Brad Keselowski scored his third win in a row as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series kicked off their 2018 playoffs with a return to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the South Point 400.
The race went into overtime, lasting five laps longer than its scheduled 267-lap distance, and featured plenty of carnage and mayhem as numerous tire failures knocked the list of contenders down significantly.
It was Team Penske’s 500th all-time win across all forms of motorsports. 108 of those victories have come at Cup Series level.
Truex won the first stage while Keselowski captured the second. 18 cars finished on the lead lap and NASCAR scored 30 cars as running at the finish. In all, there were 23 lead changes among nine different drivers, along with 12 caution flags for 59 laps.
The three Team Penske cars have totaled four wins so far through 27 races along with 23 top fives, 47 top 10s, 13 stage wins and over 1,300 laps led. If not for a combined 11 DNFs, those numbers would be even higher. At least one of their cars have finished in the top 10 in 23 races so far this season.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. missed the playoffs after winning two races in 2017. His 2018 got worse this weekend as an accident-shortened race resulted in a 30th-place finish following a 34th at Indianapolis. It was only the fourth DNF of the season for the Roush Fenway Racing driver, though it feels like more. Stenhouse’s average finish this year is 19.9, and he’s only had three top-10 results in 2018. He’ll likely have a new teammate next season, as well. It was announced last week Trevor Bayne won’t be piloting the No. 6 in 2019 (though it’s possible that Matt Kenseth could return for the full schedule).
Ross Chastain had a great weekend. He finished 20th in the Premium Motorsports No. 15 on Sunday, his second-best finish of the season in Cup (18th during the Texas crashfest). On Friday night, he drove the Premium No. 15 truck (22nd in owner standings) to a seventh-place finish, tying his best CWTS result since running second at Phoenix in 2013 for Brad Keselowski Racing. And of course, Saturday afternoon he drove Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 to his first-ever XFINITY Series win.
Maybe it’s just that the expectations for rookies have skyrocketed, but this 2018 Rookie of the Year battle has been kind of underwhelming. William Byron finished 36th after crashing out of the race for his sixth DNF of the season, just ahead of fellow rookie Darrell Wallace Jr., who also exited the race early after his third DNF in four weeks (his fifth of the season). Byron has just three top 10s and an average finish of 21.3 for Hendrick while Wallace has two top-10s and an average finish of 24.5 for Richard Petty Motorsports.
Even on a day when nothing went right and he mowed some of the infield with his Toyota Camry, Kyle Busch still finished seventh. It was his 22nd top-10 result this season, paired well with six wins, 17 top fives, five stage wins and 1,117 laps led so far. Busch also won the regular-season championship, if you care about things like that. These stats will certainly increase before the year is finished.
It’s been a rough season for Front Row Motorsports. Between David Ragan and Michael McDowell, they’ve had eight DNFs this season and been involved in many more incidents and parts failures. That has McDowell averaging a 24.1 finish and Ragan averaging a 23.o. Outside of restrictor plate races, the team’s best finish is Ragan’s 12th at the spring Bristol race, while McDowell’s best run is 14th at the spring Texas event.
Paint Scheme of the Week
The Race Team Alliance is testing a new sponsor placement during the playoffs and Twitter agreed to be a guinea pig for the experiment. Playoff drivers have their own emoji and hashtag prominently displayed where the contingency sponsor stickers usually go. It’s not a bad idea as a PR/marketing tool, and the teams could probably use all the sponsorship money they can scrape up, but OH MY GOSH IS IT AN AWFUL PLACEMENT.
Not to mention being gargantuan. On the white cars it didn’t look quite so bad, but the emojis completely threw off the symmetry of many cars’ designs with a gigantic white square behind the front wheel.
Also, it’s just weird to have your driver’s head shown in cartoon form on their race car.
— RCR (@RCRracing) September 16, 2018
If a driver isn’t in the playoffs, their gigantic white sticker just featured the Twitter bird, which didn’t look that bad, comparatively.
Since Furniture Row Racing isn’t part of the RTA, they didn’t have to run the sticker, so instead they used the space to put up a teal ribbon for ovarian cancer, and with a teal outline around the number. That was in reference to Truex’s girlfriend Sherry Pollex, who has thus far overcome her ovarian cancer diagnosis of several years ago.
The MENCS heads to Richmond Raceway again for the fall race this weekend.
The past three drivers to win at the track are Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson and Joey Logano. All three should be in the mix for the win.
The Federated Auto Parts 400 will drop the green flag around 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 22, with TV coverage on NBCSN.