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Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2017

Martin Truex Jr. passed Brad Keselowski with just two laps remaining Sunday to win the NASCAR Cup Series Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Truex led 150 of 267 laps and became the first driver to win all three stages in a single race under NASCAR’s new points system, per Xfinity Racing:


The win marked the first of Truex’s career at Las Vegas and essentially locked him into the Chase playoffs.

Here is a look at the top 10 finishers with full results available at NASCAR.com:

Kobalt 400 Top-10 Finishers
1 Martin Truex Jr. 78
2 Kyle Larson 42
3 Chase Elliott 24
4 Joey Logano 22
5 Brad Keselowski 2
6 Denny Hamlin 11
7 Ryan Blaney 21
8 Jamie McMurray 1
9 Matt Kenseth 20
10 Clint Bowyer 14
NASCAR.com

 

Despite falling short of his second consecutive win, Keselowski’s fifth-place finish pushed him to the top of the standings. Here is a rundown of the drivers who are currently in playoff position:

NASCAR Cup Series Standings After Las Vegas
1 Brad Keselowski 132 Leader 1 0 5
2 Kyle Larson 131 -1 0 0 0
3 Chase Elliott 129 -3 0 0 0
4 Martin Truex Jr. 127 -5 1 2 7
5 Joey Logano 119 -13 0 0 0
6 Ryan Blaney 106 -26 0 0 0
7 Kurt Busch 93 -39 1 0 5
8 Kevin Harvick 91 -41 0 3 3
9 Kasey Kahne 88 -44 0 0 0
10 Jamie McMurray 86 -46 0 0 0
11 Trevor Bayne 82 -50 0 0 0
12 Clint Bowyer 73 -59 0 0 0
13 Matt Kenseth 71 -61 0 0 0
14 Aric Almirola 70 -62 0 0 0
15 Denny Hamlin 68 -64 0 0 0
16 Paul Menard 62 -70 0 0 0
NASCAR.com

 

Keselowski dominated the early portion of the race by leading 65 of the 80 laps in the first stage.

Kevin Harvick ran inside the top 10 for most of the 68 laps he was on the track and seemed poised to contend for the win, but his day came to an early end.

As seen in this video courtesy of Fox Sports, Harvick’s right front tire went down, resulting in a hard crash into the wall:


According to Jeff Gluck of JeffGluck.com, NASCAR took the necessary precautions to make sure Harvick was OK following the wreck:


Near the end of the first stage, teams enlisted differing strategies, as some took four tires, some took two and some didn’t pit at all.

Joey Logano was among those who decided to stay out on the track, but that was a move that didn’t pay dividends, per Dustin Long of NBC Sports:


Logano fell way back in the field, and Truex took advantage of his own fresh tires to win the stage and bank a playoff point.

Truex secured a ton of momentum by winning the stage and carried it over to the second stage, as he took control of the race, much like Keselowski did in the early going.

One week after pit road speeding penalties played a huge role in the race at Atlanta, Kyle Busch got caught speeding during the second segment and went a lap down, as seen in the following GIF from Fox Sports: NASCAR:


Busch was able to race himself into the lucky dog position, however, and a Derrike Cope crash resulted in his getting back on the lead lap and becoming a factor later in the race.

Truex remained in firm control throughout the second segment to win it and put himself in position to complete the stage sweep.

There was no shortage of action in the third and final stage, starting with reigning Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch falling well off the pace when he needed a battery change on pit road:


Jimmie Johnson eventually overtook Truex for the lead due in part to being on a different pit stop cycle, but Truex managed to regain the lead with 40 laps remaining when Johnson pitted.

Keselowski passed Truex shortly thereafter, though, and looked to become the dominant car in the race once again, much like he was throughout the opening stage.

A major obstacle was thrown in his direction, however, when Danica Patrick’s engine failed with 16 laps to go, which brought out a caution:


Keselowski and Truex restarted side by side, and although they were even at first, Keselowski began to pull away:


Just when it seemed like the No. 2 car was poised to pull away and win for the second consecutive week, Truex managed to track him down and pass him with two laps remaining:


There was something clearly wrong with Keselowski’s car, as he fell all the way back to fifth by the time the race reached its conclusion.

Amid the chaos of Keselowski dropping several spots, Logano and Kyle Busch got together on the final lap, resulting in Busch spinning out.

They then had a pit-road altercation, which resulted in Busch leaving with a bloody forehead:


The last-lap crash resulted in Busch settling for a 22nd-place finish, and he is currently outside the playoff picture in 19th place overall.

There is still plenty of time for Busch to rebound, but the importance of banking points in the new system was obvious based on his passion following the race.

As for Truex, he is picking up where he left off last season when he won a career-high four races and led more laps than anyone else in the series.

Based on his performance Sunday, Truex figures to be a championship contender once again in 2017.



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