No. 78 Martin Truex Jr. led the most laps on 1.5 mile tracks in the 2015-2016 season and picked up right where he left off, leading 150 of the 267 laps and winning the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Brad Keselowski started his day from the pole in his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford and was accompanied on the front row by Martin Truex Jr. in his No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet
Keselowski was able to take control of the lead until lap 18, when rookie Corey Lajoie (No. 83) got into the wall in turn two and brought out the first caution of the day.
Truex beat Keselowski off pit road to capture the lead for the lap 25 restart but Keselowski quickly regained the first position.
With 12 laps remaining in the first stage, Kevin Harvick had a tire blow out on his No. 4 Mobil1 which sent him into the wall just before turn one. This was the first race at Las Vegas in which Harvick failed to finish.
No. 22 Joey Logano chose not to pit with 10 laps remaining in stage one in hopes to win the stage and earn 10 points towards the playoffs. His crew chief Todd Gordon said, “I kind of thought that a few more cars would choose not to pit behind us and give us a buffer but that was not the case. I think we will be alright though.”
No. 1 Jamie McMurray chose to take just two tires and fuel on his pit stop which put him on the front row with Logano. He would finish the stage in 6th place.
Logano’s strategy didn’t pay off as he spun his tires on the restart, handing over the lead to Truex and fading from 1st place to 14th in just two laps.
Stage One Winner: Martin Truex Jr.
Truex was joined by No. 42 Kyle Larson on the stage two restart and jumped out to the lead.
With eight laps remaining in the second stage, the eldest driver of the field (Derrike Cope) lost control of his No. 55 Chevrolet which brought out the fourth caution of the day.
Seven-time champion, Jimmie Johnson (No. 48) stayed out under the caution and began the final restart of the segment in the first position. Truex Jr got by him on the first lap and would go on to win his second stage of the race.
Stage Two Winner: Martin Truex Jr.
Truex elected to restart on the outside line and was able to make it work, jumping out to the lead.
With 68 laps remaining in the race, Kurt Busch began losing power to his No. 41 Monster Energy Ford and had to swap out batteries which put him four laps down from leader, Truex.
With 28 laps to go, Keselowski was finally able to real in and pass Truex.
Danica Patrick‘s engine on her No. 10 Aspen Dental Chevrolet expired which brought out the caution with just 12 laps remaining.
Jimmie Johnson gained three positions on pit road but after his pit crew was worried about not tightening all the lug nuts, came back down pit road and sent him back to 17th place.
On the final restart of the race, Keselowski took control of the lead with 10 laps remaining but lost power to his race car on the final lap and Truex Jr. was able to capitalize and win the Kobalt 400 in a surprising fashion.
Kyle Busch and Joey Logano made contact in the final turn which resulted in Busch spinning onto pit road and finishing 22nd. The two were involved in a brawl on pit road after the race and it’s safe to say that Busch will be penalized during the week.
1) Martin Truex Jr.
2) Kyle Larson
3) Chase Elliott
4) Joey Logano
5) Brad Keselowski
6) Denny Hamlin
7) Ryan Blaney
8) Jamie McMurray
9) Matt Kenseth
10) Clint Bowyer
P11: Jimmie Johnson, P16: Dale Earnhardt Jr, P17: Ryan Newman, P22: Kyle Busch, P25: Austin Dillon, P30: Kurt Busch, P38: Kevin Harvick
A look into next week:
Camping World 500 at Phoenix
My pick to win: Kevin Harvick