Las Vegas winners and losers

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A look at the winners and losers from Sunday night’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway…

WINNERS

Denny HamlinMoved on to the Round of 8 with his second win in these Cup playoffs. Over the first four playoff races, he’s led over a third of the total laps (35.5 percent – 545 of 1,534), won five of eight stages, and finished no worse than ninth at the checkered flag. The winless regular season feels like a distant memory now.

Chase Elliott – Reeled in Denny Hamlin during the final laps, but couldn’t quite mount a challenge for the lead and finished second. Salvaged what was an otherwise tough night for Hendrick Motorsports in regards to strategy (see below).

Kyle Busch – Third-place finish in his 600th career Cup start put a rocky first round of the playoffs behind him. It’s his first top five on an oval since placing second in July at Atlanta. Even more critical are the 18 stage points he earned, which give him a 35-point cushion above the cutline going to Talladega.

Martin Truex Jr. – Strong start to playoffs continued Sunday with a fourth-place finish. He’s now earned four consecutive top-10 finishes. He only earned four top 10s during the final 10 races of the regular season.

Brad Keselowski – Seventh-place finish helped him move above the cutline, albeit with a slim four-point cushion. His best chance to advance to the Round of 8 with a win lies ahead at Talladega. He claimed his sixth career win at ‘Dega this past April.

LOSERS

Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs – A call to leave the four Hendrick Motorsports cars on track following Joey Gase‘s wreck at Lap 93 backfired when the caution was extended for a NASCAR chase vehicle breaking down. That led to the night unraveling for the Hendrick group, with Kyle Larson (10th), William Byron (18th) and Alex Bowman (22nd) unable to recover from lost track position and, in Byron and Bowman’s case, ill-timed flat tires.

Christopher Bell – Now last in the Round of 12 with a 25-point deficit after finishing 24th. Bell’s car was damaged following contact with Kurt Busch while entering pit road during the competition caution. He was then penalized during the Stage 1 break for pitting while pit road was closed in order to fix the damage. A few laps later, he failed to beat the pace car after another stop on pit road and lost a lap.