LAS VEGAS — A wild finish at the Pennzoil 400 as Joey Logano captured the checkered flag for the second year in a row in Las Vegas. Matt DiBenedetto finished in second and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounds out the top three. Meanwhile, hometown favorite Kyle Busch finished in 15th position.
Ross Chastain spun out on lap 261 forcing a caution for the next six laps. Some drivers decided to come in for new tires and fuel. However, Logano was one of seven drivers who stayed on the track. It was a quick thinking decision that paid off in the end.
“Once you get that clean air, you’re in good shape,” Logano said in the post-race press conference. “You’re in the mirror more than you’re looking forward. Try to gain control and race that way. I saw Matt make a great move which got him to second. As long as you take the white, you’re good. I felt confident that we were in good shape to win this. Then the caution came out.”
There was a bit of confusion on the last lap of the race. When the checkered flag was waved, a bunch of cars spun out just past the start-finish line. Television announcers said we might have to go into overtime with a caution-white-checkered finish. However, it was determined by NASCAR officials that the race was indeed over.
Logano led 54 laps in his No. 22 Pennzoil Ford Fusion. He earned 52 points and five playoff points, according to unofficial results. This was another win for Team Penske, who won here last year as well.
“This has been for Team Penske our best race track in recent years,” Logano explained. “I’ve seen brad win a lot with Paul before. Not much of a surprise to me. We made the move because we think there’s a lot to gain from it.”
After today’s Pennzoil 400, Ryan Blaney now leads in points standings by three points over Joey Logano. Blaney finished in 11th position in Las Vegas.
Chase Elliott won the first and second stages of Sunday’s 267-lap race. He finished way back in 26th position. However, Elliott still earned 31 points and two playoffs points.
“It’s hard at this level to win races,” said Paul Wolfe, Logano’s crew chief. “We’ve both been successful prior to this year. I knew coming out on the west coast swing is where we learn what we needed to do. Joey did a great job keeping us up front in track position. The tires were wearing some. We saw a lot of guys pit from the lead.”
There were very few incidents in this year’s Pennzoil 400. Daniel Suarez stalled on the frontstretch on the second lap. John Hunter Nemechek spun out in turn two on lap 169. Martin Truex Jr. hit the turn four wall on lap 177. Chase Elliott spun out in turn one on lap 222. Ross Chastain spun out on the backstretch on lap 263. Once again, several cars were involved in the final lap incident.
This year’s 2020 Pennzoil 400 lasted two hours, 58 minutes and 11 seconds. The average speed during the race was 134.861 mph. There were 25 lead changes among seven different drivers. The weather was sunny and 62 degrees during most of the race.
Saturday’s qualifying session was canceled due to inclement weather. Therefore, the drivers started the Pennzoil 400 according to their points standings. Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick led the pack at the start.
The cards were stacked against hometown driver Kyle Busch from the start. He would have started in 1st due to his points. However, he started in the back of the pack after a penalty for making last-minute modifications to his car. Two other Toyota drivers were also penalized. Those included Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin.
The 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic “Miracle” Hockey Team were on hand to say the most famous words in auto racing. Carnell Johnson, better known as “Golden Pipes,” sang the national anthem. Actor Justin Hartley from NBC’s “This is Us” served as the honorary pace car driver.
Next week, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Southern California for the Auto Club 400 on Sunday, March 1. We’ll be there to bring you complete coverage.
Stay tuned for more great photos from the race…