Brad Keselowski Wins Three in A Row – Playoffs Start with Excitement at Vegas
by Kent Whitaker Scores & Statson
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.
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.
“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 Keselowski
2.069 points (advances with a win)
2. Martin Truex Jr.
3. Kyle Busch
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Joey Logano
6. Kurt Busch
7. Ryan Blaney
8. Kyle Larson
9. Aric Almirola
10. Austin Dillon
11. Clint Bowyer
12. Alex Bowman
13. Jimmie Johnson
14. Chase Elliott
15. Erik Jones
16. Denny Hamlin
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