LAS VEGAS – Martin Truex Jr. ran down late-race leader Kevin Harvick, passed him and drove away to win Sunday night’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Truex, who was more than three seconds adrift of Harvick prior to the final round of green-flag pit stops with 40 laps to go, made up two seconds on pit road and then charged forward after that as Matt DiBenedetto tried to stay out and strategically catch a caution.
When that move backfired and DiBenedetto pitted on lap 247, the hot and heavy battle between Harvick and Truex took center stage at the front of the field, with Harvick trying to find a fast lane around the 1.5-mile Las Vegas oval and Truex going where Harvick wasn’t.
Off of turn two with 20 to go, Truex railed the outside lane of the race track and got a run that put his No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry alongside Harvick down the backstretch.
By the time the pair got to turn three, Truex was out in front and sailing away to victory.
The Mayetta, N.J. native drove out to a 4.173-second margin at the checkered flag for his fifth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of the season, as well as the third time he’s won the playoff opener in the past four seasons.
“The magic was back today, that’s for sure,” said Truex, who won four times in the regular season but had been winless since Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway in June. “We took a gamble this weekend. Thanks to everybody back at the shop that makes this happen. We took a gamble and qualified 24th. For a while it wasn’t looking too smart with the 4 (Harvick) out front, but we got the right adjustments in the end. This was a great car all day long.
“That run before when the 4 was running away from us, we got too loose. I just had to baby it for too long,” Truex added. “The last five laps of the run, we started to equal out to him. I just said to Cole (Pearn, crew chief), ‘You got to tighten me up some more so I can hustle.’ At the end I was able to hustle all the way to the checkered and get to the end.”
With his victory, Truex is locked into the Round of 12 in the playoffs, meaning the pressure is off his shoulders over the next two races at Richmond (Va.) Raceway and the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway ROVAL.
“(Winning) takes the pressure off, for sure. The biggest thing is just more playoff points,” noted Truex. “The next two weeks, we can try to get even more of those. That’s huge. Any playoff points we get are going to help us get to Homestead.
“I felt like after Charlotte (in May), we’d run good here. This package has been so tricky to figure out, but Cole and the guys worked really hard this week to come here with something different. We took a bit of a gamble and it paid off big for us.”
Harvick came home second after leading three times for 47 laps, but had nothing for Truex when it mattered most with his No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang.
“Man, we always want to win, but these guys did a great job to give us something to work with,” Harvick said. “We were way off when we got here this weekend and this team just kept working. We qualified well but weren’t where we wanted to be when we started the race. We got stage points, led there late and gave ourselves an opportunity.
“I knew the Gibbs cars would be tough,” Harvick added. “Martin was just so much better on the second half of the run. He made up that ground there and was able to stay close enough to us. My car started to get loose and push the front. It was in a four‑wheel drift.
“We were good at the end, just not quite good enough.”
Brad Keselowski crossed the line third, followed by Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney.
Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman completed the top 10, as playoff-eligible drivers filled the front 10 positions at the finish.
Logano led the most laps on the night, putting his Ford out front for 105 of 267 laps, but sustained significant damage on lap 187 after contact with Daniel Suarez that set him back and bounced him from contention to win the race.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.