Who’s in the headline – For the first time since the advent of segment racing, a driver has won all three of them. Martin Truex Jr. won the first two segments but looked to as though he was going to have to settle for a runner-up finish. With two laps to go Brad Keselowski was comfortably in the lead when something significant failed on the car. As Keselowski slowed Truex reeled him in and passed him on his way to the white flag. While action developed behind him, Truex cruised to the victory.
What happened – Keselowski was the strong car early in the race, although there were no on-track passes for the lead in the first 243 laps outside of restarts. Truex managed to lead the first segment by taking the lead after the second caution of the race,for a hard hit for Kevin Harvick, four laps from the end of the segment. He then led the entire second segment aside from a few laps by four other cars on a pit stop sequence. Truex then led 68 of the next 84 laps before being passed for the lead by Keselowski on the track for the first on-track pass for the lead of the race. Keselowski led 22 laps before Truex regained the lead with the second on-track pass for the lead and headed to victory.
Why you should care – Drivers were after it hard and heavy during the race, although the majority of the racing for the lead was strung out. The battle for positions back in the pack were from the top to the bottom, two and three wide for much of the race. At the end, that intense racing resulted in a spin by Kyle Busch from contact with Joey Logano. After the race Busch walked to Logano’s car where the driver was standing outside of the vehicle. Without a word said, Busch punched Logano in the face and was summarily jumped by several members of the Team Penske organization. It will be interesting to see what, if any, penalties are handed down. Outside of that, there isn’t much to care about.
What your friends are talking about – If you have any friends from the Northeast, or anyone who cares about the product on the track, they’re talking about the horrendous decision to move the fall race from New Hampshire Motor Speedway to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. SMI once again showed that it isn’t about history, tradition or loyalty. It is all about the dollars. Loudon is one of the few venues where a fan base solidly supports NASCAR racing on all three days of the weekend. Las Vegas has decent support, but as evidenced by the empty seats during Sunday’s race, they are hardly desperate for a second race. Bruton Smith has had a hard on for a second race at Vegas since he built the track, and thanks to his ownership of New Hampshire, he has now made that a reality.
For those fans who are old school and looking for any reason to be bitter and hate on Bruton Smith, stew on this for a bit: Smith purchased half of North Wilkesboro Speedway with Bob Bahre, owner of New Hampshire in 1996 and shut it down. Smith took his date from the sale and moved it to his new Texas Motor Speedway. Bahre was able to add a second date to his New Hampshire track. Smith purchased Bahre’s interest in New Hampshire in 2007 and as part of that purchase, also received the other half of North Wilkesboro. Despite promising to bring racing back to the track he once owned more than 50 percent of, he continues to let the legendary track that was on the very first NASCAR schedule decay. Looking at it now, the second date from North Wilkesboro is now the second date at Las Vegas.
Another development that is most likely going to happen from the Vegas announcement is a change to the fall race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. After years of fans asking for a road course in the playoffs, it is apparently going to happen at CMS. Charlotte is about to announce that the fall race will switch from the oval to the infield road course. While night racing at Charlotte can be mind numbing, the racing surface is aging and getting racier. We will now see if the money spent to upgrade the road course was worth it, or if this is just another of the many gimmicks that have been foisted on the fans in the last few years.
NASCAR teams were allowed to watch pit road timing data for the first time Saturday at Las Vegas. Teams have long lobbied for the data to be made public but NASCAR has been reluctant to make it available. After the rash of penalties for speeding at Atlanta, teams were allowed to view the data during practice on Saturday at Vegas. Hopefully this is a very real step toward having that data available to all teams during the race so that they can adjust and adapt during the race event.
Three races during the 2017 season will have qualifying and racing both on Sunday. While average fans will receive extra value out of their race tickets, some people on the business side of the teams view it as a hindrance to sponsor obligations. Roger Penske spoke out while in St. Petersburg for the IndyCar race. He said that Sunday morning is the time when most teams schedule ‘hospitality’ events for sponsors and other important individuals associated with the business side of racing. Penske feels that if NASCAR wants to go to two-day shows, they still need to qualify on Saturday, so hospitality can be handled on Sunday. This is just another example of how the tail is wagging the dog in this sport, and instead of the teams dictating to the sponsors what time works for them, the sponsors are telling the teams what they want. Sadly teams are forced to whore themselves out in order to retain the almighty dollar to keep the doors open and the cars on the track.
Who is mad – For the second week in a row, Harvick’s race failed to live up to expectations. His race did not make it to the end of the first segment, thanks to a failed right front tire. The heavy impact seemed to knock the wind out of the former champion, but he climbed out under his own power and was checked and released at the infield care center.
It goes without saying Kyle Busch is mad. Whether it is justified or not, he felt like he was dumped in turn three on Sunday and went straight to the source with his displeasure. Unlike the famous fight at Daytona in 1979, Busch landed one punch and was then swarmed under by Logano’s team. A small cut on his forehead will heal before Phoenix, but his attitude may take a lot longer to calm down toward Logano. Looking at the video it looked like a ‘racing deal’, but there are lots of racers who don’t agree when the deal comes up 2-7 in their hole cards.
Who is happy – Clint Bowyer managed to score his first top ten with Stewart Haas Racing, after throwing HScott Motorsports under the bus repeatedly during 2016 and the off-season. It took him eight races in 2016 before he managed to come home with a finish in the first ten to cross the line. The move to SHR is in its infancy, and Bowyer was the top finisher among the four car team, but part of that was due to the other three having difficulty.
Trevor Bayne was able to nab a 13th place on Sunday. =After losing their last driver to win a race for the organization after last year, they still have a long way to go. However, the hot start for Bayne is a step in the right direction.
When the checkered flag flew: Martin Truex Jr. won in his 408th career start in the Cup series at Las Vegas on Sunday.
This was Truex’s eighth career triumph.
It is his first career victory at Las Vegas, and first win of 2017.
Truex is tied with Clint Bowyer and Kyle Petty for 63rd on the all-time wins list.
Kyle Larson was the first loser in Sunday’s race. It is his first career top-two finish at Las Vegas.
This is Larson’s second consecutive second-place finish in 2017.
Larson has finished immediately behind the leader eight times in his career. That is 72nd on the all-time list, tied with Lloyd Dane, Charlie Glotzbach, Joey Logano and Glen Wood.
Chase Elliott rounded out the podium for his first top three of the season.
This was Elliott’s first top three finish at Las Vegas.
Elliott has scored six podium runs in 44 career races. That ranks him 129th all-time. He is tied with nine other drivers for that position.
Erik Jones finished 15th and won the Rookie of the Race.
Based on their wins, assuming there are 16 or fewer winners during the 26 regular season races, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. will be in the playoffs when they begin. The remaining 13 drivers who would qualify, and their positions:
- Kyle Larson
- Chase Elliott
- Joey Logano
- Ryan Blaney
- Kevin Harvick
- Kasey Kahne
- Jamie McMurray
- Trevor Bayne
- Clint Bowyer
- Matt Kenseth
- Aric Almirola
- Denny Hamlin
- Paul Menard
What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)
Las Vegas is an aged race track that affords drivers a chance to race in multiple lanes all over the track and adjust their line to their car and competition. Similar to Atlanta, the race broadcast did not show much of the action behind the leaders, which resulted in a rather boring race on television. The actual competition was good, but not great. As a result it receives three cold Hop Bang Boom IPAs from Banger Brewing.
Where do you point your DVR for next week – Weekend two of the West Coast swing rolls into Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday March 19. The race will be broadcast on local FOX stations at 3:30 p.m. ET. It can be heard on MRN affiliates and SiriusXM Channel 90.
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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