NASCAR is using “group qualifying” along with its new aero package and it needs to be looked at again. The way the teams are doing it makes pit road a possible disaster area as cars wait to enter the track when they feel it best fits their need.
At Las Vegas, the last qualifying session consisting of 12 teams had all the drivers waiting until the last minute before entering the track, resulting in utter chaos as the drivers jockeyed for position. Many drivers mentioned that they were glad they got on the track without any damage.
The new aero package still needs some work as cars struggled to pass each other on long runs. The field spread out considerably and slower speeds resulted in a caution-free race aside from stage breaks. There were times that the race for the lead was exciting, especially between the Penske teams of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.
The Team Penske teammates jumped to the top-two positions and held them for a 40-lap run to the checkered flag. Slide job after slide job, Logano held on to win in the closest finish at LVMS since 2006 (0.236 seconds).
“What a great race,” Logano said. “Brad and I were so evenly matched and you can’t just drive away. He was catching me so quick. To be able to get it there at the end was so fun.”
“I passed Joey with the lapped traffic and caught a break,” Keselowski said. “Then lapped traffic cost me the lead and Joey pulled a slide job. I tried to pull it back and I was just a touch too nice to him.
Kevin Harvick and Logano were the stage winners.
Various pit strategies were used to have teams gain track position, none better than Kurt Busch.
The hometown hero failed to finish in the top 10 in either of the stages, but did not pit after stage 2 and started in the lead for the final stage. Despite having older tires than the rest of the field, Busch was able to stay put firmly inside the top five and held on for the remainder of the event to finish fifth.
After three races in 2019, we have three different winners; Denny Hamlin (Daytona), Keselowski (Atlanta) and Logano (Las Vegas). All three teams can now do what they feel is needed as they wait for the playoffs.
The top 10 in the standings after Las Vegas are: 1. Logano, 2. Harvick, 3. Hamlin, 4. Kyle Busch, 5. Keselowski, 6. Kyle Larson, 7. Ricky Stenhouse, 8. Martin Truex Jr. and Eric Jones (tied), and 10. Kurt Busch.