LAS VEGAS – In a race that saw Martin Truex Jr. and Toyota earn their first victory of the 2017 season and win all three stages in dominating fashion, the No. 78 was an afterthought.
That was due to the fight seen ‘round the world between Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. Did Busch land a punch? What precipitated the incident? How did Truex Jr. whip the field? All those answers and more coming your way.
Let’s take a Victory Lap from Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
TRUEX JR. TRIUMPHS
Despite dominating the Kobalt 400 leading 150 of the 267 laps, the No. 78 of Truex Jr. fell behind Brad Keselowski on lap 259, which also happened to be the final restart. The race seemed to be over, until the No. 2 encountered an unidentified problem and began slowing at a rapid pace with two laps to go. Truex Jr. caught, passed and cleared the No. 2 and went on to victory lane for the first time in 2017.
“We definitely had our share of races where we’ve dominated and gave one away,” Truex Jr. told FOX post-race in victory lane. “It looked like today was going to be another one of those. The runs just didn’t work out the way we needed them. We were struggling on the really long runs.”
But sometimes in racing, it’s better to be lucky than good.
“I was out of control (on that last run), and Brad was really good on the long run,” Truex Jr. went on to say. “I hate that he had problems. He was strong and we weren’t going to do anything with him, but then he lost the brakes or something. A little bit of a gift, but we’ve given some away, so it feels good to come out on the good end for once.”
YOUNG STARS SHINE
Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney all came home inside the top ten when the checkered flag flew on Sunday from the 1.5-mile tri-oval. Larson and Elliott finished second and third, respectively, with Blaney coming home in seventh. Those three drivers are all under 24 years of age. I think it’s safe to say the future of NASCAR is in good hands.
Logano and Keselowski rounded out the top five with Denny Hamlin coming home sixth, Jamie McMurray eighth, Matt Kenseth ninth and Clint Bowyer tenth. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne came home in 11th and 12th.
Some other notable finishers include Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 16th, Daniel Suarez in 20th, Kyle Busch in 22nd, Austin Dillon in 25th, Kurt Busch in 30th and Kevin Harvick in 38th.
Finishes of 10th, 30th, 36th and 38th were not what Stewart-Haas Racing was looking for on the heels of Ku. Busch’s Daytona 500 win and Harvick’s Atlanta dominance. But the racing gods had it out for SHR this past Sunday. Bowyer was the only driver who had a solid day (finished 10th).
Busch had a battery issue that forced him to go down four laps at his home track, Danica Patrick suffered a blown engine with 15 laps to go and Harvick suffered a blown right front tire while running inside the top ten on lap 69, ending the No. 4’s day prematurely. The good news for SHR, though, is that next week is Phoenix, where Harvick and the organization run very well.
Let’s just call it what it really was. A GOOD ‘OLE NASCAR FIGHT … well, kind of. First, let’s set the stage before we talk about the elephant in the room. So what exactly happened?
Busch and Logano were battling for fourth place on the white flag lap going into turn three. Keselowski’s problem forced him to remain in the high lane on the backstretch heading into turn three. Busch swerved left to avoid the No. 2, hitting the No. 22. Logano then took a sharp entry into turn three, ended up drifting up into the side of the No. 18 car, and the 2015 champion spun out and crossed the start/finish line, going from a top five to outside the top 20.
NOW is when it gets good. Busch exited his car and immediately–and rightfully so–was pissed off. He walked briskly to the No. 22 of Logano, snaked his way through a few crew members and—BAM—a right hook was thrown from Busch to Logano’s face. Chaos ensued between the two teams and NASCAR officials, as Busch emerged from the dogpile with a bloody forehead.
“I got dumped,” Busch told FOX as the streak of blood trickled down his forehead as he walked away from the situation toward his hauler. “Flat out drove straight into the corner and wrecked us […] that’s how Joey races, so he’s gonna get it.”
Clearly, Busch thinks Logano intentionally wrecked him. SOOOO, let’s hear the other side.
The 26-year-old Middletown, Conn. native had a bit more to say regarding the incident.
“We were just racing hard there at the end,” Logano said, relatively calm after the madness died down. “I was underneath him on the backstretch and he tried to crash me into the corner getting underneath Brad there and at that point I was just trying get through the corner. I was sideways all the way through and get into him. Nothing intentional.”
Logano also mentioned that he didn’t expect a punch with no words.
“He wasn’t in a talking mood,” Logano went on to say. “He was in a fighting mood, I guess. I don’t know. Typically, you can handle this stuff like men and talk about it. You don’t have to fight, but whatever. I’ve never had an issue with Kyle. Kyle and I have always raced really well together. We’ve never had an issue, but I guess that’s over.”
Did Joey actually get punched? Well, PRN’s Jim Noble says yes, but Logano disagrees.
— Joey Logano (@joeylogano) March 13, 2017
RIVALRY? THINK AGAIN…
Full disclosure: I’m all for fights in NASCAR. I’m not in the camp of “all publicity is good publicity,” but I think fights are good for the sport. NASCAR hasn’t had a real rivalry in years, maybe even decades. But if you think this feud will turn into a rivalry, slow your roll.
On Tuesday’s episode of NASCAR Race Hub on FS1, Logano said he and Busch have spoken about the incident and he expects things to be relatively tame moving forward.
“We’ve spoken. Obviously we didn’t speak much there, so I got a chance to call him up earlier today to be able to talk to him a little bit and at least tell my side of the story,” Logano said on Tuesday afternoon. “We’re going to have two sides to the story like there is all the time, but really the bottom line is we’re two passionate race car drivers. We’re two of the best in the sport that are going to go for wins that are aggressive and we collided.”
“In the heat of the moment, when there’s 40 drivers out there with one goal … to go win the race, right? Eventually tempers are going to fly.” Logano went on to say that he “considers Busch a friend.” They were teammates in the late 2000’s at Joe Gibbs Racing.
NASCAR will have another doubleheader in the second leg of “NASCAR Goes West” campaign from Phoenix International Raceway. The Camping World 500 will go green on Sunday from PIR just past 3:30 p.m. ET and the DC Solar 200 with the XFINITY Series will go green on Saturday just past 4 p.m. ET. TV coverage can be found on FOX and FS1 respectively.
Brad Keselowski is the points leader in the MENCS over Kyle Larson, and Elliott Sadler leads the NXS standings.