Joey Logano wins Cup Series race at Las Vegas

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Joey Logano won Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway under caution, beating Matt DiBenedetto after a wreck unfolded right as the field took the white flag.

Logano came out on top in what was supposed to be a two-lap shootout after he stayed out of the pits under caution after not understanding his crew chief’s instructions to pit.

He assumed the lead from teammate Ryan Blaney, who was directed to pit by his new crew chief, Todd Gordon.

“I should have left you out. My gut told me to. I didn’t. My bad,” Gordon told Blaney over the radio after the race.

It is Logano’s second straight win in the race and it’s his first win with new crew chief Paul Wolfe. The race was their second together after an offseason crew chief swap by Team Penske. The win snapped a 22-race winless streak for Logano (Michigan, June 2019).

“I’m not really sure what I was supposed to do (under the final caution), but boy, we fought hard for this one today,” Logano told Fox. “Man, what a battle between Blaney and I and Chase Elliott and (Martin Turex 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.”

The top five was completed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon and Jimmie Johnson.

Logano’s No. 22 Ford and DiBenedetto’s No. 21 Ford each were on 50-lap tires at the end of the race. Stenhouse was on 44-lap tires.

Brad Keselowski, who finished seventh, was the highest placing driver among those who took fresh tires on the pit stop before the final restart.

The final run to the checkered flag was caused by a Ross Chastain spin with six laps to go. Chastain, who finished 27th, was driving in substitution for the injured Ryan Newman.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Elliott

STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Elliott

More: Race results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Matt DiBenedetto matched his best Cup finish and earned his first top-10 finish on a 1.5-mile track … Ricky Stenhouse Jr. earned his best Las Vegas finish and JTG-Daugherty Racing’s first top five on a 1.5-mile track … Jimmie Johnson earned his first top five since last July’s Daytona race … Brad Keselowski earned his 10th straight top 10 at Las Vegas, the longest streak ever for the track … Ty Dillon placed 10th for his first top 10 on a 1.5-mile track.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Daniel Suarez finished four laps down in 30th after his car suffered a mechanical problem right as the field took the initial green flag. It continues an abysmal start to the year for Gaunt Bros Racing after Suarez failed to make the Daytona 500 … Rookie Christopher Bell placed 33rd after he spun and hit the backstretch wall with two laps left in the second stage … Chase Elliott won the first two stages, but finished 26th after his left-rear tire went down and he tagged the wall in Turn 1 in the middle of the final stage … Joe Gibbs Racing had an overall day to forget, with Kyle Busch its highest finishing driver in 15th. It’s the first time since the Charlotte Roval in 2018 that a Toyota didn’t finish in the top 10.

WHAT’S NEXT: Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET March 1 on Fox

 

Xfinity playoff grid after Indianapolis

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Chase Briscoe‘s continued dominance of the Xfinity Series over the weekend on the Indianapolis road course ensured no additional drivers locked themselves into the 12-driver playoff field.

Through 13 races, Briscoe and four other drivers have qualified for the playoffs via race wins. Briscoe, who has five race wins, leads the field with 28 playoff points.

The last two drivers currently in the top 12 are Riley Herbst (+19 points above cutline) and Brandon Brown (+6 points).

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Myatt Snider (-6), Alex Labbe (-32), Jeremy Clements (-49) and Josh Williams (-57).

Cup Series playoff grid after Brickyard 400

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With Kevin Harvick‘s victory Sunday in the Brickyard 400, no additional drivers locked themselves into the Cup Series playoff field.

But there was some movement at the bottom of the playoff grid as drivers jockey to make the 16-car field.

After he missed the race due to his COVID-19 diagnosis, Jimmie Johnson fell from 12th to 15th on the grid. He’s now 36 points above the cutline.

Matt DiBenedetto earned stage points in each stage before finishing 19th. He moved from 14th to 12th in the standings.

After earning stage points in both stages Sunday, Austin Dillon has cracked the top 16, moving up one spot. He has a six-point advantage over Erik Jones, who crashed out of Sunday’s race and had a 14-point advantage over Dillon entering the weekend.

With his ninth-place finish Sunday, Bubba Wallace is now within reach of the top 16. He sits at 19th, 42 points back from 16th.

Here’s the full playoff grid.

Oval or road course? Cup drivers address future of Brickyard 400

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For 27 years, the Cup Series has competed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with its annual Brickyard 400. All 27 of those races have been run exclusively on the track’s traditional 2.5-mile oval.

But following Saturday’s Xfinity Series race on the track’s 2.4-mile, 14-turn road course, an obvious question has been raised:

Should the Brickyard 400 remain on the oval, where passing is made difficult due to a combination of the rules package and the design of the track, or should moving it to the road course be considered?

“I would never vote for that,” Kevin Harvick declared last week before he won his third Brickyard 400 on Sunday. “I love everything about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For me it is all about the oval … racing on the traditional track because for me I am kind of old school and I think that the Cup cars belong and really started the Brickyard 400.

“That was kind of what it was always meant to be, that iconic one-off, just the Cup cars event. I think with the Xfinity cars and the trucks and (ARCA Menards) cars and all the things that used to race at IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park), it was a great event. Hopefully the road course can kind of take that role that IRP used to have and be able to bring the Indy cars and NASCAR together to add to that event at the Speedway. For me personally, I would never vote for the Cup cars to not run on the oval.”

Harvick is joined in that camp by his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Aric Almirola, who finished third in Sunday’s race for his first top five and top-10 finish at Indy.

“I hope that we never stop running the oval,” Almirola said. “I just think it’s one of these places that regardless if it puts on the greatest race or not, it’s historic. It’s just a special place. It’s hard to explain when you don’t grow up a racer and you don’t aspire to come to race at Indy.

“But for me, I grew up watching stock car racing and dirt sprint car racing. I grew up watching Thursday Night Thunder, seeing so many guys go from USAC racing and sprint car racing to racing at Indy. It’s something I’ve always kept up with, always dreamed about getting the opportunity to race here. I get that opportunity now.”

Matt Kenseth, who finished second Sunday in his 20th Brickyard 400, said the Cup Series “should be” on the oval. But the Chip Ganassi Racing driver is open to the idea of Cup using the road course in some manner.

 “I think it’s one of those racetracks that we need to race at as long as we can,” Kenseth said of the oval. “It’s arguably the most famous speedway in the world, or one of them.

“To be able to race on the ovals with the Cup cars, which is the highest form of stock car racing here, we should be on the big track as well. I don’t think it would be bad to maybe test the road course and look into it, maybe do a second race on a road course, kind of like the IndyCars did this week.

“I really do think the Brickyard 400 has a lot of prestige. It’s not a southern race, but similar to the Southern 500, races like that. I think there’s a few of those races you sure would hate to see disappear.”

Crew chief describes ‘frightening’ scene on pit road at Indy

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Crew chief Todd Gordon said it was “frightening” to see rear tire changer Zach Price hit on pit road and then try to scoot away from cars during Sunday’s Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Price, who changes tires for Ryan Blaney’s team, was injured when he was struck by Brennan Poole’s car during a melee near the entrance of pit road early in the race.

Gordon, speaking Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, said indications are that Price’s injury was a “fracture someplace in the knee area.”

Price was treated and released from an Indianapolis hospital on Sunday night and traveled home with the team. Gordon said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Price was scheduled to see a doctor Monday.

“Just hope to get him back and get him back going again and healthy,” Gordon said.

Gordon described what he saw as cars made contact.

“A really frightening moment for me,” he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I was really terrorized when I saw (Price) drag himself back across the pit box arms only for a while there. As the situation kind of progressed and the medical staff was working with him, I could see in his face he was better off than I thought he was to start with.

“Fortunate that the guys got up and got at least in the air. The jackman (Graham Stoddard) got on top of the car. Just one of those terrible situations. I felt like those accidents happened mid-pit road. That’s why I picked way back there to be behind it.”

Said Justin Allgaier, who was involved in the accident on pit road that led to six cars eventually being eliminated:  “The No. 15 (Poole) actually got in the back of me. I didn’t know if I got the gentleman on (Blaney’s pit crew) or not. Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled-up there, one car after another were getting run into.”

Indianapolis’ pit road is the most narrow of all the tracks the Cup Series races. The two travel lanes are 24 feet wide. The pit stall for each team is 15 feet wide.