Brad Keselowski opened the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with his third consecutive win of the season in Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Keselowski survived a wild playoff opener to score the 500th victory for Team Penske and move on to the second round. He held off Kyle Larson in a shootout to the checkered flag to score his 27th career Cup win.
“500 wins today, huge day for the Captain (Roger Penske),” Keselowski said. “I did it, boss! To start off the playoffs with a win, that’s really strong. It’s really a testament to this team here. They’ve been so strong on pit road and I couldn’t have done it without them. We weren’t as fast as the 78 car (Truex), but we nailed the pit stops and restarts when it counted.”
Keselowski led 75 of the day’s 272 laps.
Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top five.
Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman and Paul Menard completed the first 10 finishers.
Truex Jr. and Keselowski won the first two stages.
Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin are in the bottom four of the playoff standings.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series now heads to Richmond Raceway for the second race of the playoffs next Saturday night.
How Keselowski Won: The race went into overtime thanks to a late crash between Kurt Busch, Michael McDowell and David Ragan. After a red flag to clean up the aftermath of the accident, Keselowski got a great restart when the green flag reappeared. As the pack battled for position behind him, Keselowski was able to pull ahead and took the checkered flag comfortably ahead of Larson.
Who Had a Good Day: Larson scored his sixth runner-up finish this season, eighth on a 1.5-mile track but is still without a win (Read More)…Truex Jr. has top five finishes in the last three races at Las Vegas…Logano notched his sixth straight Las Vegas top-10 finish…Blaney has top-10 finishes in the last four Las Vegas races.
Who Had a Bad Day: Disaster struck for two playoff drivers just before the end of the second stage when Kevin Harvick blew a right-front tire leaving Erik Jones no place to go but into the rear end of the Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s Ford. Both drivers were eliminated from the race due to the damage (Read More)…Another playoff driver in Chase Elliott was eliminated from competition on lap 213 when Jamie McMurray crashed from a cut tire that was the result of earlier damage when he made contact with the wall. Both drivers exited the race (Read More)…Bubba Wallace suffered brake issues for a second straight week and was eliminated on lap 164…Rookie driver William Byron left the race in an accident that sent him out on lap 210…There was more trouble for playoff drivers Denny Hamlin, who spun late and damaged his car sliding through the infield grass…Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson suffered late race damage from incidents as well.
What Else Happened: The first playoff race held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway saw drivers and teams forced to deal with extreme heat that hovered near triple digits. The result was a slick and slippery race track that also created havoc for set-ups and some tire wear. As was the case in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race held in similar conditions that created a premium to gain spot on restarts.
Quotable: “I’m not happy about anything right now,” Kevin Harvick after blowing a tire and crashing out of the race.
Notables: Sunday was the first time Team Penske had three drivers finish in the top-five…This is the first time in the Modern Era of the Cup Series that three drivers had at least three race win streaks (Keselowski, Harvick, Kyle Busch)…Keselowski has 11 career 1.5-mile track wins.