Martin Truex Jr. had the dominant car most of the day but had to beat Brad Keselowski when it mattered most in the closing laps of the Kobalt 400.
Keselowski edged out Truex on the final restart and had the win in check, but Truex closed the gap, thanks to a broken part on Keselowski’s car, and passed him on the backstretch with two laps to go to score the victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Keselowski said his team will need to take the car apart to find out the cause of what happened.
“At the end, we have to go to inspection and stuff, so we’re not allowed to look. I just know it was something major,” he said. “It wouldn’t turn and I lost brakes, so that’s a pretty good indicator, but that’s the way it goes. That’s racing and that’s why you watch until the end and you never know what’s gonna happen.
“It’s frustrating, but you put yourself in position to win and good things will happen. That happened to us last week and didn’t happen this week, so you just pick up the pieces and move on. Luckily, they’re really big pieces. We’ve got a lot to be proud of.”
Keselowski and Truex led a combined 239 of 267 laps of the first leg in the three-race west coast swing on the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule. Starting from the pole, Keselowski led most of the first stage and surrendered it under the second caution of the race when teammate Joey Logano opted not to pit.
Truex passed Logano with ease on the ensuing restart and held it for most of the day, only losing it during green-flag pit cycles or when others went on different pit strategies from him.
Keselowski passed Chase Elliott to take second with less than 40 to go, closed the gap on Truex and passed him in Turn 3 to take the lead with 23 to go. Danica Patrick’s engine expired on the frontstretch with 18 to go, setting up the nine-lap run to the finish.
On the final lap, Kyle Busch veered hard to the bottom lane on the backstretch, making contact with Logano in the process. In Turn 4, Logano got loose, made contact with Busch and sent him spinning.
Busch went to Logano’s car on pit road after the race and a fight ensued.
“We were just racing hard there at the end,” Logano said after the fight. “I was underneath him on the backstretch and he tried to crash me into the corner getting underneath Brad there and at that point, I was just trying to get through the corner. I was sideways all the way through and get into him. Nothing intentional. I understand his frustration, he crashed. The same thing could have happened into 3 what he did to me.”
Kyle Larson, Elliott, Logano and Keselowski round out the top-five.
Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer round out the top-10.
The race lasted two hours, 56 minutes and 39 seconds at an average speed of 136.032 mph. There were 14 lead changes among six different drivers and six cautions for 34 laps.
Keselowski leaves Las Vegas with a one-point lead over Larson.C1703_UNOFFRES