Who’s in the headline – The driver who was second on the board at the sports books in Vegas when the green flag flew was Kevin Harvick. After Jimmie Johnson had a loose wheel and then blew a tire it was Harvick’s race to lose and he never had a problem until his right rear tire failed during his burnouts after he took the checkered flag first. It is Harvick’s first career win in 15 starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
What happened – In a replay of Atlanta, Joey Logano jumped to the point at the drop of the flag and led the first 27 laps. As the race went on Jimmie Johnson took his turn at the point but succumbed to a loose wheel that led to a sequence of maladies and a long day. That opened the door for Harvick who took control of the race and, for all intents and purposes, ran away and hid for the rest of the event. Harvick led the most laps by a mile and notched his sixth consecutive top 2 finish.
Why you should care – They often say that to win a championship you have to first lose one. Harvick did that more than once before finally snaring the big trophy last season. He’s now snagged two seconds and a first to kick off the defense of his Sprint Cup title. It is early in the year and everyone knows that there are ebbs and flows to any year so it is far too early to make assumptions about how the season will wrap up. Don’t forget the vagaries of the Chase as well, but for now, Kevin Harvick is looking like the driver to beat in 2015.
What your friends are talking about –
Kurt Busch will not be charged for the alleged domestic violence in Dover Delaware last season. Due to the fact that the had already committed to the NASCAR program to be reinstated from his suspension, there are no changes for the timeframe for him to get back behind the wheel. However, Vice President of Integrated Marketing Communications David Higdon acknowledged that the removal of possible criminal charges eliminates a significant hurdle between Busch and reinstatement.
Higdon also spun a web of double talk around a question about why Travis Kvapil is not being held to the same standard as Busch. He stated that NASCAR has learned a lot about handling domestic violence and, were the situation presented again they would handle Kvapil’s case differently. Basically he insinuated they blew it with Kvapil but felt like it was too late to change his ‘punishment’. It is unacceptable that the sanctioning body claims to have a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence but does not suspend a driver who in essence pleaded guilty to it.
After two weeks with people singing the “The Star-Spangled Banner” the way it was written, Rascal Flatts turned it into an American Idol audition again. On any other song people can feel free to invoke their poetic license and improvise all they want but the anthem is sacred and should not be sung any way other than how Francis Scott Key wrote it. They may be the most award-winning Country music band of the century or decade or whatever they are, but they aren’t winning any awards for that crap on Sunday.
Eldora’s website was hacked and a message that was credited to ISIS/ISIL was placed on the home page. Are you serious? Here’s hoping it is some misguided booger eater in his mom’s basement that doesn’t have a clue about world politics. If the radical Islamic group seriously is targeting the popular dirt track with their hateful propaganda they just might be barking up the wrong tree. If they legitimately did it, expect to see a fleet of bass boats headed across the Atlantic to lay an all out assault on the radicals spewing their vitriolic hate.
It is a dead horse but we’re going to keep beating it until it can’t happen anymore. Erik Jones hit another wall without a SAFER barrier on it this weekend at Las Vegas. When the barriers were first installed the company line was they put the protection in the areas where the hardest impacts could happen. Well the time has come where all impacts anywhere on a race track should be considered hardest and the walls should be fitted with the steel and foam energy reducing barriers. C’mon track owners and NASCAR, make it happen and make it happen now.
Who is mad – Six-time champion Jimmie Johnson and his crew put themselves in a bad position with a loose wheel on a pit stop early in the race. That was followed up by a blown right front tire that pancaked the right side of the No. 48 and killed their chance of making it back-to-back mile and a half wins. After some talking heads were asking Johnson about this being a championship season after last week, they will probably ask him this week what is wrong with the team.
Jeff Gordon won his first pole position at Las Vegas after 18 years of trying. Unfortunately for Gordon he didn’t get to start at the point due to an incident with Danica Patrick as the red and black flags flew to end final practice. Patrick spun entering turn one and Gordon made contact with her car, damaging the right front. Rather than take a chance fixing it, Alan Gustafson and crew rolled out the backup which put Gordon to the back for the start of the race. When Johnson had his issue and bounced off of the wall Gordon drilled Jeb Burton in the back and caved in the nose on his car. As a result the four-time champion did not have a chance to close out his career at Las Vegas with a win.
Joey Logano got busted twice for speeding on pit lane in Las Vegas and had to battle back from that adversity. He then was poised to put a large number of cars behind the eight ball when Brad Keselowski’s team let a tire get away on pit lane and had it roll into the infield grass. NASCAR obviously had to throw a caution for the tire in a position where someone might contact it but they chose to withhold the caution until Logano had to pit. Logano could have had a major advantage over his competition if he had pinned all but six cars a lap down. Instead he rejoined the fight at the end of the lead lap and battled home to a 10th place finish.
Who is happy – AJ Allmendinger puts in another great effort with his small organization and lands a sixth place finish. The run backs up a seventh place finish from last weekend. The last time JTG-Daugherty finished two consecutive races with top 10 finishes was last spring at Richmond and Talladega. They are currently fifth in points and third among teams without a win so far this season.
Martin Truex Jr. had a season to forget in 2014. Five top 10s and one top 5 with a 24th place finish in points will make anyone talk to themselves and doubt their abilities. Truex has started off 2015 in completely different fashion. His runner-up finish at Vegas gives him three strat top 10s and matches his top 5 total for the whole of last season. Truex led one lap in 2014. He’s quadrupled that amount in 2015 with one lap led in the Daytona 500 and three laps out front Sunday. Truex is knocking on the door and hoping to put Furniture Row back in the Chase this season.
When the checkered flag flew: Kevin Harvick crossed the line first to claim his 29th career Cup series victory. Harvick has 505 career starts.
29 victories puts Harvick in a tie with Kyle Busch for 23rd on the all-time wins list in the Cup series.
This is Harvick’s first career triumph at LVMS.
Harvick is the third different winner in three races this season.
Harvick is the seventh different winner in the last seven Vegas races. Carl Edwards was the last driver to repeat at LVMS with wins in 2008 and 2011.
Harvick’s finish is the sixth consecutive race where he has come home in the top 2. The last time that happened it was Jeff Gordon in 1996.
Martin Truex Jr.’s runner-up finish was his first since his win at Sonoma in 2013.
It is Truex’s eighth career number two run.
This was Truex’s first career top 5 at LVMS.
Ryan Newman’s podium run was his best career finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Newman has four career top 5 finishes in Sin City.
This is Newman’s 47th career top 3 run. That ranks him 50th on the all-time list for podium finishes.
Jeb Burton as the Rookie of the Race despite his contact with Jeff Gordon.
The margin of victory was 1.640 seconds.
Harvick took home $431,815 for the win. That brings the winners’ checks for 2015 to
The three drivers who now have an inside track to the Chase by virtue of winning a race already this season are: Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick.
The remaining 13 drivers who are eligible for the Chase based on their current point position are:
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Martin Truex Jr.
- AJ Allmendinger
- Kasey Kahne
- Denny Hamlin
- Casey Mears
- Matt Kenseth
- Greg Biffle
- Ryan Newman
- Paul Menard
- Clint Bowyer
- Aric Almirola
- Brad Keselowski
Takin’ it to the Bank
Cup winners this year have pocketed $2,349,169 while the last place finisher has taken home $396,545
In the Xfinity series it has been $283,662 for the winners and $65,188 for last place.
After two Truck races the winner has $137,089 and the last loser has banked $21,153.
What is in the cooler – Kevin Harvick has led 258 laps in the last two weeks. Despite that domination, the racing has been quite enjoyable. The tires didn’t give up as much in Las Vegas as they did in Atlanta but they still made a difference. As a result the racing was still great in the pack. Drivers were running from the top to the bottom and everywhere in-between. Truex put some token pressure on Harvick at the end and the leader was reporting a vibration so there was a small amount of drama. All things rolled together and the beer blender spits out four chilled glasses of Liquid Courage from Banger Brewing.
Where do you point your DVR for next week – The West Coast swing continues next Sunday as the circuit heads to the desert Southwest to race at Phoenix International Raceway. 312 laps on the one mile oval translates to 500 kilometers so they will broadcast the race as the Campingworld.com 500. It will be shown on Fox 3:30 Easten time. It will also be heard on MRN and NASCAR SiriusXM radio.
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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