Las Vegas Recap
Joey Logano led Joe Gibbs Racing with a 16th place finish in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Handling issues would plague all three JGR teams for much of the day as teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch would finish 20th and 23rd respectively.
Joey Logano started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota eighth but was able to gain several spots into fourth before the green flag even waved to start the race when teammate Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson had to drop to the back of the field for the start. Logano took advantage of the situation and jumped up another couple spots at the start to race to claim the second position on the opening lap. He would hold that spot for many laps, but handling conditions would slowly force him to fall back several positions in the field. As the race progressed so did the tight handling conditions on the No. 20 Dollar General Camry causing Logano to eventually fall a lap down during one of many long green flag runs. He would get back on the lead lap as the lucky dog when a caution came out with just over 20 laps remaining and a late four-tire pit stop allowed Logano the opportunity to gain several additional spots to earn a 16th-place finish.
Hamlin started the race in the 17th position and patiently kept his No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota just outside the top 20 through the early portion of the race as he tried to find the proper handle on the car. Unfortunately there were few cautions which limited the FedEx team from working on the car and tight conditions would greatly limit Hamlin’s ability to turn into the corners. Hamlin would keep his No. 11 Camry clear of any accidents and managed to remain on the lead lap, but with tight conditions persisting throughout the race he would have to settle with a 20th-place finish.
Although Kyle Busch qualified his No. 18 M&Ms Brown Toyota from the second position he would have to go to the back of the field for the start of today’s race after an accident in Saturday’s final practice forced the team to go to the back up car. The setback did little to deter Busch early however, as he quickly managed to move up through the field and was inside the top 25 by lap 10 and was running 20th by lap 25th. He would manage to climb all the way into the top ten before lap 50. Some early pit strategy would shuffle the field a bit as he fell back outside the top 10 and handling conditions would make it difficult for him to drive back up through the field. Just before the midpoint of the race Busch would hit oil left on the track by the No. 93 car which sent his No. 18 Camry up the track and into the wall. Fortunately the damage was not severe and the M&Ms crew was able to make the needed repairs on pit road to keep Busch on the lead lap. The team would continue to make adjustments to the car in an effort to allow Busch to turn better in the corners and a two-tire pit stop call with just about 60 laps remaining would put the M&Ms Camry back in the top 10. Busch would be plagued by tight conditions entering the turns and loose conditions on the exit and decided to come down pit road for four tires one last time with about 10 laps remaining. He would race hard after the restart in an effort to gain track position to the finish, but the 18 Camry would get loose causing him to spin down the track. He managed to keep the car from contact with the wall or any other competitors but the needed trip down pit road would cause him to fall a lap off the pace. He would go on to finish the day 23rd.
Tony Stewart captured the victory, while Jimmie Johnson was second, Greg Biffle third, Ryan Newman fourth and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five. There were eight cautions for a total of 33 laps with 16 lead changes among 11 different drivers.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns east for next week’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The race will be held next Sunday, March 18 at 1 PM ET. Fox will provide live high-definition coverage of the race starting at Noon ET. Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90 and MRN Radio will also provide live coverage.