Martin Truex Jr. wins in Las Vegas as fight breaks out – USA TODAY

LAS VEGAS — Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski had a fine duel for most of Sunday’s Kobalt 400, with Truex topping a fading Keselowski at the end for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory.

But local boy Kyle Busch provided the fury immediately afterward when he approached Joey Logano near the pit. Busch slid out after battling with Logano at the end and finished 22nd. A fuming Busch squeezed out of his No. 18 Toyota and approached Logano. Logano backed away, and one of his many crew members on the spot stepped between them to confront Busch.

They tangled, and Busch — not known for being magnanimous — left the scrum with a bloody cut on his forehead.

“Not a lot of talking,” Logano said. “Just a lot of swinging. We usually don’t have any issues.”

Were any punches landed? “None to me,” Logano said with a smile.

Busch claimed Logano blocked him when both cars were battling for position and trying to pass the slowed car of Keselowski, Logano’s Team Penske teammate.

With 24 laps to go, Keselowski went low to pass Truex after having looked at the back of Truex’s No. 78 Toyota for almost 100 laps. Three laps later, Keselowski padded his lead to more than half a second. Two laps later, with 17 to the end, the advantage became a full second for the pole-sitter.

The racing was slowed to a crawl at that point, when Danica Patrick’s No. 10 Ford blew its engine into Turn 1, its trail of smoke billowing out the rear of the rig. Truex and Keselowski pitted under the green flag and took four new tires apiece.

When it resumed, Keselowski was behind Truex, but on the back of the track Keselowski went high, took the lead and did not give it back until the final lap when he said something on his car broke.

Keselowski was trying to defend his 2016 victory in the Kobalt 400, and had pulled away from the field on the final restart with nine laps remaining. Keselowski also won last week’s race, at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“I felt like the race didn’t play into our hands,” Truex said. “We got a little bit lucky there. That’s why you fight until the end.”

STAGE 1: Brad Keselowski dominated the first 80 laps, the first scoring stage, of the race as he steadily eked away from the pack. By the 50th lap, he owned a 1.63-second advantage over Martin Truex Jr., who started the race next to pole-sitter Keselowski on the front row. Just three laps later, that gap became 2.35 seconds.

It took Keselowski less than 15 laps to pass Timmy Hill, who started on the 20th row. Hill’s crew soon received a penalty for having an uncontrollable tire in its pit area.

But Keselowski’s fortunes changed when Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Ford blew a tire just past the start/finish line on Lap 70. He smacked into the wall hard, his cabin filled with smoke and he did not exactly get out of the vehicle quickly. He put his window net down – signaling he was OK – but drivers are not allowed to exit their cars onto the track surface without the medical team present unless they are in immediate danger. After being released from the infield medical area, Harvick said, “I’m fine. Blew a tire.”

Harvick, who was conquering all at Atlanta Motor Speedway last weekend before incurring a late speeding penalty in the pits, elaborated a few minutes later while sitting in a golf cart in the infield: “It started vibrating about four or five laps before it blew out, and I was just trying to ride it to the end of the stage … the worst part was the medical response; it took them forever to get to the car. I thought we made that better, but obviously we haven’t … it either just cut the tire, or came apart and melted the bead.”

Truex took advantage of the caution by getting four fresh tires on the ensuing pit stop, while Joey Logano and Jamie McMurray emerged out of the pit first and second by only getting two tires. Truex, who was running second late at Daytona before running out of gas, zipped out to the front and kept a cushion of more than two seconds to beat everyone to Lap 80, and the first-stage win.

Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, Keselowski and Chase Elliott—who was leading late at Daytona before running out of fuel, too—rounded out the top five in the stage.

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STAGE 2: On the 152nd lap, eight before the end of Stage 2, Derrike Cope slipped coming around Turn 3 as Truex was nursing a three-second advantage over Elliott. When the caution flag was waved, Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch stayed out on the track and took the first and second positions when the race resumed.

Truex and Keselowski came out of pit stops behind Johnson and Busch, but that did not last long as Truex again took over the lead, ahead of Keselowski and Kyle Larson to the stage flag. That’s how it finished, and Truex had captured the entire 20 championship points for the two stage triumphs.

“I really do like these big race tracks,” Truex said from his car to an announcer after his second stage win.

LAJOIE OUT: On the 18th lap, Corey LaJoie’s No. 83 Toyota flew into the outside wall on Turn 2 and, with heavy smoke trailing the entire way, came to a standstill on the inside of the track. Smoke enveloped the car. That ensuing caution created the first pit opportunity, which Kyle Busch used to improve his spot by four places. Rookie Erik Jones, who had been running 10th, fell back to 16th out of pit road. LaJoie, from Concord, N.H., was checked out in the infield care center and released after about five minutes. His BK Racing rig wasn’t so lucky. No. 83 was listed as BTW—or Behind The Wall, where his mechanics hustled to repair it—and given five minutes to return to the track. He did not return.

PHOTOS: 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Kobalt 400 Results

At Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas

Lap length: 1.50 miles (Start position in parentheses)

1. (2) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 267 laps, 0 rating, 60 points.

2. (5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 267, 0, 52.

3. (12) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 267, 0, 47.

4. (6) Joey Logano, Ford, 267, 0, 39.

5. (1) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 267, 0, 48.

6. (15) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 267, 0, 31.

7. (3) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 267, 0, 43.

8. (10) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 267, 0, 37.

9. (4) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 267, 0, 30.

10. (13) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 267, 0, 27.

11. (16) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 267, 0, 31.

12. (7) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 267, 0, 25.

13. (20) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 267, 0, 24.

14. (30) Aric Almirola, Ford, 267, 0, 23.

15. (8) Erik Jones, Toyota, 267, 0, 22.

16. (18) Dale Earnhardt Jr, Chevrolet, 267, 0, 26.

17. (21) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 267, 0, 22.

18. (26) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 267, 0, 19.

19. (14) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 267, 0, 18.

20. (11) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 267, 0, 17.

21. (24) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 267, 0, 16.

22. (9) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 267, 0, 18.

23. (25) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 266, 0, 14.

24. (23) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 266, 0, 13.

25. (22) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 266, 0, 12.

26. (31) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 265, 0, 11.

27. (27) Landon Cassill, Ford, 264, 0, 10.

28. (33) Cole Whitt, Ford, 264, 0, 9.

29. (32) David Ragan, Ford, 264, 0, 8.

30. (17) Kurt Busch, Ford, 263, 0, 7.

31. (37) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 262, 0, 6.

32. (36) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 261, 0, 5.

33. (29) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 261, 0, 4.

34. (35) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 260, 0, 3.

35. (38) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 254, 0, 2.

36. (28) Danica Patrick, Ford, engine, 246, 0, 1.

37. (39) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, suspension, 135, 0, 0.

38. (19) Kevin Harvick, Ford, accident, 68, 0, 1.

39. (34) Corey Lajoie, Toyota, accident, 16, 0, 1.

———

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 136.034 mph.

Time of Race: 2 hours, 56 minutes, 39 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 1.495 seconds.

Caution Flags: 6 for 34 laps.

Lead Changes: 14 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders: B.Keselowski 1-19; M.Truex 20-24; B.Keselowski 25-70; J.Logano 71-75; M.Truex 76-124; B.Keselowski 125-126; T.Dillon 127-128; M.McDowell 129-130; M.Truex 131-153; J.Johnson 154-156; M.Truex 157-211; J.Johnson 212-227; M.Truex 228-243; B.Keselowski 244-265; M.Truex 266-267

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): M.Truex, 6 times for 144 laps; B.Keselowski, 4 times for 85 laps; J.Johnson, 2 times for 17 laps; J.Logano, 1 time for 4 laps; T.Dillon, 1 time for 1 lap; M.McDowell, 1 time for 1 lap.

Wins: Ku.Busch, 1; B.Keselowski, 1; M.Truex, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. B.Keselowski, 132; 2. K.Larson, 131; 3. C.Elliott, 129; 4. M.Truex, 127; 5. J.Logano, 119; 6. R.Blaney, 106; 7. Ku.Busch, 93; 8. K.Harvick, 91; 9. K.Kahne, 88; 10. J.McMurray, 86; 11. T.Bayne, 82; 12. C.Bowyer, 73; 13. M.Kenseth, 71; 14. A.Almirola, 70; 15. D.Hamlin, 68; 16. P.Menard, 62.

———

NASCAR Driver Rating Formula

A maximum of 150 points can be attained in a race.

The formula combines the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish.

Martin Truex Jr. wins in Las Vegas as fight breaks out – USA TODAY

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