He did it again. Martin Truex Jr. won the opening race of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series Playoffs in convincing fashion at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It marks the third time in the last four Playoff openers that Truex has scored a victory.
Truex took the lead for the final time after a round of green flag pit stops, passing Kevin Harvick on lap 248 just before Matt DiBenedetto who had stayed out the longest pitted a lap later. From there Truex was able to stretch out his lead to win by 4.173 seconds over Harvick.
After starting 24th, Truex first took the lead from Joey Logano, who had led a race high 105 laps to that point, on lap 158 as Logano got trapped behind a slower car. After Logano won Stage 1, it was Truex who bested Logano for the Stage 2 win.
“It was a lot of fun tonight,” Truex said. “Anytime you get a car like that you have fun. But we did have our challenges. It wasn’t easy for sure; we had to go to the back that one time for a pit road deal and work our way back to the front and then our car got off, and we lost some spots on that one run and luckily, we got a caution and was able to come in and fix it.”
Brad Keselowski was third, Chase Elliott fourth and Ryan Blaney fifth.
Polesitter Clint Bowyer was credited with leading only one lap and was passed by second place starter Daniel Suarez early on. Suarez would lead 29 laps but faded in the second half of the race and finished 20th 1 lap down.
The rest of the top 10 finishers were all Playoff drivers as Alex Bowman finished sixth. William Byron, who spun with a flat tire after contact with Blaney on lap 181, was able to stay on the lead lap and recovered to finish seventh. Kyle Larson, Logano and Ryan Newman rounded out the top 10.
While the top 10 finishers were all Playoff drivers several other playoff contenders didn’t fare as well.
Aric Almirola ran as high as second but struggled late and finished 13th, Denny Hamlin gambled on a two tire stop for track position and was left behind finishing 15th.
Erik Jones had mechanical issues that forced him to the garage. He returned 13 laps down and finished 36th.
Kurt Busch had contact with another car, lost a tire and crashed on lap 188 ending his race and leaving him with a DNF and a 39th place finish.
No Playoff driver had more of an up and down race however then Kyle Busch. He started 20th, brushed the wall on lap 6 while running 28th and began to fall back. He pitted on lap 12 and lost two laps getting repairs. He made up his two laps and was inside the top 10 by lap 218. After the round of final stops, Busch was charging back through the field when on lap 253 he ran into the back of the car of Garrett Smithley entering turn 1. Busch was able to keep his damaged Toyota on the track but had to settle for a 19th place finish.
The win for Truex is a series high fifth of the season and his first since Sonoma in June.
We just had to do all the little things right,” Truex said. “We went back and forth loose-tight, loose-tight and we just hit it right on that last run. I think the 4 (Kevin Harvick) missed it a little. It was so easy to do tonight. You’d be good one run and sideways the next and you couldn’t go anywhere. Then you’d be good; it was just back and forth. We hit it right when we needed. The 4 was really strong, but we took a gamble to have extra downforce and qualify 24th and it paid off tonight.””
The last driver to win the opening race of the Playoffs was Truex two years ago. The same year he went on to win the title.
“These next two weeks are all about bonus points,” he said. “This is big today to get six. Those are really important to get to Homestead.”
Newman, Kurt Busch, Bowyer and Jones are below the cutoff line for the next round as the series heads to the second race of the 2019 Playoffs at Richmond Saturday night.
Playoff Standings after Vegas
20-Erik Jones -26
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Results South Point 400
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas, Nevada
Sunday, September 15, 2019
1. (24) Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 267.
2. (3) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 267.
3. (18) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 267.
4. (8) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 267.
5. (23) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 267.
6. (19) Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, 267.
7. (14) William Byron (P), Chevrolet, 267.
8. (15) Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 267.
9. (22) Joey Logano (P), Ford, 267.
10. (17) Ryan Newman (P), Ford, 267.
11. (9) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 267.
12. (7) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.
13. (4) Aric Almirola (P), Ford, 267.
14. (21) Paul Menard, Ford, 267.
15. (13) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 267.
16. (27) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.
17. (6) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 267.
18. (28) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 266.
19. (20) Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 266.
20. (2) Daniel Suarez, Ford, 266.
21. (25) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 266.
22. (11) David Ragan, Ford, 266.
23. (31) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 266.
24. (10) Michael McDowell, Ford, 266.
25. (1) Clint Bowyer (P), Ford, 266.
26. (12) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 265.
27. (16) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 265.
28. (33) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 265.
29. (30) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 265.
30. (29) Matt Tifft #, Ford, 264.
31. (32) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 262.
32. (36) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 260.
33. (35) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 259.
34. (38) Joe Nemechek(i), Chevrolet, 257.
35. (34) Garrett Smithley(i), Ford, 255.
36. (26) Erik Jones (P), Toyota, 254.
37. (37) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 250.
38. (39) Joey Gase(i), Toyota, 249.
39. (5) Kurt Busch (P), Chevrolet, Accident, 187.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 142.555 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 48 Mins, 34 Secs. Margin of Victory: 4.173 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 4 for 22 laps.
Lead Changes: 24 among 14 drivers.
Lap Leaders: C. Bowyer (P) 1;D. Suarez 2-30;A. Almirola (P) 31-33;J. Logano (P) 34-42;M. McDowell 43-58;J. Logano (P) 59-83;K. Harvick (P) 84-86;W. Byron (P) 87;J. Logano (P) 88-123;C. Buescher 124;J. Logano (P) 125-157;M. Truex Jr. (P) 158-167;J. Logano (P) 168;M. Truex Jr. (P) 169-170;C. Elliott (P) 171-181;J. Logano (P) 182;D. Hamlin (P) 183-185;R. Blaney (P) 186;K. Harvick (P) 187-229;C. Elliott (P) 230;W. Byron (P) 231-235;K. Larson (P) 236-237;M. DiBenedetto 238-246;K. Harvick (P) 247;M. Truex Jr. (P) 248-267.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Joey Logano (P) 6 times for 105 laps; Kevin Harvick (P) 3 times for 47 laps; Martin Truex Jr. (P) 3 times for 32 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 29 laps; Michael McDowell 1 time for 16 laps; Chase Elliott (P) 2 times for 12 laps; Matt DiBenedetto 1 time for 9 laps; William Byron (P) 2 times for 6 laps; Aric Almirola (P) 1 time for 3 laps; Denny Hamlin (P) 1 time for 3 laps; Kyle Larson (P) 1 time for 2 laps; Ryan Blaney (P) 1 time for 1 lap; Clint Bowyer (P) 1 time for 1 lap; Chris Buescher 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 22,4,10,41,3,1,24,19,42,20
Stage #2 Top Ten: 19,22,42,4,9,24,11,12,1,88