The “package” finally arrived Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and it was Joey Logano who made a special delivery at the Pennzoil 400.
Much of the prerace conversation was about the first comprehensive application of NASCAR’s new high downforce package that is supposed to prevent runaway victories on the intermediate ovals, such as Kevin Harvick’s in last year’s spring race at LVMS.
Logano held off a last-lap charge by Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski to earn his 22nd career victory and first in 12 Las Vegas starts in front of an estimated crowd of 55,000. Driving a Pennzoil-sponsored Ford in a Pennzoil-sponsored race made it all the sweeter, said the 28-year-old reigning series champion.
“That was more intense than I wanted it to be,” Logano said of the .236-second margin of victory and taking a two-point lead over Harvick in the season standings. “There’s been plenty of times here where we’ve led a lot of laps — by the stats this is probably our best racetrack, or close to it. (But) we’d never won, and that’s the most important stat to have.
“Usually something happens during the last run and Brad gets a little better and he becomes the fastest car and wins. He’s done that here plenty of times, and I looked in my mirror and said, ‘Oh my gosh, this is happening again, I can’t believe it.’ ”
Kyle Busch, who was bidding for a weekend sweep after winning the Truck and Xfinity series races on his hometown track, finished third. Older brother Kurt led several laps during the final race stage and finished fifth behind pole-sitter and fourth-place finisher Harvick.
It comes to pass
It was a victory for Logano and a victory for the new rules package, he said, despite criticism on social media that it looked more like a typical Las Vegas race than a dramatic improvement.
“It’s intense, you can’t get away, you’re constantly looking around — mentally I’m exhausted right now,” Logano said of the downforce package, from a driver’s vantage point. “I thought it was as entertaining as could be. It’s not very often where you’re going to have a green flag run that long and have a finish that close between three cars.
“People love to talk about negative stories,” he said of blowback on Twitter. “I don’t understand it. I’m sick of seeing negative stories because people on Twitter are writing something that makes them feel better.”
Perhaps the race, which was completed without a yellow flag other than the mandatory ones after the first two stages, didn’t pass the eye test with “Twitter trolls,” as Logano referred to them. But from a statistical viewpoint, the downforce package was a big success. There were 47 green-flag passes for the lead, and 3,345 passes overall, both Las Vegas records.
“I don’t know that you’re ever going to achieve what everybody wants to achieve,” a cantankerous Kyle Busch said moments after the checkered flag. “Everybody has different agendas, everybody has different opinions.
“It is what it is. It’s called racing. You either like racing or you don’t. Watch it for what it is. Enjoy it for what it is.”