LAS VEGAS — With an ace or two (or three up his sleeve), Martin Truex Jr. becomes the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver to win all three stages en route to the win during Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
But it wasn’t easy as Truex made the winning pass with two laps to go on Brad Keselowski when the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford suffered a mechanical failure in the closing laps. Truex who led 150 laps on the day, thought he had seen victory slip away from his grasp until Keselowski’s misfortune.
“It was a gift, we’ve been on the other side of that plenty of times,” Truex said. “This is the first one we ever kind of had it come our way. Can’t say enough about everybody on this team We made a lot of changes last night and they said let’s go for it and we did. Just really proud, the first victory for the 2018 Camry out here on the West Coast. This is a big one for us.”
“It’s still hard, they’re still tough and you still drive your butt off every single lap, I know I was. I felt like the race didn’t play into our hands and we had to go really long on that last set of tires and Brad was really good on the long run all day. He was always catching us at the end and we had to stretch it and I was driving my little butt off. I couldn’t keep him behind me and we got a little bit lucky there but that’s why you never give up and fight to the end.
Truex’s car excelled on the short runs and drove away from the rest of the field in the first two stages. Keselowski was able to close the gap slowly on the longer runs before making the pass on Truex with 24 laps to go. The 2012 MENCS champion began driving away from the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops Toyota until 16 laps to go, when Danica Patrick’s engine let go, triggering a caution and setting up a nine-lap dash to the finish.
Keselowski got the jump on the restart and cleared Truex. It all seemed as though Keselowksi was headed back to victory lane for the second consecutive week in a row, until he felt something go amiss on his Team Penske Ford in the weaning laps.
“It was something pretty major because I lost brakes and the car wouldn’t turn so I probably caused that wreck at the end,” Keselowski said. “I just couldn’t get out of the way, just broke but that’s how it goes. I wish it was 265 laps but it’s not so that’s why you got to watch it to the end. You win some this way, you lose some this way and maybe we won one this way last week and then we lost it this way this week. It’s all works out in the end.”