As all three national touring series rolled into the Sin City, all eyes were on Kyle Busch. Busch made a statement win last win at Fontana in just his second start with Richard Childress Racing. All eyes were on the Las Vegas native to see if he could win all three races in one weekend once again. Busch did win the Truck race on Friday night. But the Cup Series race on Sunday afternoon belonged to another driver.
It has been said multiple times that Hendrick Motorsports are the New York Yankees of NASCAR. That was once again proven to be true this past Sunday. Joey Logano started on pole and looked to be the early favorite, but that failed to be true. William Byron, the driver of the #24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy, felt confident in his car early. Byron got by Logano for the lead on lap 10, followed by teammate, Kyle Larson. Compared to the two Las Vegas races last season, this race was very underwhelming. Both stage one and stage two went caution free. Byron and Larson would go on to finish first and second in both stages. The two best cars were at the top of the field. On a late race caution, Denny Hamlin would make a gamble with a two-tire pit stop surrounded by the Hendrick drivers on four tires.
On a late race restart with 78 laps to go, Hamlin would have a small lead over the field. Just five laps later is when Larson would take the lead from Hamlin. As the laps would wind down, it looked like it would be Larson’s race. With just three laps to go, the caution would come out for Aric Almirola spinning and hitting the outside wall. This would set up a late-race restart. Most of the field would come down pit road for varying strategies, except Martin Truex Jr, who stayed out. Byron would beat Larson out of pit road. Byron would get around Truex on the final restart to win at Las Vegas for the first time in his career. Larson finished second and Alex Bowman finished third completing a Hendrick 1-2-3 finish. But with victory came a missing piece for the Hendrick family.
Elliott is out due to Injury:
It was announced late Friday evening that Elliott was injured in a snowboarding accident in Colorado. Elliott spent three hours in surgery as doctors worked on a broken femur. The surgery was a success for Elliott on Friday evening. As of Tuesday evening, it was announced that Elliott would miss at least the next six races. Full-time Xfinity Series driver, Josh Berry, will fill in on the oval tracks. IMSA racer, Jordan Taylor, will fill in for Elliott at Circuit of the Americas. Before Las Vegas, Elliott had made 254 consecutive starts, dating back to the 2016 Daytona 500. Back in 2015, Kyle Busch was involved in a heavy crash at Daytona in the Xfinity Series which resulted in a compound fracture of his lower right leg and a broken left foot. Busch came back after missing 11 races to win the Cup Series championship that same year.
This has brought up if Elliott should earn a medical waiver to remain playoff eligible. When Busch won his 2015 championship, NASCAR granted him a medical waiver. Busch had to finish in the top 30 in points before the playoffs started and win one race to make the playoffs. Why wouldn’t Elliott earn a medical waiver? The difference between Elliott and Busch was that Elliott was participating in an off-track activity. Almost the exact same thing happened to Tony Stewart in 2016. In January of 2016, Stewart was forced to miss the first nine races due to an injury in an ATV accident. Stewart made the playoffs by earning a win and finishing in the top 30 in points before the playoffs. If Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch can make the playoffs after an injury, Chase Elliott can do it.
What to expect from Phoenix:
Phoenix is nicknamed “The Valley of the Sun.” But it hasn’t been quite the jewel in the desert for NASCAR recently. Phoenix is the site of the NASCAR Championship weekend. Last season, it was not a great Championship Sunday for the Cup Series. However, this coming Sunday, NASCAR has a new rules package that will make its debut at Phoenix. The new package includes two-inch rear spoilers and the removal of several diffuser and engine panel strakes. This new rules package will be run at most short tracks and road courses throughout the year. Officials hope that this will lead to a 30% reduction in downforce. If the changes with this new rules package, this should be a better race than last November. There was very little passing throughout the race in November. Only time will tell if this new package will work for future races.
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