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Race Weekend Review – NASCAR at Las Vegas – March 3, 2018

Race Weekend Review – NASCAR at Las Vegas – March 3, 2018

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Logano holds off Keselowski for the win; the second win in a row for Penske

Las Vegas, NV, Mar 3/19 (GRW): Kyle Busch was hoping to make it a three-race sweep in Las Vegas but mid-race he lost a lap to a speeding penalty and had to settle for third. The win went to Joey Logano who led the final 24 laps holding off his teammate Brad Keselowski who finished second, making it a Penske one-two and a second win for Penske in two weeks. After having been sent to the back of the field, the best Kyle Busch could do was third. Kevin Harvick had been strong early on, leading 88 of the race’s 267 laps but he faded to fourth at the end. Kurt Busch finished in fifth place.

Vegas MENCS Logano VL 030319Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane (Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images/NASCAR)

“What a great race,” said Logano. “Brad and I were so evenly matched, and you just can’t drive away. In the last five or six laps, Brad was catching me so quick, and I got stuck behind a lapped car. Man, it was so close. Lots of fun. My heart’s still running hard.”

Harvick had won the pole and he led the first 43 laps until the first round of pit stops which came under green half-way through the first Stage. Some drivers waited longer before they pitted and Logano and Daniel Suarez led for a while until the lead cycled back around to Harvick on lap 62. He led the rest of way to the end of the first Stage, winning it ahead of Kyle Busch. During these pit stops, Keselowski only took on two tires which enabled him to beat the rest, led by Kyle Busch, Harvick and Logano, out of the pits.

After the restart, Logano made a push and caught up to Keselowski, passing him for the lead on lap 97. Keselowski faded a bit, letting Busch and Harvick past. Busch closed in on Logano and he took the lead on lap 120 – but the next round of green-flag pit stops was coming soon.

Busch pitted from the lead on lap 128 but he was given a speeding penalty which dropped him a lap down and seemingly out of contention. William Byron stayed out for several more laps taking the lead until he came in and handed over to Logano on lap 150.

Harvick was right behind him but, as the flag flew on lap 160 to end Stage 2, he was still in second place behind Logano. Logano beat Harvick out of the pits but Kurt Busch, who had pitted only a few laps before the end of this Stage, stayed out and took the lead over Logano and Harvick. Meanwhile Kyle Busch was recovering from his setback; he was back on the lead lap and up into tenth place by lap 176.

Kurt Busch, on slightly older tires, could not hang onto the lead, being passed by Harvick on lap 188 – although his strategy was no doubt responsible for his fifth-place finish. Now the order was Harvick, Logano and Keselowski. Logano passed both of them to take the lead on lap 211 just before the final cycle of green-flag pit stops was about to begin.

This sequence of pit stops took place over several laps so, after Logano gave up the lead on lap 216, it was not until lap 227 that he cycled back into the lead – ahead of Keselowski again. Keselowski made a run and managed to get past him on lap 240 and he led for four laps before Logano regained the lead. After that, the race ran green to the checker with Logano holding off his teammate the rest of the way. Keselowski gave it his best shot, finishing 0.236 seconds behind him.

Kyle Busch finished just over second behind in third. Had he not received that speeding penalty who knows? He might have won the race and completed his home-town three-race sweep.

Click HERE for the full results of the MENCS race from Las Vegas.

The next MENCS race will be held next Sunday, March 10, at the ISM Raceway near Phoenix.

 NXS LVMS FinalRestartKyle 030219Kyle Busch and John Hunter Nemechek lead the field during a late race restart during the Xfinty Series Boyd Gaming 300 (Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR Xfinity Series Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Kyle Busch goes a lap down but luck is on his side; he scores his second win of the weekend

Las Vegas, NV, Mar 2/19 (GRW): Things looked bad for Kyle Busch when, only a few laps into the Xfinity race he had to pit for a loose wheel and he went a lap down. His only hope was that another caution would fall soon and he would be able to take the wave-around and then yet another caution would fall letting him pit for fuel and tires and take that restart on the lead lap – and then race his way back up through the field to win the race. And, you know, unlikely as it sounds, it all fell into place for him and he took the race lead on lap 112 of the 200-lap race and he was in command the rest of the way, scoring his second win in his shot at the three-race weekend sweep.

Qualifying was rained out and the starting order was determined by 2018 season points which, the same as last week, gave Cole Custer the pole. After the start, there was almost immediately a caution when the Pinty’s driver Donald Theetge spun and collected Joey Gase. This ended Theetge’s and Gase’s days. Custer was far ahead of this incident and he held onto the lead until the end of the first Stage.

Meanwhile Busch had been complaining about a loose wheel – a surprise given that the wheels would have been carefully installed with a torque wrench prior to the start. It was not a surprise that Busch was chewing out his crew for this mistake. He had to make a pit stop under green on lap 12 and he went a lap down – nearly two– back in 33rd place.

Coming back to the green for the start of Stage 2 on lap 53, Custer had dropped to fourth while Tyler Reddick now had the lead – but Busch, having taken the wave-around during this caution was back on the lead lap. Just eight laps later, Busch got his big break – Austin Cindric lost control and spun bringing out the third caution. This let Busch make another pit stop and take on the fuel he needed and they put the ‘scuffs’ from his aborted first run back on. Within a couple of laps of the restart, Busch was already up into tenth place, two seconds back of Reddick, the race leader. When the second Stage ended he was in fifth place and he came out of the pits in third.

Now. when the green flew, Busch pounced and he was immediately up to second place harrying Reddick. Another 14 laps and he was past him into the lead. This third Stage was 110 laps long so everyone would need to pit again for fuel. When this pit stop cycle was over, Busch still had the lead but his teammate Christopher Bell was coming and by lap 167 he was up to second and closing. Busch’s truck must have had some handling problems because, on lap 179, it wiggled and Bell was able to get past – but only for two laps before Busch regained command.

Just as it looked like Busch was set to cruise home the winner anther yellow flew with ten laps to go and everyone dove into the pits for fresh tires. The decision by Ben Beshore, Busch’s rookie crew chief, to use the scuffs earlier left him with a fresh set of tires for this final run.

Busch lined up for the restart with Reddick, Christopher Bell and Brandon Jones behind. John Hunter Nemechek got past Jones for fourth on the restart and then Jones tangled with Custer setting off a multi-car wreck and taking the race into overtime.

On this restart Reddick spun collecting Bell, Cindric and others. Yellow again.

Overtime restart No. 2: Busch was still in the lead alongside Nemechek for the restart. The green flag flies and Busch retains control, taking the checker a mere 0.192 seconds ahead of Nemechek. Noah Gragson, who drove a truck for Busch last year but is now with JR Motorsports, was third while Austin Dillon was fourth and Michael Annett, another JRM driver, was fifth.

“It was really tough coming back from those setbacks,” Busch said. “I wasn’t sure how we were going to be able to do it, down a set of tires. We got a lucky break with that caution during the second stage. That kind of got us back on cycle, and we were able to put the first set (of tires) back on with fresh wheels, so we didn’t have any more issues there.”

Click HERE for the full results of the NXS race from Las Vegas.

The next Xfinity race will be next Saturday, March 9, at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.

 NGOTS LVMS KyBuschTruck 030119Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Beechcraft Toyota (Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
A dominant win for Kyle Busch

Las Vegas, NV, Mar 1/19 (GRW): Kyle Busch started off his three-race weekend in quest of another sweep by winning the truck race with ease on Friday evening. He started from the pole and he led 110 of the race’s 134 laps, winning by a 1.2-second margin over defending series champion Brett Moffitt. Matt Crafton finished in third place with Stewart Friesen fourth and Harrison Burton fifth.

Busch maintained the lead through the first caution which fell on lap seven and held on to win the first Stage at lap 30. During this round of pit stops a number of trucks took on only two tires while Busch and others took on four. Friesen was one of those who only took two tires which gave him the lead when the green flag flew again – with Busch starting back on the third row.

This was a disastrous pit stop for Moffitt. First the air hose got tangled making for a lengthy pit stop and then he had to make a second pit stop to check a wheel vibration. All this sent him to the back of the field and apparently out of contention.

Friesen led for 16 laps until Busch was able to carve his way back up to the front to regain the lead. Busch continued to lead to the end of Stage 2. This time he emerged from the pits still in the lead ahead of Friesen. By now Moffitt had recovered from his first Stage pit stop problems and was challenging Friesen for second, getting past him by lap 90.

The final 74-lap Stage ran caution free but everyone had to make another pit stop to top up with fuel; most took on two tires as well. This pit stop cycle shuffled things. Moffitt pitted about three laps before Busch and, on his fresh tires, he was able to close the gap from over two seconds to right up on his tail. However, Moffitt lost ground in traffic and fell back a bit. He was unable to better Busch’s pace and he had to settle for his second-place finish. Crafton had been involved in the first incident on lap 6 and suffered some rear-end damage. This had dropped him back in the field but he was able to methodically work his way back up towards the front to claim his third-place finish.

Busch is always looking for more and in his post-race comments he complained of handling problems during the race. “We fought it in practice a little bit,” said Busch. “We worked on it an awful lot to make it better. (Crew chief) Rudy (Fugle) and these guys did an amazing job on this Tundra. It was really, really fast. Just kept working on it all night long – every pit stop.”

Click HERE for the full results of the NGOTS race from Las Vegas.

The next Truck Series race will be on Saturday, March 23 at Martinsville Speedway.

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