What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. What happens in Las Vegas Motor Speedway, helps you in the Monster Energy Cup Series standings, and it certainly helped Joey Logano. After holding off Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski, Logano stormed off to record his first win at the track.
The race marked the full debut of the new 2019 rules package, one that hopes to allow for closer racing at the expense of horsepower. With NASCAR’s group qualifying format, Friday’s qualifying was uncharacteristically chaotic as Harvick scored the pole, while rookie Daniel Hemric and David Ragan, who had not started in the top ten since 2015, surprised the field by qualifying in Row 3.
Harvick led the first 44 laps as he easily distanced himself from the field; by green flag stops on lap 44, he held an advantage over second place of over five seconds. On their stops, Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon suffered too many men over the wall penalties. After Harvick pitted, Logano inherited the lead until he did the same on lap 50, leading to Daniel Suárez enjoying time in first.
On lap 60, Suárez arrived on pit road for his stop and Harvick reclaimed the lead. Facing little opposition, he stormed off to the stage victory. Behind him were Kyle Busch, Logano, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, and Keselowski.
Considering what the package was expected to feature, the stage raised skepticism from fans and industry members. Writer Jeff Gluck described the product as “not a very good first impression“, while Xfinity Series driver Christopher Bell quipped, “This is not how I expected this package to race”.
During the stage, two cars reported to the garage for various issues. After just ten laps, Joey Gase reported losing power in his #66 MBM Motorsports car, forcing the team to inspect; upon review, the crew elected to retire to avoid engine damage. Shortly after the stage ended, B.J. McLeod went to the garage for a vibration before later returning to the track.
After taking two tyres on his stop, Keselowski, took the lead from Harvick. Stage #2 began on lap 88 with Keselowski and Kyle Busch on the front row. Logano passed his Team Penske team-mate for first on lap 97.
As he and Logano reached lapped cars, Busch claimed the lead on lap 120 before preparing for the next green flag pit cycle. Logano pitted first on lap 123, with Busch doing the same six laps later before he was penalised for speeding, dropping him down a lap and outside the top twenty. In the meantime, William Byron stayed out on an alternate pit strategy to take the top spot.
Byron finally pitted on lap 149 for only fuel, allowing Logano to retake the lead; Byron would exit the pits in tenth. When the green-checkered flag flew on lap 160, Logano led Harvick, Truex, Keselowski, Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Aric Almirola, Stenhouse, Alex Bowman, and Jimmie Johnson.
Kurt Busch did not pit between stages to take over the top slot alongside Logano, who won the race off pit road. The final stage opened on lap 168. Twenty laps later, Harvick was back in front.
On lap 209, Hendrick Motorsports team-mates Byron and Bowman pitted under green, with others following moments later. Logano and Harvick pitted on lap 218, followed by Kyle Busch — who assumed first — shortly after. After completing the pit cycle, Logano was shuffled back into the top position on lap 227.
Keselowski passed Logano on lap 240. As the stage continued, Harvick found himself in the mix as he battled the Penske duo; the top three eventually isolated themselves from the field by over eight seconds. Logano’s advantage eventually grew as Harvick fell off the pace, surrendering third to Busch.
Despite a late charge by Keselowski, he could not pass Logano as the reigning Cup champion recorded his 22nd career Cup win.
Besides the stage breaks, the race featured no cautions, the first such incident-related caution-free race since the 2002 EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.