NASCAR: Keselowski Continues Hot Streak in Vegas

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Source: Twitter (@LVMotorSpeedway)

Brad Keselowski came through the chaos to win the South Point 400, his third win in a row, at Las Vegas.

Keselowski held off Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney in a flurry of late race restarts to secure Team Penske 500th win in motorsport.

It was a day marred by trouble for over half of the 16 Playoff drivers taking part in the first race of the championship decider.

The first two Playoff cars to have race-ending issues were the #4 of Kevin Harvick and the #20 of polesitter Erik Jones. Harvick had been battling right front tyre issues for most of the first half of the race and came unstuck on Lap 149 when the tyre blew, sending him careering into the wall, collecting the helpless Jones in the process.

Whilst Harvick’s impressive total of 50 playoff points leave him still in a strong position to advance, Jones is now in the elimination zone and will need strong runs at Richmond and the Charlotte Roval to make it to the next round.

Another driver in the same boat as Jones is the #9 of Chase Elliott. Elliott, like Jones, had been enjoying a strong run headed into the Playoffs, but was also a victim of another driver’s misfortune.

Jamie McMurray, who had been running strongly in the top 10 for most of the race, made significant contact with Ryan Blaney on Lap 213. This blew a tyre going into Turn 3, with Elliott unable to avoid McMurray’s spinning car.

Elliott immediately came over the radio with concerns over a potentially injured shoulder, however fortunately the Hendrick Motorsports driver appears to be okay.

Incredibly that was only the tip of the iceberg. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin were the next to have problems, suffering identical spins out of Turn 4 on Laps 234 and 248 respectively.

Whilst Busch’s car came through the grass relatively unscathed though, Hamlin’s splitter was destroyed and he was forced to retire. With that and Michael Annett’s similar incident in the Xfinity race on Saturday, it does raise questions for NASCAR on how grass can damage cars so significantly.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr, whilst not a Playoff driver, crashed heavily out of Turn 2 with less than 15 laps to go, to create a sprint finish to the race.

Whilst Keselowski and his immediate challengers restarted cleanly, contact between Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson gave the two Hendrick cars of Bowman and Johnson flats, with Johnson helpless to avoid collecting fellow Playoff driver Clint Bowyer as he struggled to get back to pit road.

Debris from that incident eventually brought out the yellow again on Lap 263 to create what should’ve been a two-lap shootout for the victory.

On the restart, Keselowski and Logano battled extremely hard for the lead, making contact as Keselowski got ahead going into Turn 3. Behind them though, yet more chaos was to unfold as a multi-car wreck initiated by Michael McDowell and David Ragan collected Kurt Busch, who had emerged undamaged from the previous contact, but now was headed to the pits for repairs.

In spite of all this, it’s perhaps a miracle that NASCAR Overtime was a relatively clean affair. A poor restart from Logano gave Keselowski the breathing room he needed, whilst Larson used his trademark high groove to secure second ahead of Truex Jr.

It was a day where just finishing the race put drivers in a good position in the Playoff standings. In particular Aric Almirola (P6) and Austin Dillon (P11) will be pleased with their results considering the speed of their cars throughout the weekend.

With the likes of Jones, Elliott, Hamlin and others needing to bounce back next weekend to remain in the championship race, the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond is set to be a classic. Tune in on Saturday night at 12:30am BST (7:30pm EDT) on NBCSN for all the action.

PLAYOFF STANDINGS

Brad Keselowski (P1)

Martin Truex Jr (P3)

Kyle Busch (P7)

Kevin Harvick (P39)

Joey Logano (P4)

Kurt Busch (P21)

Ryan Blaney (P5)

Kyle Larson (P2)

Aric Almirola (P6)

Austin Dillon (P11)

Clint Bowyer (P23)

Alex Bowman (P19)

Jimmie Johnson (P22)

Chase Elliott (P36)

Erik Jones (P40)

Denny Hamlin (P32)

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