Las Vegas Motor Speedway was the site of the Round of 16 opener last season.
In 2020, it was the site of the round of 12. With races at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval upcoming, this was a huge race for positioning to advance to the round of 8. As a chaotic race ended, it was hometown hero Kurt Busch, who came into the race below the cutline, picking up his first career win at Las Vegas and locking in a berth to the Round of 8.
The start of the race saw Chase Elliott, who swept both stages in the last race at Las Vegas, drive past Kevin Harvick for the lead. Joey Logano, the winner of the last Las Vegas race, ran second behind Elliott. On lap 10, Kyle Busch passed Logano for second. Elliott held the lead to the competition caution as everyone came down pit road for fuel.
Busch won the race off pit road with Denny Hamlin vaulting himself into the top five. On the restart, Hamlin passed Busch for the lead. Logano once again ran in second after the restart but this time, he held his position behind Hamlin. Hamlin held his position to win stage one, a Cup Series-high ninth stage win of 2020. Finishing behind him was Logano, Busch, Elliott and Harvick.
Busch once again won the race off pit road and led on the restart, which saw intense action. Busch and Logano started out as the top two by Hamlin forced a three-wide battle, cutting off Logano’s move to the inside which caused him to collide with Busch. Logano was forced to pit with a tire rub.
A few laps later, Elliott passed Hamlin for the lead with Alex Bowman running in third place. Lap 39 saw green flag pit stops begin to take place. Busch’s team had an issue with the air gun on pit road, delaying his stop. Once all green flag pit stops were completed, Elliott cycled back to the lead. He held the lead to win stage two, winning three of the four stages at Las Vegas in 2020. Elliott also picked up his eighth stage win of the season.
On the restart, Bowman chose the bottom lane, allowing him to pass Hamlin for the lead, the first time he has ever led at Las Vegas in his career. However, Hamlin retook the lead several laps later. With 80 laps left in the race, debris brought out the first natural caution of the race. On the pit stop, Austin Dillon suffered a penalty due to a safety violation, forcing him to restart 27th.
The restart saw a four-wide battle for second place with Hamlin in front. Matt DiBenedetto held second place for a few laps before being passed by Bowman. Stage three continued to worsen for Dillon as he was forced to pit due to an engine problem. This took him to the bottom of the playoff standings. He resumed the race eight laps down.
With 36 laps left, the lead cars started to come down pit lane. A few laps later, Bowman passes Hamlin but a caution came out for debris from Jimmie Johnson’s car. With many mid-pack cars pitting during the caution, Kurt Busch took the lead off pit road alongside DiBenedetto. Due to Bowman passing Hamlin, Bowman got the free pass for the restart.
On the restart, Kurt Busch won the battle with DiBenedetto to take the lead, just barely. With 17 laps left, John Hunter Nemechek and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. crashed, bringing out the caution. Logano earned the free pass on the restart.
Kurt led on the restart followed by DiBenedetto, Bowman, Blaney and Hamlin who pitted along with most playoff drivers on the previous caution. With six laps left, Willian Byron crashed, bringing out another caution flag. This set up a two-lap overtime finish.
Kurt had a strong restart and held of Hamlin to pick up the victory, his first since Kentucky last year. This is also Kurt’s first victory in his home track at Las Vegas. DiBenedetto finished second while Hamlin finished third.
Playoff driver results:
1. Kurt Busch
3. Denny Hamlin
4. Martin Truex Jr.
5. Alex Bowman
6. Kyle Busch
10. Kevin Harvick
12. Clint Bowyer
13. Brad Keselowski
14. Joey Logano
17. Aric Almirola
22. Chase Elliott
32. Austin Dillon
Below the playoff cutline heading into Talladega will be Kyle Busch (-9), Clint Bowyer (-20), Aric Almirola (-27) and Austin Dillon (-32).
The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Talladega for the YellaWood 500 next Sunday.