Joey Logano drove his Pennzoil-sponsored Ford into victory lane after the Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday. Logano also won last year’s Pennzoil 400.
“Winning the Pennzoil 400 with the Pennzoil car, this is huge,” Logano said. ”It means a lot to be able to do this two years in a row — winning this race. I’m proud of the effort everybody here behind me did today. They prepared a great car and executed the race perfectly, and that’s what we wanted. We fought hard and tried to keep every spot we possibly could and then, ultimately, oh man, being able to pull it into victory lane here.”
Matt DiBenedetto fell one position shy of notching Wood Brothers Racing’s 100th win, finishing second to Logano.
“This one was an encouraging second-place finish, for sure. It’s so cool,” DiBenedetto said. ”It’s too dang surreal to be driving this thing in the first place — the legendary Motorcraft/Quick Lane #21. It’s so cool to have the support of them and Menards and Ford and this whole team. It took so many people, and it’s so cool to be driving for the Wood Brothers. It took so many people to get me this thing and we’re close – the second race of the season, and we’re already starting off with a second-place finish. That’s great. I’m happy for Joey. Those Penske cars were really fast, and I can’t thank them enough for their help of our team as well. We were close. I made a real aggressive move there. Greg Erwin, my crew chief, made great calls, and that’s what it took to get us up there and inch up there all day.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was third, Austin Dillon fourth, and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five.
Pit strategy came into play in the closing laps when Ross Chastain, filling in for the injured Ryan Newman, spun with six laps remaining in the 267-lap race, bringing out the eighth caution. Most of the lead-lap cars pitted, a few taking two tires and others four, while seven drivers, including Logano, stayed out. As a result, after taking the yellow flag in the third position, he was up front for the final restart with two laps remaining.
Logano said after the race that he didn’t know whether or not he was supposed to pit.
“There was a little confusion, but it worked out really well,” Logano said. “A lot of cars stayed out, and that was key to that move.”
Logano also took the lead on a restart that followed a caution for a Chase Elliott tire problem with 47 laps remaining. With 18 laps remaining, Logano’s Team Penske teammate Ryan Blaney took second; with 13 to go, Logano lost the lead to his teammate. Blaney, though, gave up the lead when he was one of the drivers who pitted during the Chastain caution.
The yellow flag waved an additional time on the final lap when William Byron suffered a cut tire from contact from DiBenedetto.
Elliott led 70 laps and won both of the 80-lap stages in the first 160 laps. He wound up 26th at the checkered flag.
Kevin Harvick led the most laps, running up front for 92 laps before finishing eighth.
“The caution really decided that,” Harvick, who pitted during the Chastain caution, said. “I think there would have been some of us that got back close to the lead by the time we got off of turn four. 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. 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. It came down to what we wanted, there, at the end, but we just got too far back.”
Harvick’s laps led including nearly two-thirds of the first stage with 59 laps led of the first 80. His time up front began with the initial green flag. When pole sitter Kyle Busch dropped to the back at the start if the race, serving a penalty for an unapproved body modification, Harvick moved up into the spot vacated by Busch and got out in front of front-row starter Martin Truex Jr. at the start.
Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin also had to drop to the back at the start of the race for the same rules violation, as did fellow-Toyota driver Christopher Bell. Truex, after running near the front for over half the race, made an extra pit stop to tighten lug nuts after the second stage and hit the wall on lap 177, bringing out a caution. Bell also caused a caution just before the end of the second stage.
In the end, Busch was the highest-finishing Toyota driver in 15th.
The eventual race winner led laps early, first taking the lead from Harvick on a lap-five restart. Harvick, though, retook the lead on lap 12 but lost that lead to Elliott on lap 67.
Harvick and Elliott both led laps early in the second stage, but into a green-flag cycle of pit stops past lap 103, Stenhouse stayed out several laps longer to lead laps before finally pitting on lap 146 and turning the lead back over to Elliott.
Stenhouse also stayed out longer and led laps during another cycle of green-flag pit stops in the final 60 laps and was one of the seven drivers, along with Logano, who stayed out during the caution with six laps to go.
“We had all different kinds of strategy today,” Stenhouse said. “One of them back-fired on us, and the other one paid off for us when the caution came out. All-in-all, I’m really happy with the way it turned out for our guys. We got track position, we lost it, and we got it back, there, at the end with that caution and stayed up there, which was nice. It wasn’t perfect, but we got some good points out of it, got a top-five finish out of it, and we’ll continue to learn what we need to work on with these cars to get better each week.”
Logano was back up front after the restart in the opening laps of the 107-lap third stage after he retook the lead from Blaney. Blaney was second to Truex out of the pits between the second and third stages, but Blaney inherited the lead when Truex returned to pit road.
Blaney was back up front after the Truex caution, and Harvick and Elliott also led laps before the final cycle of green-flag pit stops. Elliott was up front when the cycle began, giving up the lead to pit with 49 laps remaining. A couple of laps later, though, Elliott experienced his tire problem, and Stenhouse, John Hunter Nemechek were able to pit under the yellow, having not yet made their stops before the Elliott caution.
Other top-10 finishers included Darrell Wallace Jr. in sixth, Brad Keselowski in seventh, Kyle Larson ninth, and Ty Dillon in 10th. Blaney wound up 11th.