Race number two for the NASCAR Cup Series is in the books, and winner number two of the season has been crowned, with Joey Logano emerging victorious over Matt DiBenedetto, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Austin Dillon at Las Vegas. The 1.5-mile track provided many moments of exciting racing, interesting race strategies (that eventually paid off), and some four, five, even six-wide racing. There were some clear winners and losers from this weekend’s race, and here are some of those headliners.
It isn’t too often that you’ll see a sponsor on this list, but in this case, it seems pretty appropriate. Pennzoil sponsors the spring Las Vegas race each year, and in this race, they sponsored multiple Penske cars (Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano). To top it all off, Logano won the race for the second year in a row, bringing the Pennzoil car to victory lane in the Pennzoil race.
Loser: Stage Two Trend
Prior to Sunday, in the last five races at Las Vegas, the stage two winner also won the race. That trend was broken in resounding fashion, as Chase Elliott cut a tire and finished off of the lead lap, in 26th place. It was actually a somewhat shocking streak, to begin with, given the nature of restarts at Las Vegas. Elliott did win stage one as well though, giving him three total stage wins already.
Over the past few years, NASCAR has seen less and less different race winners over the course of the season. While Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano, the two winners so far this year, aren’t exactly shockers, the top-six at Vegas included five drivers who missed the playoffs in 2019. Not only that, but cars driven by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon appeared to have impressive speed on long runs, as they were able to stay near the front.
Loser: Joe Gibbs Racing
It’s safe to say that Las Vegas wasn’t kind to the four Joe Gibbs Racing cars. The week began with Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch getting assigned L1 penalties, which docked them ten points in the owner’s standings. Then, no JGR cars finished in the top-14 in the race, with Kyle Busch being the best finisher at 15th-place. The team won over half of the series’ races last year, but it sure didn’t look like it this weekend
Winner: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
I’m sure that the majority of people watching the race thought that Stenhouse was insane for staying on track as long as he did. Well, it ended up working out pretty well when a caution came out with only Stenhouse and John Hunter Nemechek on the lead lap. Stenhouse’s pit stop during the caution allowed him to stay up front, and his car showed impressive speed down the stretch to stay in the top-five and walk away with a third-place finish. Tremendous week for the No. 47 team.
Loser: The Big Three
The 2020 rookie of the year race should be one of the most entertaining in a long time. The much talked about trio, of Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer, and Christopher Bell, who were the top-three Xfinity Series drivers last year, are all in the Cup series driving in competitive cars. Reddick finished 18th, Custer finished 19th, and Bell finished 33rd, multiple laps down. There’s lots of time for the youngsters to figure it out, but John Hunter Nemechek currently leads the ROTY standings.
Winner: Jimmie Johnson’s Winning Chances
Jimmie Johnson is now in his last season. The seven-time champion hasn’t won since 2017, and missed the playoffs for the first time in his career last season, but had a nice run at Las Vegas to finish in the top-five. Hendrick Motorsports as a whole ran well over the course of the weekend, and Johnson was hanging with the front of the pack. Anyone hoping for another victory for the 48 was happy.
Loser: Daniel Suarez
Daniel Suarez’s off-season deal with Gaunt Brothers Racing came into fruition just weeks before the start of the season, so there was always a good chance there would be a rough start. That would be an understatement to describe Suarez’s first two races. He started the year by failing to qualify for the Daytona 500 after wrecking while his two ‘Open’ car competitors were both off the lead lap, and at Las Vegas this weekend, his car had a mechanical issue on the first lap of the race. He was able to finish the race, bringing home a 30th place result, but he and the team are hoping for better.