5 Lessons Learned in Las Vegas

By Jared Turner

5. Truex, Furniture Row Are Here To Stay

Remember just two years ago when Martin Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing won a race and wore NASCAR’s proverbial Cinderella slipper all the way to the Championship 4? Well, in 2016, Truex and his Cole Pearn-led team proved that the previous year was no fluke by recording a career-high four victories and consistently having one of the fastest cars throughout the season. With his win at Las Vegas, Truex needed just three races to get to Victory Lane in 2017. That’s a bad sign for the competition or anyone hoping that Truex and his team might be ready to fade a bit this year after two seasons when they defied all expectations.

4. Dale Jr. Lacks Last Year’s Pace

Last season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second at Atlanta and eighth at Las Vegas — a track where he’s finished second on three occasions and generally tends to excel. Two weekends ago, Earnhardt finished five laps down in 30th at Atlanta. He followed that dismal result up with an unimpressive 16th-place finish in Sin City. The concern here is obvious. In two races so far this season at non-restrictor plate tracks, NASCAR’s most popular driver has lacked the front-running form he had in much of last season’s first half before he was sidelined with concussions. While it might a little too early for Junior Nation to hit the panic button just yet, the past two weekends make one wonder if the problem is Junior, his cars or a combination of both.

3. Winning All Three Stages Can Really Be Done

So apparently winning the first two stages of a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race doesn’t doom one for failure, after all. As tongue-in-cheek as that revelation might sound, it seemed after watching the first two races of 2017 that winning either or both of the first two stages was a recipe for disappointment in the end. Martin Truex Jr. shot that theory to oblivion in Las Vegas, however, by winning all three stages — and earning maximum points — on the way to victory. Of course, the Furniture Row Racing driver still needed a little luck in his corner when it came to win the race, since he was headed for an almost certain second-place finish until race leader Brad Keselowski slowed with a mechanical problem with two laps to go.

2. The Toyotas Aren’t So Terrible

By all accounts, it’s been a pretty disappointing start to the 2017 season for Toyota, which has failed to win any of the first three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races after capturing its first manufacturer’s championship in 2016. The good news for Toyota is that there were definite signs of improvement at Las Vegas as the Toyota of Martin Truex Jr. led 150 laps and went to Victory Lane, and two other Toyota drivers — Denny Hamlin (sixth) and Matt Kenseth (ninth) — came home in the top 10. The Toyota of Kyle Busch was battling for a top-five finish on the final lap when he tangled with Joey Logano, resulting in Busch spinning and finishing 22nd.

  1. ‘Rowdy’ Will Fight Back

Did anyone really think Kyle Busch, aka “Rowdy” Busch, was going to leave Las Vegas Motor Speedway peacefully after getting wrecked by Joey Logano in the final turn on the final lap? Well, if you did, then you clearly don’t know Busch. As much as marriage and parenthood may have mellowed the 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion a bit in recent years, you can rest assured that deep down he’s still the same feisty, hot-headed driver he’s always been. Busch proved as much at Vegas by confronting Logano with a post-race fist to the face and then later promising during a TV interview to exact some form of revenge somewhere down the road. Stay tuned, folks. This could get really interesting.