Joey Logano wins second straight Pennzoil 400

by Justin Nguyen

Isn’t it poetic that the Pennzoil-sponsored car wins the Pennzoil 400? That’s what Joey Logano did on Sunday as he visits Las Vegas Motor Speedway‘s Victory Lane for the second straight year. After a wreck on the final lap froze the field, Logano took his second consecutive Pennzoil 400 victory.

Although qualifying was rained out and the starting grid was set by 2019 owner’s points, pole-sitter Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing/Toyota team-mates Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell were sent to the rear after receiving L1-level penalties. Garrett Smithley and Brennan Poole also joined them at the back with inspection failures and an engine change, respectively.

Stage #1

With Busch at the back, Kevin Harvick led early, though it did not take long for the race to pause. After failing to qualify for the Daytona 500, Daniel Suárez‘s rough start to the 2020 season continued when his car lost power coming to the green flag, leading to a caution.

“Man I feel for that 96 team,” NASCAR crew chief and former driver Brian Keselowski tweeted. “Hard to put a deal together that late and then have silly things happen to you right away. Some stuff you can control, a lot you can’t. It’s hard when you are just trying to catch up and stuff keeps happening”.

Four laps later, the race resumed with Logano taking the lead.

Due to the weather over the weekend (which also led to Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race being postponed to after the Pennzoil 400), a competition caution took place on lap 25. After pit stops, Harvick was the first off pit road.

Shortly after the restart, Michael McDowell went to the garage with a stuck throttle. He eventually returned to the race after his Front Row Motorsports team completed repairs.

At the front, Hendrick Motorsports began climbing as Chase Elliott ran in the top five and his team-mates in the top ten; Elliott eventually took the lead. Behind them, the JGR drivers outside of Truex struggled, with Busch reporting at one point that his car was “way better, just not any faster. I am just stuck here.”

Like in the Daytona 500, Elliott scored the Stage #1 victory. His Hendrick team-mates joined him in receiving stage points with William Byron in sixth, Alex Bowman eighth, and Jimmie Johnson ninth. The rest of the top ten consisted of Truex, Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Logano, Byron, Kyle Larson, Bowman, Johnson, and Ross Chastain. Chastain, filling in for the recovering Ryan Newman in the #6 for Roush Fenway Racing, did not receive points as he is competing for the Xfinity title.

Stage #2

Elliott and Truex led the field to the restart. Harvick briefly led before Elliott reclaimed the position.

Green flag stops began with Chastain hitting pit road. During their stops, Johnson and Denny Hamlin were involved in a jam as the former attempted to leave his pit box, causing the latter to be unable to enter his. Hamlin, the Daytona 500 winner, was eventually lapped by Elliott.

On lap 159, Bell spun on the backstretch. Elliott took the stage win ahead of Baney, Truex, Byron, Logano, Harvick, Johnson, Bowman, and Busch.

Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Stage #3

Despite being the first to leave pit road, Truex had to pit again out of fears of a loose wheel. Meanwhile, JGR team-mate Erik Jones had an extended pit stop.

The front row consisted of Blaney and Elliott as Stage #3 began. Shortly after, John Hunter Nemechek spun in turn two for a yellow. Truex also fell victim to a caution on lap 177 when he cut a tyre and hit the turn four wall.

After the Truex caution, Harvick quickly jumped for first. Although Elliott later took the lead and had a strong pit stop under green, his left-rear tyre went down, sending him into the turn one wall and producing a yellow.

With varying pit strategies, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. became the leader for the restart on lap 226. Although JTG Daugherty Racing partner Ryan Preece was slated to restart third, mechanical issues surfaced that forced him to retire from the race, joining Timmy Hill (rear gear) in the list of exits for car issue.

“Bummer, we burnt up the rear gear,” Hill tweeted. “Noticed we were leaking fluid halfway through the race. Unfortunately just didn’t last to the finish. Our team took a lot of notes this weekend & hopefully we can keep improving on our intermediate package. See everyone in California next week!”

Logano and Harvick quickly pounced on the green flag to pull ahead. Blaney eventually passed both of them and took the lead from Team Penske team-mate Logano on lap 255. Behind the Penske drivers, Bowman chased them down, overtaking Logano for second on lap 259.

With six laps remaining, Chastain spun for the yellow flag to set up a two-lap sprint to the finish. Logano, receiving a push from Stenhouse, pulled ahead as Penske ally Matt DiBenedetto moved into second. Shortly after Logano took the white flag, Jones made contact with Byron and Blaney, with multiple other drivers also getting tangled as Nemechek spin into the tri-oval grass.

The wreck led to a caution, ending the race under yellow as Logano took his twenty-fourth career NASCAR Cup Series win. DiBenedetto finished second behind Logano, tying his best Cup run.

“[R]eally proud of Matt,” Wood Brothers Racing‘s Twitter account posted. “Proud of Paul (Menard) for helping us pick him, proud of the crew and greg (Erwin, crew chief) for making perfect calls today.”

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