Roger Penske is looking like a genius. After a wholesale change to his three crews over the off season, the newly turned 83-year-old watched his driver Joey Logano score his first win for the season and his first with new crew chief Paul Wolfe.
The 24th career win for Logano actually came, in part, to a mistake late in the going.
Ross Chastain, subbing for the injured Ryan Newman, spun with six laps to go with Penske driver Ryan Blaney leading. Blaney, who had led 54 laps and looked poised to go the distance, pitted along with several of the leaders. Logano however had a miscommunication with his crew and missed pit road. He would lead on the restart which came with two laps to go.
“I’m not really sure what I was supposed to do, but boy, we fought hard for this one today.” Logano said. Man, what a battle between Blaney and I and Chase Elliott and the 19 earlier in the race, and then to see this finish with Matt finishing second is great day for Wood Brothers and for Team Penske.
Logano shot to the lead on the restart while the pack fanned out three wide behind him. Matt DiBenedetto, in his second race with the Wood Brothers, made contact with William Byron just after the restart as they fought for second.
Byron began to fade losing a tire and spinning deep in the field as Logano charged to the line. Byron started a multicar crash and the yellow waved just after Logano took the white flag, freezing the field and ending the race.
For Logano, who won this race last season, the victory ended a 22-race winless drought dating back to Michigan last June.
DiBenedetto held on for second, tying him with his best career Cup finish. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who had pitted off sequence during green flag runs, got the caution he needed to make up ground on lap 222. He finished third.
“It was, man. This is all just too surreal,” DiBenedetto said. “Tough to be that close, but, hey, this is only the second race of the season. So it was the strength of this team. It’s so cool to have the backing of all the people that allow me to drive this thing.”
The caution that helped Stenhouse on lap 222 came at the expense of Chase Elliott. Elliott seemed to be the car to beat, led 70 laps and won both stages. However, during a round of green flag pit stops, a valve stem was knocked out of a tire. That tire went down several laps later and Elliott spun into the wall. He finished the day in 26, one lap down.
Austin Dillon was fourth with Jimmie Johnson rounding out the top five.
Bubba Wallace benefitted by staying out to finish sixth, another Penske driver Brad Keselowski overcame a slow car early and rallied to finish seventh. Kevin Harvick, who had the fastest short run car and led a race high 92 laps was eight with Kyle Larson ninth and Ty Dillon tenth.
“I don’t even know where we restarted, but we were seventh or so going into turn one on the last lap with a big head of steam and the caution came out,” Harvick said. “Our Busch Light Ford was really good on the short runs. We just kind of lost the handling as we would get deep in those runs and that kind of hurt us, but it came down to what we wanted there at the end, but we just got too far back.”
Blaney finished 11.
“It was just a crappy situation,” Blaney said. “We fight our butts off to get the lead there from third and get it. I had a good shot of holding the 88 off. I thought we could have once we got in clean air I thought our car was pretty decent. The caution came out and we pitted, some guys didn’t, some guys took two and we just end up getting absolutely destroyed with people not knowing how many cars were to the outside of them.”
The NASCAR Cup series stays out west heading to Auto Club Speedway for next weekends Auto Club 400. Kyle Busch who was awarded the pole for this race but had to surrender it due to inspection issues Friday and start at the rear of the field, is the defending winner. He finished 15 Sunday after making a brief appearance inside the top 10.
NASCAR Cup Series Race – Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas, Nevada
Sunday, February 23, 2020
1. (5) Joey Logano, Ford, 267.
2. (19) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 267.
3. (26) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 267.
4. (21) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.
5. (18) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 267.
6. (27) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 267.
7. (8) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 267.
8. (3) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 267.
9. (6) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 267.
10. (24) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.
11. (7) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 267.
12. (9) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 267.
13. (12) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 267.
14. (23) Chris Buescher, Ford, 267.
15. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 267.
16. (30) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 267.
17. (4) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 267.
18. (25) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 267.
19. (17) Cole Custer #, Ford, 267.
20. (2) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 267.
21. (14) Aric Almirola, Ford, 267.
22. (11) William Byron, Chevrolet, 267.
23. (16) Erik Jones, Toyota, 267.
24. (29) John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 267.
25. (13) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 266.
26. (10) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 266.
27. (15) Ross Chastain(i), Ford, 265.
28. (37) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 264.
29. (33) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 264.
30. (35) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 263.
31. (31) Joey Gase(i), Ford, 258.
32. (32) Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 258.
33. (22) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 257.
34. (36) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 253.
35. (34) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 252.
36. (28) Michael McDowell, Ford, 245.
37. (20) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, Engine, 222.
38. (38) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Rear End, 175.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 134.861 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 58 Mins, 11 Secs. Margin of Victory: Under Caution Seconds.
Caution Flags: 9 for 37 laps.
Lead Changes: 25 among 7 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K. Busch 0;K. Harvick 1-4;J. Logano 5-11;K. Harvick 12-66;C. Elliott 67-82;M. Truex Jr. 83;C. Elliott 84-87;K. Harvick 88-102;C. Elliott 103-122;R. Stenhouse Jr. 123-126;A. Dillon 127;R. Stenhouse Jr. 128-145;C. Elliott 146-162;R. Blaney 163-166;J. Logano 167-171;K. Harvick 172;J. Logano 173-181;R. Blaney 182-183;K. Harvick 184-200;R. Blaney 201-204;C. Elliott 205-217;R. Blaney 218;R. Stenhouse Jr. 219-226;J. Logano 227-254;R. Blaney 255-262;J. Logano 263-267.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kevin Harvick 5 times for 92 laps; Chase Elliott 5 times for 70 laps; Joey Logano 5 times for 54 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 3 times for 30 laps; Ryan Blaney 5 times for 19 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 1 time for 1 lap; Austin Dillon 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 9,19,4,12,22,24,42,88,48,6
Stage #2 Top Ten: 9,12,19,24,22,4,48,42,88,18