Martin Truex Jr. heats up late to win Las Vegas Playoff Opener

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Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2019 9:00 am

The sparks. The tempers. The tires. Thanks to the blistering dry, skin-boiling Las Vegas heat, every element in tonight’s South Point 400 was on fire, which ended with Martin Truex Jr. marching out as the victor in the desert duel. Truex Jr. became the winningest driver of the 2019 season with his fifth.

For the first two stages, Joey Logano paced the field and was lapping cars left and right. He led 105 of the 267 laps and won stage one. However, as the closing laps of stage two carried on, Truex Jr. was able to catch Logano, due to lap traffic, and take the lead to claim the stage win with two to go in that stage.

For other playoff drivers early on, it was an utter nightmare to kick off the postseason. Erik Jones was stuck in second gear on the stage two restart that sent him to the garage to get fixed. Jones would return to the race down sixteen laps, which resulted in a 36th place finish.

In the final 100 laps, the intensity picked up as multiple drivers in the playoffs would suffer issues. William Byron and Ryan Blaney made contact that resulted in a Byron spin. Kurt Busch would cut a tire after contact with Chase Elliott and slam the wall to end his race. Kurt Busch wound up with a last-place finish. Daniel Suarez and Logano would make contact after Chris Buescher got loose in turn three, resulting in some on-track shenanigans with Logano exchanging sign language with Suarez.

On final pit stops, Truex Jr. passed Kevin Harvick prior to the field cycling out and cruised to victory. Playoff drivers would claim the entire top ten. Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Elliott, Blaney, Alex Bowman, Byron, Larson, Logano, and Ryan Newman rounded out the top ten in that order. Aric Almirola finished 13th. Denny Hamlin finished 15th.

Kyle Busch rallied to get inside the top ten in the final stage but would have issues with lapped traffic to wind up 19th.

Being the pole sitter was meaningless after all as Clint Bowyer was never a factor in the equation tonight. He finished 25th.

How did it shake up the playoff standings?

After the first of three races in the Round of 16, Newman(-6), Kurt Busch(-14), Bowyer(-21), and Jones(-26) sit below the cut line. Kyle Busch now trails Truex Jr., Harvick, and Logano in points. Larson(8th) and Byron(9th) made the biggest gains once the night wrapped up.

NASCAR will make a quick shift back over to the East Coast with the Richmond Raceway night race next Saturday night.