The stars of the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series made their way to Las Vegas to begin Round Two of the NASCAR Playoffs. Last week’s winner, Kevin Harvick, started on the pole with Kyle Busch in second place to begin the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Shortly after 4:15 pm PST, Harvick, and Kyle Busch brought the field to green. Chase Elliott, in third, pushed past Harvick and was able to take over the lead by the time Lap one was complete. The competition caution came out on Lap 25 with Elliott and Kyle Busch running first and second. All lead lap cars came down to the pits for tires and fuel with Kyle Busch assuming the lead.
The race resumed with Kyle Busch holding the lead with Denny Hamlin to the inside. Assisted by a push from Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin took the lead away from Kyle Busch. Running unopposed for the rest of the stage, Hamlin took the green-and-white checkered flag, concluding Stage One. Denny Hamlin led the lead lap cars down to the pits for service with Kyle Busch exiting first.
As with the last restart, Kyle Busch led the field back to green as Joey Logano restarted to his inside. Logano and Kyle Busch battled side-by-side for the lead as Denny Hamlin took them three-wide. Kyle Busch and Logano made contact with Logano suffering a severe tire rub. Logano made a pit stop to change tires as Denny Hamlin maintained the lead.
Chase Elliott was able to get by Denny Hamlin and reassumed the lead. As the stage crossed the halfway mark, the lead lap cars began to make their way down for green flag pitstops. While pitting, Kyle Busch suffered an air gun failure, resulting in a longer-than-usual pitstop. Once all green flag pitstops cycled through, Chase Elliott returned to the top of the leaderboard. Though hunted by Denny Hamlin over the final laps, Chase Elliott held onto the lead and took Stage Two. All lead lap cars came down to the pits for service with Denny Hamlin exiting with the lead.
Denny Hamlin led the field to the green flag with Alex Bowman to the inside. Bowman was able to outlast Hamlin going into Turn Three and took the lead as Hamlin fell to second. Bowman did not hold the lead for long as Hamlin dove to the inside and made a pass for the lead coming out of Turn Two. With 78 laps left in the race, the fourth caution of the day came out for debris on the track. Denny Hamlin led the lead lap cars down to the pits for service. Denny Hamlin was able to maintain the lead with Martin Truex Jr. coming out in second.
Stage Three resumed with 70 laps to go as Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. led the field back to green. Hamlin was able to keep the lead with Matt DiBenedetto taking over second. Alex Bowman was able to get by DiBenedetto and set his sights on Hamlin. Austin Dillon suffered a mechanical failure with 54 laps left in the race, resulting in an extended period off the track.
Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch were the first drivers to come down to the pits for final, green flag pitstops with 37 laps left in the race. In the middle of green flag pitstops, the fifth caution of the day came out as Jimmie Johnson scattered debris on the track after suffering a flat tire. The lead lap cars who had not yet pitted came down with Kurt Busch exiting first.
With the field shuffled via the caution, Matt DiBenedetto assumed the lead with Kurt Busch in second. The race resumed with 25 laps left in the race as Kurt Busch pulled away as the leader. John Hunter Nemechek brought out the sixth caution of the day for a spin through Turns Three and Four, collecting Erik Jones and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Though the front lead lap cars did not pit, those in the back, including Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, came to the pits for fresh tires. Kurt Busch lined up first with Matt DiBenedetto to his inside as the race restarted with 12 laps left in the race. Kurt Busch held onto the lead as DiBenedetto followed closely in Kurt’s tire tracks. With Denny Hamlin, on fresh tires, closing fast, the caution came out as William Byron spun down the front stretch.
Due to the limited amount of laps left, the South Point 400 went into NASCAR Overtime to complete the race. Kurt Busch restarted the race on the outside with Matt DiBenedetto to his inside. With a great restart, Kurt Busch took off with the lead and did not look back. As the drivers behind Kurt Busch battled for second, Kurt held on and took the checkered flag. With the victory, Kurt Busch punched his ticket to the Round of 8.
It’s only fitting that the hometown driver of the Monster Energy Cup car got a victory at his hometown tracks in the Monster Energy Cup Series. Overall, the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was a forgettable race, save for the final 30 laps. With the shuffling of the driver order and bunching of the field, the drama one would hope emerged in the closing laps. What were your thoughts on tonight’s race?
Next week, the stars of NASCAR make their way to Talladega Superspeedway for the second race of Round Two of the playoffs.