LAS VEGAS, Nev – The best way to set a proper tone in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs is to win that first one and let everyone else know you mean business.
That’s exactly what Martin Truex, Jr. and the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team did in Sunday’s 400-mile race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. They didn’t just set a tone; they let the competition they’re in it to win it.
After starting 24th, leading two prior times and winning Stage 2, they shut the door after passing Kevin Harvick with 20 laps remaining to punch their ticket to Round 2. Truex, Jr. led three times for 32 laps earning his fifth win this season and second ever at LVMS.
“I can’t say enough out this team and Cole Pearn (crew chief) for what we did today,” Truex said in Victory Lane. “We got loose their and gave ups some spots near the end. I told Cole to tighten up and I’ll take it from there.
“It paid off and here we are with the win. This is a great way to start the Playoffs and get us to Round 2 after just the first race. This is awesome, this Joe Gibbs Racing team works had for these wins and we did just that here in Vegas.”
The race had some great action on restarts with three and four-wide racing for positions. When the final checkered flag waved, Harvick was second with Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney following to round out the top five. The entire top-10 finishers made up of Playoff contenders.
When the initial green flag waved over Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, it was led by Stewart Hass Racing in the top four qualifying positions.
Clint Bowyer and his No. 14 Ford team perked up people’s ears by winning his first Pole Award in 12 years on Saturday. Starting outside of him was teammate Daniel Suarez with fellow SHR teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch in the next row.
This was the first, of 10, Playoff races that will decide the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion in November. And, the action started right off with three and four-wide racing in the first few laps.
Joey Logano won Stage 1 and proceeded to lead the field for a large portion of Stage 2. The biggest mover during this segment was Martin Truex, Jr in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota moving from the top-15, to top-10 then into top-five running positions. This was done despite two pit stops that cost him valued positions.
The series heads to Richmond International Raceway next weekend.
Reddick Rolls Dice… Wins
Tyler Reddick and the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet team won their fifth race of the season and the Regular Season Championship for the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
However, they admittedly didn’t have the best car. So, how did they win? They do what most people do in Las Vegas, they gambled hoping it paid off. They did it on a pit stop in hopes their fuel would last.
It did, much to the dismay of six-time NXS winner Christopher Bell. He led a race-high 154 laps and was chasing down Reddick as the laps clicked off. Reddick did what he had to do to stay ahead of Bell who, at one time, had a 20-second lead over him.
Following Reddick and Bell was Brandon Jones, Cole Custer and last year’s winner here, Justin Allgaier. This race locked in the Playoff field for this series with Bell starting out as the points leader.
Next up for them is Richmond International Raceway next weekend.
Hill has the Thrill for Trucks
On Friday evening, the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series took to the track to see who would move on to the next round for their playoffs.
When the checkered flag waved, it wasn’t Ross Chastain who led a race-high 88 of 134 laps, in Victory Lane. It was Austin Hill in the No. 16 Toyota picking up his third win of the year.
This punched his ticket to the Second Round of the Truck Playoffs. Behind Hill and Chastain were Christian Eckes, Sheldon Creed and Todd Gilliland.
Stewart Friesen turned lemons into lemonade after dropping a cylinder early in the race. He nursed his No. 52 Chevrolet Truck to a 19th place finish, two laps down, which was good enough to move him on to Round 2.
Their next race is Oct 12 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Photo Credit | Tim Packman