LAS VEGAS, NV — Joey Logano celebrated in victory lane at for the second straight year in the Pennzoil 400. His yellow No. 22 Ford, donned in Pennzoil colors, stayed out of the pits in the end and took over the lead on Lap 263. Logano, would lead the final five laps en route to the third win in the last four NASCAR Cup Series races at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for Team Penske.
See, Ross Chastain, who was filling in for injured Ryan Newman, brought out a caution on Lap 261. At that point, it appeared that the race for the victory was two-man battle between Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman. But, under that caution, Blaney and Bowman hit pit lane which gave the lead to Logano.
On the ensuing late race restart, Logano had drafting help from behind by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., which Logano says was enough to propel him to his first win in his last 22 Cup Series starts.
Yeah, it really was,” said Logano, who earned his 24th career victory, on if that final push by Stenhouse was the difference in the end. “You get a good start like that, and I watched him, he pushed me and then he shoved me ahead, which was great, and then the block on the 24, that was the winning move, I was able to get down in front of him and then be able to separate myself a little bit from the field. Clean air was going to be key with old tires. If I got swallowed up by a couple cars, I was just going to fall backwards really quick. Being able to get that clean air, secure that. Man, this is great getting back in Victory Lane.”
This was the first official victory with his new crew chief Todd Gordon, but technically the second trip to victory lane in three tries though. Logano, was also victorious in last Thursday night’s Duels in Daytona too.
“He’s done such a great job, and it’s been fun getting to know each other, and with the whole team,” Logano said of Wolfe. “The pit crew was amazing today. I think we gained a spot every time at least. Proud of the effort that everyone has put in over the offseason, to come out here the start of the West Coast Swing and get one of those cool stickers right next to my name on top of this car.”
Logano, said this past Friday that Vegas is a track that just suits his driving style. Sunday’s finish was his ninth straight top 10 on the 1.5-mile track.
Matt DiBenedetto tied his best career finish on Sunday too with a runner-up in his No. 21 Ford. DiBenedetto, steadily improved as the race went on and was there in the end with a great pit call to finish second to give Ford a 1-2 effort.
Stenhouse Jr., also had a great pit call to finished third in his No. 47 Chevrolet while Austin Dillon and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five.
Blaney, would only come home 11th after being in the lead with seven laps remaining. Alex Bowman finished 13th in his No. 88 Chevrolet.
Chase Elliott won both stages but becomes the first driver under the stage era to win Stage 2 but not the race. Elliott, had a left rear tire go down and put him into the wall on Lap 220. He led 70 of 267 laps on Sunday but would finish just 26th.
Career Days For A Few
Due to a weird strategy call up front in the end and the Toyota misfortunes this weekend, we saw some new names up front in the end. DiBenedetto (2nd), Stenhouse Jr. (3rd), both Dillon brothers (Austin-4th, Ty-10th) and Bubba Wallace Jr. (6th) all earned career best finishes at Vegas on Sunday.
2 Drivers Left With Top 10’s In Both Races
We’ve had just two races run this season and only two drivers have top 10 finishes in each. Kevin Harvick was fifth in the Daytona 500 and eighth in the Pennzoil 400 while Kyle Larson was 10th in Daytona and ninth this week.
SHR Misses Setups Again
Last year, Stewart-Haas Racing elected for short run, qualifying pace throughout the Vegas playoff weekend. They’d qualify 1-2-3-4 as a result. But, the clean air didn’t help as three of the four would finish 13th or worse.
This weekend, SHR went for good all around speed. Harvick, was quickest on the 10 lap average report in final practice. Aric Almirola was third and second on five lap speeds, first and 10th on 10 lap averages and sixth on 15 laps. Clint Bowyer was also sixth and fifth on five lap runs and sixth on 10 laps.
Unfortunately, the long run pace to go with the short run speed didn’t help. Harvick, despite leading a race-high 92 of 267 laps was their top finisher in eighth. While he led all of those laps, his car faded as a run went on, which was surprising. He was third in Stage 1 and sixth in Stage 2.
Almirola, was only 21st on Sunday while Bowyer was 12th. Rookie Cole Custer was only 19th.
8-12-19-21. Not a good day for SHR.
Weekend Struggles For Toyota Camp
Joe Gibbs Racing put three of their four cars in the Championship 4 last year. They also won 19 of the 36 races held last season, a series record. But, Vegas was a weekend that could be concerning for the JGR camp.
All five of their cars, including their alliance car at Leavine Family Racing, failed pre practice inspection for what NASCAR deemed something illegal with the front of their cars. In practice, they all struggled with pace.
In pre qualifying inspection, three of the five failed again, this time for a new infraction at the front of their cars.
They’d struggle all day on Sunday too.
Kyle Busch was 15th in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2 and finished 14th. He was 34th last week. Denny Hamlin was 22nd and 24th respectively in the two stages and only came home 17th. Erik Jones was 25th and 18th respectively himself and finished in 23rd. He was 18th last week. Martin Truex Jr. had track position early and finished second and third in the stages, but he had a tire go down and get into the wall on Lap 175. That relegated him to a 20th place finish. Truex, was only 32nd last week too.
So far, Toyota does have a win with Hamlin in the Daytona 500, but their pace on a 1.5-mile track was troublesome. Hamlin, led 79 laps last week while Busch led 14. On Sunday, Busch and Truex led just one lap apiece.
Usual Suspects Again
Over the last nine Cup races in Vegas, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano have combined to win them all.
Also, Penske, SHR and JGR/Furniture Row have won the last 11 Vegas races. The last non team of them to win? Roush/Fenway Racing (Carl Edwards) in 2011.
Qualifying Didn’t Hold Merit Again
Qualifying wasn’t going to hold much merit to who won Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 from the get go. This was an impound race.
Just look at the starting positions of the top five finishes in last year’s playoff race in Vegas. That was an impound race too — 24th, 3rd, 18th, 8th and 23rd respectively. What about sixth through 10th?
19th, 14th, 15th, 22nd and 17th respectively.
Eight of the top 10 finishers came from Row 7 on back. A few weeks later at Kansas, another 1.5-mile track that was an impound race, just one car that started in the top finished in the top 18. That’s saying something. Qualifying is a bit of fools gold.
Last September in Vegas, Stewart-Haas Racing cars grabbed the top four starting spots. They elected for qualifying speed in hoping that the weekend’s race on the 1.5-mile track would reward clean air. The others went for true race pace.
While qualifying was rained out on Saturday, just look at the starting positions of front runners again – 5th, 19th, 26th, 21st, 18th and 27th respectively. Five of the top six finishers came from Row 9 on back.
Pennzoil 400 Results
- 22 Logano
- 21 DiBenedetto
- 47 Stenhouse Jr.
- 3 ADillon
- 48 Johnson
- 43 Wallace Jr.
- 2 Keselowski
- 4 Harvick
- 42 Larson
- 13 TDillon
- 12 Blaney
- 14 Bowyer
- 88 Bowman
- 17 Buescher
- 18 KyBusch
- 32 LaJoie
- 11 Hamlin
- 8 Reddick R
- 41 Custer R
- 19 Truex Jr.
- 10 Almirola
- 24 Byron
- 20 Jones
- 38 Nemechek R
- 1 KuBusch -1
- 9 Elliott -1
- 6 Chastain -2
- 52 Yeley -3
- 15 Poole R -3
- 96 Suarez -4
- 53 Gase -9
- 00 Houff R -9
- 95 Bell R -10
- 77 Sorenson -14
- 51 Smithley -15
- 34 McDowell -22
- 37 Preece OUT
- 66 Hill OUT