It was a fight to the finish at NASCAR’s Kobalt 400 on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
It was a fight after the finish, too.
Martin Truex Jr. passed defending race champion and pole-sitter Brad Keselowski with two laps to go and eased away to his eighth career victory.
Afterward, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano and members of Logano’s crew traded blows on pit road during a melee that left the Las Vegas driver with a bloody forehead.
As Truex Jr. flashed under the checkered flag 1.495 seconds ahead of second-place Kyle Larson after Keselowski faded to fifth with brake and handling problems, Logano and Busch got together in Turns 3 and 4 with Busch’s car spinning out of control down pit road.
That ended a spirited battle for third place and led to a postrace skirmish during which one big punch (by Busch) and several smaller ones were thrown in retaliation.
Truex Jr. became the first driver to sweep all three race stages under NASCAR’s radical new point system and jumped to fourth in the season championship behind Keselowski, Larson and Sunday’s third-place finisher, Chase Elliott.
The No. 78 Toyota was the class of the field for most of the sun-splashed day, as Truex Jr. led 150 of 267 laps. But the 36-year-old veteran from New Jersey began to struggle after developing a track bar problem that allowed Keselowski to pass him with 24 laps remaining.
Danica Patrick’s blown engine oiled down the track and brought out the yellow flag, setting up a nine-lap dash to the finish between the two fastest cars.
“I felt like the race was over at the point, especially after the last pit stop,” said Truex, who ran out of fuel at the Daytona 500 while battling for the win. “Fortunately, (Brad) had issues, and we took advantage of them.”
Contact Ron Kantowski at email@example.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.