Three takeaways from Joey Logano’s TKO victory over Kyle Busch — and Martin Truex Jr.’s first-place finish — at Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
1. A FIGHT TO THE FINISH … AND BEYOND
After race winner Truex was brought up to speed on the pit road fisticuffs between Busch, from the fighting city of Las Vegas, and Logano, from Middletown, Connecticut, which may or may not be a fighting city, this is what the driver of the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota had to say:
“Yeah, I’m sure NASCAR is gonna love that one …”
He said it in a way that suggested NASCAR wouldn’t love the rumble between the two paint traders that started when they approached the slowing car of Brad Keselowski and collided where the sweeping grandstand in Turns 3 and 4 used to be, before it was buried and turned into an RV viewing area.
But when NASCAR sees the social media hits after this latest skirmish featuring gentlemanly engine starters, NASCAR is gonna love it.
Even if NASCAR would never say that for the record.
Big-time stock car racing has been on a downward spiral that would impress Billy Kilmer, the old Washington Redskins quarterback, who was noted for wobbly forward passes.
Will breaking down a big race into three smaller races and adding Monster Energy Girls reverse the trend of empty seats and fleeing sponsors?
Remains to be seen.
Will a fight to the finish, and a fight after the finish, move the needle toward an upward spiral while people are filling out their March Madness brackets?
Certainly cannot hurt.
2. OBEY THE SPEED LIMIT
The pit road speeding penalties that dominated much of the prerace forecast never really materialized. NASCAR revealed the location of the pit road timing lines to the race teams during practice Saturday, instead of springing them as a surprise on race day.
There were 13 speeding tickets administered at Atlanta last week, including one with 11 laps left to Kevin Harvick, who was headed to a dominating victory. Nobody likes to see that, except for perhaps the second-place guy, who was Brad Keselowski.
There also were 13 drive-thru penalties in the 2016 Kobalt 400 for exceeding the 45 mph speed limit on pit road. There were only three Sunday, with only one contender — Kyle Busch — getting dinged.
The warmer-than-usual temperatures did bring some oil to the racing surface and challenged the drivers to an extent, especially at the end of long runs when their tires went off. But before Busch and Logano traded noogies on and off the track, there were only two incidents, one minor (Derrike Cope) and one fairly major, when Harvick cut a tire and slammed the wall past the start-finish line. He wasn’t injured.
3. Y’ALL COME BACK NOW, YA’ HEAR?
There were a lot of empty seats again — a few more than last year, according to multiple observers. After the grandstand on the back side of the track was shoveled under in 2015, it left LVMS with room for about 100,000 paying customers, and about 2,000 people who were given free tickets for test driving a Prius.
Multiple observers placed Sunday’s crowd around 70,000.
Is that enough to sustain a second race at LVMS, which at long last was awarded a 2018 playoff date on Wednesday past?
Provided the same 70,000 that show up in spring come back in the fall.