Power Ranking after Las Vegas

The NASCAR season is now officially, officially, underway. Obviously, Daytona started the season, but the second race is circled on every team’s calendar as a ‘test’ race of sorts, where car performance can first be seen without the help of a 200+ mile per hour draft. Joey Logano picked up the victory in the Pennzoil 400, and the top-ten was full of unexpected success stories. That led to some large shakeups in this week’s power rankings, but a driver who hasn’t yet won now leads the pack.

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Joey Logano Repeats at Las Vegas and Wins Pennzoil 400

Joey Logano takes the Checkered Flag at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as the defending winner from 2019.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – FEBRUARY 23: Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Pennzoil Ford takes the checkered/yellow flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on February 23, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

After an exciting start to the 2020 season, the NASCAR Cup Series moves west for a string of races on the pacific coast. Starting with Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the Pennzoil 400, this is the first test to gauge how competitive these teams and new drivers will be this year. With a big rookie class and some drivers on new teams, the time is now to perform. And Joey Logano did just that with a repeat win at Las Vegas in the Pennzoil 400.

Stage 1

Martin Truex Jr. paced the field to the Pennzoil 400 green flag as a caution immediately came out for Daniel Suarez. Suarez’s car had a mechanical issue and the field reset to restart the race. Joey Logano had a great jump and quickly moved into the lead. Kevin Harvick stayed with Logano and ended up taking the lead on lap 13. Harvick controlled most of the first stage of the race, but it was Chase Elliott with a lot of speed in the long run. Elliott passed Harvick for the lead with 13 laps remaining in the stage and never looked back. Chase Elliott wins the first stage.

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Crew Chief Brian Pattie Parlay Strategic Call into Third-Place

Ricky Stenhouse Jr, led by crew chief Brian Pattie finishes third at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – FEBRUARY 21: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #47 Kroger Chevrolet, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on February 21, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has a lucky charm. His name is Brian Pattie.

In his capacity as crew chief on Stenhouse’s No. 47 JTG Daugherty Chevrolet, Pattie often opts for contrarian strategy. That certainly was the case in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, as Stenhouse built on a strong Daytona Speedweeks with a strategic third-place finish in the second NASCAR Cup Series race of the season.

Brian Pattie repeatedly kept Stenhouse on the track during green-flag pit stop cycles, hoping for a timely caution. The gamble finally paid off when Chase Elliott hit the turn one wall on lap 220 because of a flat left rear tire.

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Jimmie Johnson Shows Speed in Strong Fifth-Place Run at Vegas

Jimmie Johnson at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with first Top-Five finish since 2019 July race at Daytona.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – FEBRUARY 21: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on February 21, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway provided Jimmie Johnson with just the sort of consistent strong he needed after two winless seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Driving the new sleeker Camaro introduced into NASCAR’s top series this year, Johnson finished ninth in Stage 1, seventh in Stage 2 and fifth in the race after surviving a chaotic restart with two laps left.

The seven-time champion was upbeat after posting his first top-five result since last year’s July race at Daytona International Speedway.

“It was a strong day,” Johnson acknowledged. “With about 15 to go or so, I got into the outside wall and lost some spots. But we didn’t have a strong enough tire rub to cause any problems. We put rights (right-side tires) on before that final restart. Chaos was happening in front of me and I was able to sneak through to get a top-five finish…

“We’re trying to just understand this new Camaro body and the setup that needs to go with it. We’re close, but there’s still a little bit more work for us to do on our car to get the balance between the clean air and the traffic closer. But for the first try on a downforce track, the guys did a really nice job.”

Joey Logano Defends his Win in NASCAR Cup Race at Las Vegas

Joey Logano celebrates winning the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – FEBRUARY 23: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on February 23, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS – In a final two-lap scramble that ended with a multicar crash on the frontstretch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it was Joey Logano finding a way to defend last year’s victory in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Cup Series race.

Joey Logano sped away after a restart on lap 266 of 267 and led runner-up Matt DiBenedetto to the finish under caution to win for the second time at Las Vegas, the first time this season and the 24th time in his career, breaking a tie with Ricky Rudd for 35th all-time.

To further clarify, Logano was one of seven lead-lap drivers who stayed out on older tires when Ross Chastain’s spin in turn two brought out the eighth caution of the afternoon on lap 261. That yellow flag changed the complexion of the race. 

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Rain Cancels Vegas Qualifying; Inspection Issue Sends Kyle Busch from Pole to Rear

LAS VEGAS, NV – FEBRUARY 22: The crew of NASCAR Cup Series driver Erik Jones (20) Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) Toyota Camry wait in the rain to get their race car through tech inspection Saturday, February 22, 2020, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Will Lester/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

LAS VEGAS – A persistent drizzle at Las Vegas Motor Speedway forced the cancellation of Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series qualifying session for Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Accordingly, the starting field has been set according to the rule book, with the cars set to line up according to the final 2019 owner points. That puts Kyle Busch on the pole, with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. on the outside of the front row.

Because of inspection issues, however, Busch will drop to the rear for the start of the race. Racing to the front could be a huge issue for the reigning series champion, given handling issues that plagued the No. 18 Toyota during Friday’s practice sessions.

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Can Hendrick Overcome the Aero Issues Jimmie Johnson Exposed at Vegas?

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – During the opening laps of last Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson looked like the driver who has won 83 races and a record-tying seven Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championships.

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Speeding Penalty KOs Kyle Busch’s Chance for Weekend Sweep

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LAS VEGAS – It was lap 129 of Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and Kyle Busch had his car dialed in.

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Kevin Harvick’s Team Still Trying to Decipher New Package

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For the second straight week, Kevin Harvick looked dominant in the early stages of a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

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Kurt Busch Rides Contrarian Strategy to Top-Five Finish

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Kurt Busch was struggling in dirty air early in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The solution? Trade the dirty air for clean air at the front of the pack.

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