Round one of the Monster Energy Cup Series Playoffs kicked off this weekend with an exciting race at Las Vegas! In the end, it was Brad Keselowski securing three-straight wins following Sunday’s South Point 400. With the win, he’s the first of the sixteen-drivers eligible to move forward into round two. 

You can bet that several of the other fifteen Playoff drivers are already worried about making the cut for round two after the next few races. A win during any round secures advancing towards the Cup Series Championship. Keselowski made a statement that he may be the driver to beat following a race mostly dominated by him and his two Team Penske teammates as well as Martin Truex Jr.

Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Ford for Team Penske, led 75 laps with his teammate Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Ford, ahead of the field with 46 laps. Truex, driver of the No. 78 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing led a race-high of 96 laps. In fact, it was all three of those drivers that were in the mix for the win towards the end of the race during late restarts.


Late cautions foil Larson's Vegas chances


Keselowski was able to fend off several charges during the restarts, which included lots of banging side panels and move ahead by several car lengths. Following the win, the excited driver commented on how much he appreciated the fans staying for a race in 100+ degree weather before commenting on capturing the 500 wins in motorsports for his boss.

“To start off the playoffs with a win, that's really strong, let alone three in a row,” Keselowski said following his third straight win. “We nailed the pit stops and the restarts when it counted, and we were strong. We did it, boss! That's quite a number, right? It's really great to be a part of that and to get the last one to get us there, that's pretty great.”

Several Other Playoff Drivers Exit Early

The first race of round one was not what several drivers had in mind when it comes to finishing order. Drivers such as Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, and Denny Hamlin all ran into trouble. Harvick blew a right front tire early sending him into the wall where he collected fellow playoff driver Eric Jones who was running the high-line of the track. Jones was a favorite by many to win the race following him capturing the pole.

Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Ford for Stewart – Haas Racing, let his feelings about the tires Good Year brought to the hot race track.


Tough-luck Truex laments Las Vegas loss


“We had a great car, and then you put a set of tires on it and you can hardly make it through the field,” Harvick said after being released from the infield care center. “I'm not happy about anything right now. It’s like Russian Roulette every time you put these piece-of-crap tires on.”

Playoff Standings Following Las Vegas

Harvick and Jones were the first playoff drivers eliminated from the race with Elliott following several laps later. Denny Hamlin saw his day end early when he spun and plowed through the infield grass. The grass and dirt destroyed the front of the car ending his Las Vegas run. Jimmie Johnson finished a few laps down in the 22nd position which sent him down the points list.



Four drivers will be cut from the Playoff eligible list after the next two races. Following Las Vegas, Johnson, Elliott, Jones, and Hamlin are the drivers on the bubble.

1. Brad Keselowski2.069 points (advances with a win)
2. Martin Truex Jr.2,087
3. Kyle Busch2,085
4. Kevin Harvick2,060
5. Joey Logano2,056
6. Kurt Busch2,046
7. Ryan Blaney 2,042
8. Kyle Larson 2,041
9. Aric Almirola2,034
10. Austin Dillon2,031
11. Clint Bowyer 2,029
12. Alex Bowman2,028
13. Jimmie Johnson 2,022
14. Chase Elliott2,019
15. Erik Jones2,009
16. Denny Hamlin2,008

 

Kyle Busch had issues on pit road and he spun his car late but was able to battle back for a top-ten finish. Since both he and Harvick had so many points built up entering the race on Sunday the hits they took did not push them too far down the playoff standings.

Las Vegas Race results

1. Brad Keselowski
2. Kyle Larson
3. Martin Truex Jr.
4. Joey Logano
5. Ryan Blaney
6. Aric Almirola
7. Kyle Busch
8. Daniel Suarez
9. Ryan Newman
10. Paul Menard
11. Austin Dillon
12. Regan Smith
13. Trevor Bayne
14. AJ Allmendinger
15. Chris Buescher
16. Corey LaJoie
17. JJ Yeley
18. Landon Cassill
19. Alex Bowman
20. Ross Chastain
21. Kurt Busch
22. Jimmie Johnson
23. Clint Bowyer
24. Matt DiBenedetto
25. Jeffrey Earnhardt
26. Kyle Weatherman
27. David Ragan
28. BJ McLeod
29. Michael McDowell
30. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
31. Reed Sorenson
32. Denny Hamlin
33. Timmy Hill
34. Ty Dillon
35. Jamie McMurray
36. Chase Elliott
37. William Byron
38. Bubba Wallace
39. Kevin Harvick
40. Erik Jones

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