Sunday, March 3, 2019

Pixelated RESULTS: Logano Wins and Busch Misses Out on Triple Sweep in First look at the New Aero Package in the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 03: Aric Almirola, driver of the #10 Smithfield Ford, leads Paul Menard, driver of the #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil Oil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 3, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

By: Daniel Vining, Twitter: @danielvining

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (March 3, 2019) -- This race debuted the full 2019 aero package for the NASCAR Cup Series, featuring front grille air ducts, a taller spoiler and tapered spacers in the motor. The result is lowered horsepower and a greater dependence on the draft.

Joey Logano used that draft, and an overall strong performing racecar, to capture the Pennzoil 400, his first win at Las Vegas in his 12th try… securing a spot in the playoffs and a run at defending his NASCAR Cup Series Championship.

"We've been so close to winning this race in Vegas for so long... we're proud to be able to deliver,” said Logano.

Logano led the final 20 laps, but had to fend off teammate Brad Keslowski, as he made a last lap charge, coming within a car length of Logano.

“His car kept getting bigger in the end,” he said “If it was a few more laps, he was going to get by me."

Brad Keselowski, “He pulled a slide job and I tried to pull it back and I was just a little too nice to him…  I'd like to have one more lap.”

The overwhelming opinion on social media immediately following the race was, “it sucks.” While it’s easy to come to that conclusion, I think that this race was a step in the right direction and I feel that there were areas to mention, both good and bad, to ponder on.

My early impressions were that cars would be able to get runs. The initial start, and subsequent restarts following stage breaks, showed a chaotic scene with racecars battling hard for the first few laps of the run. Slowly, however, the field would spread out and the familiar look of racing on intermediate race tracks surfaced… with one notable exception. The leader didn’t just drive away. Kevin Harvick amassed a four second lead briefly at the end of stage one, but aside from that, the leader remained within striking distance of second place throughout the entire event. This, in a race that saw zero “natural cautions”, with the yellow flag flying only for the stage breaks. That’s the first time that’s happened since October 2002.

Kyle Busch was the Pixelated PICK for this race, and looked to be in a position to capture his third triple sweep, after winning Friday’s Truck race, and Saturday’s Xfinity race. His hopes for that feat fell apart after a pit road speeding penalty put him a lap down, and it took the remainder of the race to work up to third by race’s end.

"If we didn't have the speeding penalty, we would have won this race,” said Busch.

"I was running 31-flats, but once I got within the vicinity of them (the leaders), I was running 31.4's.”

"The cars don't have any speed. You're just trying to draft off another car... They just don't maneuver…  I think we passed the most cars today but we don't have the trophy."

NASCAR executive Steve O’Donnell gave straight shooter answers to the media following the race. He said that the race was decent, but NASCAR is not satisfied with the racing, which he said is a season-long work in progress. He did say that he was relieved that stages two and three were better racing than stage one.

During stages two and three, there was a clear uptick in how racy the leaders were able to be. Much like the start of the race, the restarts were rather chaotic. There was plenty of movement throughout the field. At the start of the second stage, Aric Almirola jumped from 12th to 6th in no time, for example.

As the stages wore on, there was plenty of dancing for position among the leaders. Kevin Harvick and Busch were all over the Penske cars of Keselowski and Logano for the lead.

Aggressive moves by Kyle Busch prior to his pit road penalty racing Joey Logano for the lead put on a great show. Busch used traffic to get to Logano in traffic, and the two swapped the lead several times during that span. It was a fun battle to watch.

In the end, however, the field always managed to spread out and without the aid of cautions to reset them, we were left watching a familiar, and unpopular train.

While there are still plenty of flaws in this areo package, I believe more than anything that no matter what you do to the racecars, this is the kind of racing you will get at these, 1.5 mile, intermediate race tracks.

For what is was, I thought it was a decent race. I’m not going to cry, “it sucked.” Instead, I will continue to encourage everyone to keep a more positive attitude and maintain patience. Next week in Phoenix we will see yet another example of this new package has to offer. In time, and as needed, NASCAR will make adjustments. It’s just going to take time. I’m very confident that the sanctioning body is moving in a forward direction, and look forward to the next race.

PixelatedSPEED is a motorsports news and views website covering all things racing and has been “Bringing Pixels 2 Pavement Since 2018”. If you've made it this far into the post, thank you. Please consider sharing this content on the interwebs and following PixelatedSPEED on Facebook and Twitter and joining in on the conversation. & 

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