LAS VEGAS — Martin Truex Jr. punched his ticket, by winning the South Point 400, the first race of the NASCAR Chase for the Cup playoffs. Truex beat Kevin Harvick by a margin of 4.173 seconds at the finish line.
“I think it’s huge for a lot of reasons,” Truex explained. “We feel like we have cars capable of winning and nothing to show for it. I knew the team was doing a great job. It’s great timing with the playoffs starting. For me that feels good to do the job we have to do. Anytime we go to a track with grooves it keeps the cautions down. You can run anywhere on this track. I was a little nervous st the end of the race.”
Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney round out the top five finishers in Sunday’s 267-lap race. Las Vegas native Kyle Busch, who was first in points before the race, received a pit road penalty and finished in 19th.
“It was awesome,” said race fan Michelle Hupperten from Auburn, Wash. “It was great to be able to come to a race and see your driver win. We got lots of souvenirs, but no autographs. We got to see a Martin Truex Jr. interview before the race so that was great.”
Her husband, Tim, added: “We definitely bought plenty of souvenirs. We’re taking them back to our 7-year-old boy. He’s pretty into NASCAR as well. His racer would be Chase Elliott, who came in fourth today. But seeing Chase and Martin Truex Jr. battle it out for the lead and the points was pretty special.”
There were very few incidents in the race. The first two cautions were for the end of stage one and stage two. Then, William Byron spun out on turn four on lap 182. Finally, another Las Vegas native, Kurt Busch, hit the turn three wall on lap 189 and was declared out of the race.
“It shows you how hard our sport is,” said Joe Gibbs, Truex’s team owner. ”
Hats off and reel compliment to [crew chief] Cole when he was able to keep the No. 19 up there. It was a team effort. We also had great pit stops at the end. Three of them had a real tough day. Figure out what happened, how to keep it from happening again and learn from those tough nights.”
Joey Logano won the first stage of the race while Martin Truex Jr. won the second stage. Pole winner Clint Bowyer finished in 25th position. Last year’s winner, Brad Keselowski, ended up in third.
“It’s been hot…it was nice,” said race fan Nathyn Saylor from Chugiak, Alaska. “There weren’t a lot of cautions but some races are like that. It’s only my second NASCAR race and the first time that I’ve been able to go inside the garage. I got an autograph from one of Justin Allgaier’s pit crew members yesterday.”
The 2019 South Point 400 lasted 2 hours 48 mins and 34 seconds. It began under sunny skies with temps over 100 degrees. But it ended under clear skies with temps dropping to 90.
Once again, Martin Truex Jr. won the South Point 400 in Las Vegas. The victory automatically puts him atop the driver points standings. Kevin Harvick is now in second and is just three points behind. Joey Logano is third and sits seven points behind Truex.
Next up: The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads to Richmond for the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Saturday evening.
Stay tuned for more great photos from the South Point 400…