TRUEX BETS ON HIMSELF AT VEGAS
by Zachary Hinson; Photos by Getty Images Mon, 2019-09-16 14:23
The Playoffs have begun with a strong statement from Martin Truex Jr. in the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but with his great, many other playoff drivers hit snags throughout the race.
The night began with Clint Bowyer winning his first pole since exactly twelve years ago in 2007; the pole was a prime opportunity to get an early advantage, but it wouldn’t come to be as he immediately lost the lead to Daniel Suarez and struggled all race to finish twenty-fifth and eighteen points below the cutoff. The statement that SHR made by qualifying first through fourth started to falter as well after Aric Almirola got the lead from Suarez and then lost it two laps later to Joey Logano who was flying through the field after starting twenty-second. The long night for Kyle Busch would begin as the fight for the lead was happening when he got the wall hard enough to get a flat tire and was forced to pit and fall two laps down. Green flag stops started and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who was in the middle of a very strong run as he had made the top in just a few laps lost a tire, no caution but the tire ended hid run. Logano went on to easily win the stage after Michael McDowell, who was attempting to stay out the longest, finally had to pit and give up the lead.
Kevin Harvick got the lead off pit road for the hectic stage two start. When the green flag waved, William Byron went three-wide to attempt to pass Logano and Harvick while Erik Jones started slowing down and had to hit pit road. Jones had a stuck throttle and was forced into second gear; the crew was able to fix the car, but Jones had fallen sixteen laps down and finished thirty-sixth and twenty-eight points below the cutoff in the end. Meanwhile, Logano had pulled away from the others and had no issues through the green flag stops. With a near perfect stop, Truex had begun to Logano and was able to take the lead on his way to the stage win with two to go in the stage as Logano went low to pass two lapped cars and got held up.
Truex and Logano kept their positions after the pitstops, but with their heavy racing on the stage three start, Chase Elliott was able to take the lead from them. The first caution for an accident would come out later as Byron spun with a flat after some contact with Ryan Blaney. Denny Hamlin and Blaney got the lead off the pits after only getting two tires; the lead didn’t last long as Harvick went three-wide to take the lead. The caution then came out for Kurt Busch slamming the wall after losing a tire thanks to contact with Truex, Kurt finished thirty-ninth and fell fourteen points below the cutoff due to the wreck. While the wreck happened, Logano got heavy damage from getting hit twice, his day wasn’t over as he was able to hold on and finish ninth, but it was a close call for the team. Harvick kept the lead on the restart as Bowyer had to pit for a flat tire. After green flag stops, Truex began making ground on Harvick and would get the lead with nineteen to go. More playoff implications would nearly hit as Kyle Busch came running up on Garrett Smithley and run into the back of him; the hit damaged his splitter and made him fall back to nineteenth. With no cautions to bunch up the field, Truex cruised to his fifth win of the season and an automatic pass to the next round.