Truex wins Stage 1 at Las Vegas, Harvick crashes

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Truex wins Stage 1 at Las Vegas, Harvick crashes
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Mar 12, 2017, 8:50 PM

Polesitter Brad Keselowski led the Kobalt 400 to the green at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway signage
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford, Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota during pace laps
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford

But after three cautions — and an early exit by point leader Kevin Harvick — it was Martin Truex Jr. winning Stage 1 followed by Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Keselowski was still in the lead on Lap 17 when Corey LaJoie wrecked in Turn 4. The field pitted two laps later and Martin Truex Jr. was the first driver off of pit road followed by Keselowski, Joey Logano, Blaney, Kyle Busch, Kenseth, Larson, Elliott, Harvick and Kasey Kahne.

Harvick, who started the race 19th, made the biggest gains before the first caution, gaining 10 positions following the first round of pit stops. Aric Almirola overshot his pit and had to be pushed back into his box. LaJoie was the first driver to retire to the garage.

When the race returned to green on Lap 25, Keselowski was on the outside of Truex. By the time the drivers reached Turn 3, Keselowski passed the No. 78 Toyota to regain the lead. The advantage Keselowski enjoyed prior to the first yellow flag was not nearly as great initially. However, by Lap 40, the No. 2 Ford had a 0.643-second lead over Truex, with Logano, Blaney, Kyle Busch and Harvick rounding out the top-six.

At the 50-lap mark, Keselowski was still in command with a 1.7-second lead over Truex. Penske teammates Logano and Blaney trailed with Kyle Busch Busch holding on to fifth. Ten laps later, Keselowski extended his lead by 2.2-seconds — and had lapped 10 cars including Danica Patrick.

Turning point of stage

After battling lapped traffic, Keselowski’s lead dropped to 1.5-seconds before the second caution flew when Harvick blew a right front tire and slammed into the outside wall entering Turn 1 on Lap 69. On Lap 71, the leaders came down pit road — with the exception of Logano, who had been running third at the time of the caution.

On the Lap 75 restart, Logano led the field followed by Jamie McMurray, whose team elected to take two tires on the pit stop, Truex, Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Larson, Elliott, Blaney, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth.

Keselowski got blocked behind Logano and dropped to ninth on the restart. Truex passed McMurray for the lead on Lap 76 followed by Larson, Blaney, Kyle Busch, Elliott and Keselowski.

“We just got destroyed by track position, no where to go,” spotter Joey Meier said.

“I saw,” replied crew chief Paul Wolfe.

At the end of the first stage, Truex had extended his lead by 1.360-seconds over Larson. Logano dropped to 19th after the 80-lap segment.

"Happy the way the strategy worked out,” said No. 78 crew chief Cole Pearn. "I don’t think without that caution we would have been able to get there."

Twenty-six drivers remain on the lead lap.

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More aggressive Blaney and Wood Brothers already seeing gains in 2017

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More aggressive Blaney and Wood Brothers already seeing gains in 2017

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Truex takes Stage 2 win over Keselowski at Las Vegas

Truex takes Stage 2 win over Keselowski at Las Vegas
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