Martin Truex Jr. Opens NASCAR Playoffs With Win At Las Vegas Motor Speedwayby Hunter Thomas September 15, 2019 0 comments
LAS VEGAS – Martin Truex Jr. passed Kevin Harvick late in Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to win the opening race of the NASCAR Playoffs.
Truex started the evening in the 24th position, but he battled his way to the front, winning Stage 2. With just 20 laps to go, the driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota completed the winning pass on Harvick. The victory marks Truex’s fifth of the season. He is now guaranteed a spot in the Round of 12.
“We took a gamble, qualified 24th,” Truex said. “For a while it wasn’t looking too smart with the 4 out front. Got the right adjustments in the end. Had a great car all day long.
“Thanks to Toyota, TRD, Auto Owners, everyone who makes this happen for us. Hell of a way to make a championship run. Get some good bonus points, move on to the next round, see what we can do there.”
Harvick led 47 laps throughout the evening in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Mobile 1 Ford. After Truex sailed by him, Harvick wasn’t able to keep pace and had to settle for a runner-up finish. The effort is Harvick’s 10th top-five finish of the season.
“We had two solid stages and with the way that practice went for us, that was a miracle,” Harvick said. “To be in contention with a chance to win the race with 25 laps to go says a lot about the guys working on this 4 car and everybody did a great job of making something out of what wasn’t very bright for us on Friday.”
The remaining position inside the top-10 were filled by NASCAR Playoff contenders. Brad Keselowski finished third, followed by Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman.
There were 24 leads changes among 14 drivers throughout the 267-lap race. Logano led a race high of 105 laps.
NASCAR Playoff contenders Kyle Busch, William Byron and Kurt Busch had troubles on Sunday.
Kyle Busch got into the outside wall early in the race, but he made his way towards the front of the pack. Later in the race, Busch had difficulties passing lapped traffic and never recovered, finishing a disappointing 19th.
Byron spun in Turn 4 to bring out the third caution of the evening on lap 182. Byron’s left-rear tire went flat after contact while racing with Ryan Blaney.
Busch blew a left front tire and pounded the outside wall in Turn 3 to bring out the fourth caution. Busch’s tire went down after making contact while racing Truex and Elliott hard for position in Turn 1.
Following the South Point 400, Truex leads the NASCAR Playoffs by three points over Harvick. Logano (-7) is third, followed by Kyle Busch (-19), Keselowski (-24), Elliott (-25), Denny Hamlin (-26), Larson (-38), Byron (-42), Blaney (-43), Alex Bowman (-45), Aric Almirola (-49), Newman (-55), Kurt Busch (-63), Clint Bowyer (-70) and Erik Jones (-75).
The second race of the Round of 16 will be held at Richmond Raceway on Saturday, September 21. Live coverage of the Federated Auto Parts 400 will broadcast on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images