Truex hits for cycle to win in Las Vegas, Kyle Busch in fight

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Like hitting for the cycle in baseball, Martin Truex Jr. swept the first two stages and then rallied with just over one lap to go to win Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Truex passed pole-sitter Brad Keselowski just shy of the start-finish line on Lap 266 and then wrapped things up on the final lap to earn his first career triumph at the 1.5-mile track, his first win since Dover last fall and his fifth win in the last 27 NASCAR Cup races. No driver has won more races during that period than Truex.

“It was a gift,” Truex told Fox about Keselowski losing the lead. “We’ve been on the other side of them plenty of times. This is the first one to come our way.”

Truex led 150 of the 267 laps. It was the first win for Toyota in the 2017 season after Ford swept the first two races: the Daytona 500 (Kurt Busch) and Atlanta (Keselowski).

MORE: Kyle Busch bloodied in pit road altercation with Joey Logano and crew

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE? Poll — Should NASCAR penalize Kyle Busch for his actions after Sunday’s race?

MORE: Results from Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

MORE: Brad Keselowski takes Cup points lead after Las Vegas

Kyle Larson finished second, followed by Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Keselowski. Sixth through 10th were Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer.

There were fireworks on pit road after the race when Kyle Busch threw a punch at Joey Logano after a last-lap incident between the drivers.

Keselowski regained the lead from Truex with 24 laps to go. But Truex was not to be denied, shadowing Keselowski, who appeared to have some type of power or mechanical issues in the last two laps, dropping back in the field.

“It was something pretty major because we lost brakes and the car wouldn’t turn,” Keselowski told Fox.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Several young guns had strong top-10 finishes including Kyle Larson (second), Chase Elliott (third), Joey Logano (fourth) and Ryan Blaney (seventh).

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: It was a rough day for Stewart-Haas Racing. Kevin Harvick, who entered the race as the NASCAR Cup points leader, saw his day end early when the right front tire on his car blew out on Lap 69. Then, Danica Patrick’s (finished 36th) engine expired 16 laps from the finish. Kurt Busch also had problems (30th). The top SHR driver was Clint Bowyer (10th).

NOTABLE: Drivers got the message from NASCAR about speeding on pit road. After 13 penalties at Atlanta last week, there were only three speeding violations in Sunday’s race. … Even though he had to return late to pit road to tighten lug nuts, defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson (11th) earned his best finish thus far this season, rallying to end up 11th, after finishing 34th at Daytona and 19th at Atlanta. Still, it marked the first time Johnson has not earned at least one top-10 finish in the first three races of a season in his Cup career.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I got dumped, flat out just drove straight into the corner and he wrecked me. That’s how Joey races, so he’s going to get it.” – Kyle Busch on last-lap contact with Joey Logano.

WHAT’S NEXT: March 19, Camping World 500, at Phoenix Raceway.

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Atlanta Motor Speedway to delay repave at least a year

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The cries of drivers have been heard. Atlanta Motor Speedway will not repave its track as previously scheduled. Instead, track officials will evaluate the surface following the 2018 race there.

Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns the track, had planned to have the track surface repaved beginning in late March. It would have been the first repave there since 1997.

Engineers examined the track after the March 5 race to determine if the track surface could last another year with modest repairs. Track officials also consulted with Goodyear and others.

“There’s no question that the surface is worn out, but probably the most powerful lobby this side of Washington, D.C., was the biggest influence,” Ed Clark, president of Atlanta Motor Speedway, told NBC Sports of the drivers. “They kind of put the pressure on. I understand.”

After winning there, Brad Keselowski made his pitch not to repave the track.

“Drivers hate repaves,” he said. “We want to see the surfaces last as long as they can.  But the reality is nothing lasts forever, and this surface has made it a really, really long time, 20 years, I think, this season, and they should be really proud of that.

“My hope is they can get another year or two out of it, and I understand if they can’t, and you have to kind of leave it to their expertise and so forth.”

Clark said that work will need to be done to the track before next year’s race.

“The worst part is down the frontstretch in front of the grandstands,” Clark told NBC Sports. “There’s a lot of issues there. We’re actually going to have to cut a few areas and patch … to make it last through 2018. We consulted with Goodyear on that. They don’t think, as long as it is on the straightaway, it is a big issue from a tire standpoint.”

Clark said that the track surface will be sealed in October and should have the patching done before then.

“Let them go ahead and slip and slide one more time in 2018,” Clark said.

Clark said that while anything can change, he doesn’t foresee being talked out of a repave job too many more times.

“You have to see how the weekend goes and what happens,” Clark told NBC Sports. “We had to patch some places after the Saturday events this year, small places. Hey, if we could go two more, great. All you’ve got to do is walk out there and look at it. It is absolutely worn out. But if the drivers say, hey our choice is to race on this surface as it is.

“There comes a point (when a repave is needed). We do have a few drainage issues we do need to correct, some other things when the time comes. Right now, we’re going to get through 2018 and evaluate and see if that is the time or when is it.”

Clark said that when the track is repaved, Goodyear has expressed interest in having two test sessions to determine the proper tire for that 1.5-mile track instead of the customary one because of the track’s challenging surface.

Clark warns that with the excitement of Tuesday’s news, the day is still coming when the track will have to be repaved.

“I can’t see this going two more seasons, maybe only one,” Clark said.

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NASCAR America — My Home Track: 50 States In 50 Shows — Arkansas

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we continued our series of My Home Track: 50 States in 50 Shows as our trucks rolled into Arkansas!

We visited two short tracks in the state that produced President Bill Clinton and Basketball Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen.

Plus we talked to NASCAR Hall of Famer and Arkansas native Mark Martin about racing in his home state.

NASCAR America: Is there cause for concern with Jimmie Johnson’s performance thus far?

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It’s no secret that Jimmie Johnson is off to a slow start in 2017.

The defending and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion has a starting average of 21.8 and a finishing average of 18.8 in the first five races of this season.

He has just one top-10 finish (ninth at Phoenix), along with 34th at Daytona, 19th at Atlanta, 11th at Las Vegas and 21st Sunday at Fontana.

And let’s not forget he’s 17th in the NASCAR Cup standings heading to one of his strongest tracks, Martinsville Speedway, this Sunday.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we discussed this: After such a slow start to the season, is there a cause for concern over Johnson’s performance?

NASCAR America: Mark Martin is definitely a Kyle Larson fan

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin shared his experience of racing in his home state of Arkansas, as well as the excitement he feels watching  Kyle Larson compete in the Cup series.