U.S. Markets closed

Las Vegas NASCAR: Martin Truex Jr wins as playoffs begin

Dominik Wilde
Truex wins at Vegas as playoffs begin

Martin Truex Jr secured his spot in the next stage of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs by winning the first race of the post-season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Toyota driver came to the fore in the second stage of the 267-lap race and was consistently the fastest car on track as night fell.

Truex finished the first stage of the race in eighth place, but worked his way to the front to pass a previously dominant Joey Logano in the final laps of the second stage.

Logano came across Leavine Family Racing's Matt DiBenedetto, who was a lap down but didn't make life easy for the leader and aided fellow Toyota driver Truex as he took the lead.

In the final stage Truex initially battled for first place with Chase Elliott, but dropped back to fifth in fewer than 10 laps.

He returned to the lead after the final round of green flag pitstops, breezing past Kevin Harvick around the outside of Turn 2 with 20 laps to go.

Since stage racing was introduced ahead of the 2017 season, every single stage two winner at Las Vegas has gone on to win the race - a trend Truex continued.

Harvick, who led 47 laps and spent much of the night in the top five, finished second, ahead of Brad Keselowski - the only one of the three Penske runners to not lead a lap.

Elliott led 12 laps in the final stage and finished fourth, ahead of another brief race leader in Ryan Blaney.

Alex Bowman was sixth, followed by his Hendrick Motorsports team-mate William Byron - who survived a spin that brought out the first regular caution of the race.

Kyle Larson, Logano, and Ryan Newman ensured that the top 10 positions were locked out by playoff drivers.

Aric Almirola and Denny Hamlin, who are both also in playoff contention, led three laps apiece but missed out on the top 10. They finished 13th and 15th respectively.

Truex wins at Vegas as playoffs begin

Logano's ninth place finish came despite him leading a race-high 105 laps and winning the first stage.

The Penske Ford driver made up 21 positions to move from 22nd to first in just 34 laps.

But after being narrowly beaten by Truex in the second stage, contact with Daniel Suarez in the opening laps of the third stage ended his hopes of a third win in 2019 and a second-straight Las Vegas victory.

Suarez led 29 laps after passing Stewart-Haas team-mate and polesitter Clint Bowyer on the second lap of the race but eventually finished 20th following the contact with Logano and slowing to stretch his fuel in the final laps.

Bowyer ended up only 25th after a difficult night. He struggled with the handling of his Ford Mustang all race, and his run was further complicated by a cut tyre in the final stage.

Regular season champion and early title favourite Kyle Busch had a torrid race, beginning with hitting the wall on just the fourth lap. A pitstop to fix the resulting damage dropped him a lap down - where he would remain for 171 laps.

Although Busch did manage to return to the lead lap towards the end of the race, contact with a backmarker caused splitter damage and dropped him back once more. He eventually finished 19th, one lap down.

His brother, fellow playoff contender Kurt Busch, was the only retirement in the race.

The 2004 series champion made contact with Truex and Elliott on a restart and cut a tyre. He was immediately called to the pits in anticipation of a puncture - as had happened to Byron, which had brought out the prior caution - but he never made it there, slamming into the Turn 3 wall.

Race result

Pos Driver Team Car Laps Gap
1 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 267 2h48m34.s
2 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 267 4.173s
3 Brad Keselowski Team Penske Ford 267 6.344s
4 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 267 6.600s
5 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford 267 9.086s
6 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 267 15.381s
7 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 267 19.865s
8 Kyle Larson Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 267 24.531s
9 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 267 24.839s
10 Ryan Newman Roush Fenway Racing Ford 267 25.261s
11 Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 267 25.273s
12 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 267 25.633s
13 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 267 29.577s
14 Paul Menard Wood Brothers Racing Ford 267 29.888s
15 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 267 30.256s
16 Ty Dillon Germain Racing Chevrolet 267 31.763s
17 Daniel Hemric Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 267 31.772s
18 Chris Buescher JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 266 1 Lap
19 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 266 1 Lap
20 Daniel Suarez Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 266 1 Lap
21 Matt DiBenedetto Leavine Family Racing Toyota 266 1 Lap
22 David Ragan Front Row Motorsports Ford 266 1 Lap
23 Darrell Wallace Jr. Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet 266 1 Lap
24 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford 266 1 Lap
25 Clint Bowyer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 266 1 Lap
26 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing Ford 265 2 Laps
27 Ryan Preece JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 265 2 Laps
28 Corey LaJoie Go FAS Racing Ford 265 2 Laps
29 Landon Cassill StarCom Racing Chevrolet 265 2 Laps
30 Matt Tifft Front Row Motorsports Ford 264 3 Laps
31 Ross Chastain Premium Motorsports Chevrolet 262 5 Laps
32 J.J. Yeley Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet 260 7 Laps
33 B.J. McLeod Petty Ware Racing Chevrolet 259 8 Laps
34 Joe Nemechek Premium Motorsports Chevrolet 257 10 Laps
35 Garrett Smithley Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet 255 12 Laps
36 Erik Jones Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 254 13 Laps
37 Reed Sorenson Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 250 17 Laps
38 Joey Gase MBM Motorsports Toyota 249 18 Laps
39 Kurt Busch Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 187 Accident

Playoff standings

Pos Driver Points
1 Martin Truex Jr. 2082
2 Kevin Harvick 2079
3 Joey Logano 2075
4 Kyle Busch 2063
5 Brad Keselowski 2058
6 Chase Elliott 2057
7 Denny Hamlin 2056
8 Kyle Larson 2044
9 William Byron 2040
10 Ryan Blaney 2039
11 Alex Bowman 2037
12 Aric Almirola 2033
13 Ryan Newman 2027
14 Kurt Busch 2019
15 Clint Bowyer 2012
16 Erik Jones 2007

Get unlimited access to the world’s best motorsport journalism with Autosport Plus