LAS VEGAS – In a final two-lap scramble that ended with a multicar crash on the frontstretch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it was Joey Logano finding a way to defend last year’s victory in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Cup Series race.
Joey Logano sped away after a restart on lap 266 of 267 and led runner-up Matt DiBenedetto to the finish under caution to win for the second time at Las Vegas, the first time this season and the 24th time in his career, breaking a tie with Ricky Rudd for 35th all-time.
To further clarify, Logano was one of seven lead-lap drivers who stayed out on older tires when Ross Chastain’s spin in turn two brought out the eighth caution of the afternoon on lap 261. That yellow flag changed the complexion of the race.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished third, the beneficiary of excellent pit strategy by crew chief Brian Pattie. Austin Dillon ran fourth, and Jimmie Johnson came home fifth, the highest finisher among drivers who pitted for fresh tires under the eighth caution. And those fresher tires are what gave Johnson his first top-five run since running third at Daytona in July of last year.
Yet, it was Logano who was celebrating in Victory Lane after taking the white flag with cars crashing behind him as he started the final lap. More interestingly, because of accidents and pit strategy, the two drivers with whom the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford battled for much of the race—teammate Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott—weren’t in the mix at the finish.
After running solidly in the top-ten in the third stage, DiBenedetto, whose Wood Brothers team is affiliated with Penske, was right there at the end, matching his career-best finish in his second ride with his new team.
“I’m not really sure what I was supposed to do (on the last pit call), but, boy, we fought hard for this one today,” Logano said. “Man, what a battle between Blaney and I and Chase Elliott and the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.) earlier in the race, and then to see this finish with Matt finishing second is great day for Wood Brothers and for Team Penske.
“Man, nothing like winning the Pennzoil 400 in front of this amazing crowd with this awesome yellow car right here in the front. Man, this is a huge win, and nice to kick off the season with a ‘W.’”
A push from Stenhouse on the final restart gave Logano the space he needed to pull away.
“You get a good start like that, and I watched him, he pushed me and then he shoved me ahead, which was great, and then the block on the 24 (William Byron), that was the winning move, I was able to get down in front of him and then be able to separate myself a little bit from the field.
“Clean air was going to be key with old tires. If I got swallowed up by a couple cars, I was just going to fall backwards really quick. Being able to get that clean air, secure that. Man, this is great getting back in Victory Lane.”
DiBenedetto took the second spot after he and Byron made contact on the restart. The result of that contact left the driver of the No. 24, Byron suffering from a tire rub and he fell back to 22nd during the melee on the penultimate lap.
“This is all just too surreal,” DiBenedetto said. “Tough to be that close, but, hey, this is only the second race of the season. So it was the strength of this team. It’s so cool to have the backing of all the people that allow me to drive this thing.”
After leading the most laps at 92, Kevin Harvick, whose cars had excellent short-run speed, finished eighth after taking tires under the decisive caution. Elliott was out front for 70 circuits and Logano had the point for 54.
Elliott won the first two stages but finished 26th after spinning into the turn one wall with a flat left rear tire on lap 220.
NASCAR Cup Series Race – 23rd Annual Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas, Nevada
Sunday, February 23, 2020
1. (5) Joey Logano, Ford, 267.
2. (19) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 267.
3. (26) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 267.
4. (21) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.
5. (18) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 267.
6. (27) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 267.
7. (8) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 267.
8. (3) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 267.
9. (6) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 267.
10. (24) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.
11. (7) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 267.
12. (9) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 267.
13. (12) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 267.
14. (23) Chris Buescher, Ford, 267.
15. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 267.
16. (30) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 267.
17. (4) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 267.
18. (25) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 267.
19. (17) Cole Custer #, Ford, 267.
20. (2) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 267.
21. (14) Aric Almirola, Ford, 267.
22. (11) William Byron, Chevrolet, 267.
23. (16) Erik Jones, Toyota, 267.
24. (29) John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 267.
25. (13) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 266.
26. (10) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 266.
27. (15) Ross Chastain(i), Ford, 265.
28. (37) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 264.
29. (33) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 264.
30. (35) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 263.
31. (31) Joey Gase(i), Ford, 258.
32. (32) Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 258.
33. (22) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 257.
34. (36) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 253.
35. (34) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 252.
36. (28) Michael McDowell, Ford, 245.
37. (20) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, Engine, 222.
38. (38) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Rear End, 175.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 134.861 mph.
Time of Race: Two Hrs, 58 Mins, 11 Secs. The Margin of Victory: Under Caution Seconds.
Caution Flags: Nine for 37 laps.
Lead Changes: 25 among seven drivers.
Lap Leaders: K. Busch 0;K. Harvick 1-4;J. Logano 5-11;K. Harvick 12-66;C. Elliott 67-82;M. Truex Jr. 83;C. Elliott 84-87;K. Harvick 88-102;C. Elliott 103-122;R. Stenhouse Jr. 123-126;A. Dillon 127;R. Stenhouse Jr. 128-145;C. Elliott 146-162;R. Blaney 163-166;J. Logano 167-171;K. Harvick 172;J. Logano 173-181;R. Blaney 182-183;K. Harvick 184-200;R. Blaney 201-204;C. Elliott 205-217;R. Blaney 218;R. Stenhouse Jr. 219-226;J. Logano 227-254;R. Blaney 255-262;J. Logano 263-267.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kevin Harvick five times for 92 laps; Chase Elliott five times for 70 laps; Joey Logano five times for 54 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. three times for 30 laps; Ryan Blaney five times for 19 laps; Martin Truex Jr. one time for one lap; Austin Dillon one time for one lap.
Stage 1 Top-Ten: 9,19,4,12,22,24,42,88,48,6
Stage 2 Top-Ten: 9,12,19,24,22,4,48,42,88,18