Joey Logano picked up an early-season victory Sunday at the 2019 Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
While Kevin Harvick claimed the checkered flag at this event last year, the 2018 NASCAR champion was able to hold off challenges from Penske teammate Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch to pace the field. Harvick and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five in the season's second race since Denny Hamlin won the Daytona 500.
It was Keselowski, though, who made a challenge on the final lap before ultimately falling short after the top five battled throughout the closing stretch of the clean race. It was the Connecticut native's first win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in his 12th try.
Logano earned the win in a notable race, as it was the first one since 2002 without a single actual caution.
The clean racing allowed Harvick to waste little time picking up where he left off in qualifying during the opening stage before Logano made his charge to the front of the pack.
The pole-sitter seized control in the early going and was dominant on his way to a playoff point. He finished the 80-lap stage with a 4.5-second lead over Kyle Busch after leading every lap outside of the green-flag pit stops.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver cruised with few challenges, but that changed in the early portion of the second stage when Keselowski used a two-tire pit stop to propel himself to the lead. However, Logano was racing on four fresh tires when he weaved his way to the front from the outside with an effective move through traffic.
The back-and-forth kick-started an entertaining battle between Kyle Busch and Logano. They traded the lead, were near each other’s bumpers and almost wrecked, although Busch's grip on first place was short-lived after he was penalized for speeding on pit road.
Logano benefited and won the second stage and the playoff points that come with it.
The final stage was defined by a juggling act atop the leaderboard by the primary challengers. Kurt Busch took his turn first when he didn't pit and received an assist from former SRH teammate Harvick, but the latter was kind for only so long before seizing the lead himself.
Meanwhile, Kyle Busch used the majority of the third stage to sneak up through traffic after his penalty and secure a place in the top three by stalking the leaders. The Vegas native even retook the lead for a moment while the others went into pit road for green-flag stops, completing an impressive turnaround even with the disastrous penalty.
"If we didn't have the speeding penalty, we would have won this race," he told reporters.
That may have been the case, but Logano was there to take full advantage and clinch his spot in the playoffs with the win.
Attention turns toward the TicketGuardian 500 at the ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Harvick won last year's spring race, while Kyle Busch won the fall one during the playoffs.