Monday, September 16, 2019


There are 2,931.94 Miles 2 Miami!

The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs got off to a racy start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. As the green flag dropped on Sunday afternoon for the South Point 400, the field raced like it was their last lap.

Three wide battles mid-pack and contact between teammates up front settled the lead. Daniel Suarez, who missed the playoffs, drove his No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang upfront ahead of his playoff teammate Clint Bowyer.

The Stewart-Haas Racing cars were the favorites early in the race, but Team Penske driver Joey Logano drove from the 22nd position to the lead in just 34 laps. Leading 105 laps overall, Logano placed ninth after a late-race incident with Suarez.

“We got shuffled out the back and then got to the outside of the 41 (Daniel Suarez) and didn’t know I was there and he crashed our car,’’ said Logano, whose No. 22 Ford suffered a lot of right-side damage after it was squeezed into the wall avoiding Suarez. “They fixed it as good as they could to recover with a top 10.”

Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang was another strong car all day. After taking the lead from Ryan Blaney on Lap 187, Harvick went on to lead 47 laps. Unfortunately, for the 2014 Cup Series champion, he didn’t have enough to hold off race winner Martin Truex Jr. in the last run.

“I knew the Gibbs cars would be tough,’’ Harvick said. “Martin was just so much better on the second half of the run. He made up that ground there, was able to stay close enough to us. My car started to get loose and push the front. It was just in kind of a four-wheel drift.”

Truex led 32 laps, won Stage 2, and clinched his spot in the Round of 12. He earned his fifth win of the season after qualifying in the 24th position.

“We took a gamble, qualified 24th,’’ said Truex, who led 32 laps. “For a while, it wasn’t looking too smart with the 4 (Harvick) out front. Got the right adjustments in the end. Had a great car all day long. Hell of a way to make a championship run. Get some good bonus points, move on to the next round, see what we can do there.’’

Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch got off to a tough start after contact with the wall early on. The damage would force him to pit, causing him to lose two laps and have to race from the back all afternoon.

Overcoming adversity and racing his way into the top-10 during the last stage, Busch went on to make contact with Garrett Smithley late in the race. The contact would cause front-end damage resulting in a 19th place finish.

Busch said in a postrace interview with Parker Kligerman on NBCSN “I thought he was going to go high. He went middle… Killed our day. I don’t know. Should have run fourth probably. Instead 19th. We’re at the top echelon of motorsports, and we’ve got guys who have never won Late Model races running on the racetrack. It’s pathetic. They don’t know where to go. What else do you do?”

Although Truex Jr won the race, Busch’s incident with Smithley became the talk post-race. Busch took his frustration from the TV to Twitter.

All in all, the playoff opener at Las Vegas did not disappoint. From multiple drivers running upfront to playoff contenders going up in smoke, to having transmission failures during the event, this is only the beginning.

Heading to the short track of Richmond Raceway, imagine what else we will have in store for the rest of this postseason.

The Monster Energy Series travels to Richmond Raceway for a Saturday night race on Sept. 21 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Here are the standings going into Richmond: