just 34 laps.

But after being narrowly beaten by Truex in the second stage, contact with Daniel Suarez in the opening laps of the third stage ended his hopes of a third win in 2019 and a second-straight Las Vegas victory.

Suarez led 29 laps after passing Stewart-Haas team-mate and polesitter Clint Bowyer on the second lap of the race but eventually finished 20th following the contact with Logano and slowing to stretch his fuel in the final laps.

Bowyer ended up only 25th after a difficult night. He struggled with the handling of his Ford Mustang all race, and his run was further complicated by a cut tyre in the final stage.

Regular season champion and early title favourite Kyle Busch had a torrid race, beginning with hitting the wall on just the fourth lap. A pitstop to fix the resulting damage dropped him a lap down - where he would remain for 171 laps.

Although Busch did manage to return to the lead lap towards the end of the race, contact with a backmarker caused splitter damage and dropped him back once more. He eventually finished 19th, one lap down.

His brother, fellow playoff contender Kurt Busch, was the only retirement in the race.

The 2004 series champion made contact with Truex and Elliott on a restart and cut a tyre. He was immediately called to the pits in anticipation of a puncture - as had happened to Byron, which had brought out the prior caution - but he never made it there, slamming into the Turn 3 wall.

Race result

Pos

Driver

Team

Car

Laps

Gap

1

Martin Truex Jr.

Joe Gibbs Racing

Toyota

267

2h48m34.s

2

Kevin Harvick

Stewart-Haas Racing

Ford

267

4.173s

3

Brad Keselowski

Team Penske

Ford

267

6.344s

4

Chase Elliott

Hendrick Motorsports

Chevrolet

267

6.600s

5

Ryan Blaney

Team Penske

Ford

267

9.086s

6

Alex Bowman

Hendrick Motorsports

Chevrolet

267

15.381s

7

William Byron

Hendrick Motorsports

Chevrolet

267

19.865s

8

Kyle Larson

Chip Ganassi Racing

Chevrolet

267

24.531s

9

Joey Logano

Team Penske

Ford

267

24.839s

10

Ryan Newman

Roush Fenway Racing

Ford

267

25.261s

11

Jimmie Johnson

Hendrick Motorsports

Chevrolet

267

25.273s

12

Austin Dillon

Richard Childress Racing

Chevrolet

267

25.633s

13

Aric Almirola

Stewart-Haas Racing

Ford

267

29.577s

14

Paul Menard

Wood Brothers Racing

Ford

267

29.888s

15

Denny Hamlin

Joe Gibbs Racing

Toyota

267

30.256s

16

Ty Dillon

Germain Racing

Chevrolet

267

31.763s

17

Daniel Hemric

Richard Childress Racing

Chevrolet

267

31.772s

18

Chris Buescher

JTG Daugherty Racing

Chevrolet

266

1 Lap

19

Kyle Busch

Joe Gibbs Racing

Toyota

266

1 Lap

20

Daniel Suarez

Stewart-Haas Racing

Ford

266

1 Lap

21

Matt DiBenedetto

Leavine Family Racing

Toyota

266

1 Lap

22

David Ragan

Front Row Motorsports

Ford

266

1 Lap

23

Darrell Wallace Jr.

Richard Petty Motorsports

Chevrolet

266

1 Lap

24

Michael McDowell

Front Row Motorsports

Ford

266

1 Lap

25

Clint Bowyer

Stewart-Haas Racing

Ford

266

1 Lap

26

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Roush Fenway Racing

Ford

265

2 Laps

27

Ryan Preece

JTG Daugherty Racing

Chevrolet

265

2 Laps

28

Corey LaJoie

Go FAS Racing

Ford

265

2 Laps

29

Landon Cassill

StarCom Racing

Chevrolet

265

2 Laps

30

Matt Tifft

Front Row Motorsports

Ford

264

3 Laps

31

Ross Chastain

Premium Motorsports

Chevrolet

262

5 Laps

32

J.J. Yeley

Rick Ware Racing

Chevrolet

260

7 Laps

33

B.J. McLeod

Petty Ware Racing

Chevrolet

259

8 Laps

34

Joe Nemechek

Premium Motorsports

Chevrolet

257

10 Laps

35

Garrett Smithley

Rick Ware Racing

Chevrolet

255

12 Laps

36

Erik Jones

Joe Gibbs Racing

Toyota

254

13 Laps

37

Reed Sorenson

Spire Motorsports

Chevrolet

250

17 Laps

38

Joey Gase

MBM Motorsports

Toyota

249

18 Laps

39

Kurt Busch

Chip Ganassi Racing

Chevrolet

187

Accident

Playoff standings

Pos

Driver

Points

1

Martin Truex Jr.

2082

2

Kevin Harvick

2079

3

Joey Logano

2075

4

Kyle Busch

2063

5

Brad Keselowski

2058

6

Chase Elliott

2057

7

Denny Hamlin

2056

8

Kyle Larson

2044

9

William Byron

2040

10

Ryan Blaney

2039

11

Alex Bowman

2037

12

Aric Almirola

2033

13

Ryan Newman

2027

14

Kurt Busch

2019

15

Clint Bowyer

2012

16

Erik Jones

2007

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