LAS VEGAS — Kevin Harvick picked up right where he left off last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, dominating the opening stage of the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Harvick took command on lap two of the 80-lap run and left everyone in his dust, remaining out front for a combined 68 laps en route to his eighth-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stage win and second of the year.
The run continued Harvick’s strong early-season form on intermediate-style race tracks.
“A lot of (our speed) stems back to the end of last year,” said Harvick. “Everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing has done a great job. Our bread and butter over the last five years has really been on these mile-and-a-half race tracks. We’ve got a lot left to work on with this one, though, so we’ll see how the rest of it goes for us this afternoon.”
Harvick is seeking his second win in the last four years at Las Vegas, following a victory in 2015.
Though Ryan Blaney led the field to green from the pole, it was Harvick who stormed to the point and asserted command quickly, taking the top spot away on lap two and opening up a 2.6 second advantage over defending race winner Martin Truex Jr. before the first round of pit stops broke out near the mid-point of the stage.
Most of the leaders came down at that juncture for four tires and fuel, while Front Row Motorsports teammates Michael McDowell and David Ragan stayed out to head the field for 11 circuits following Harvick’s lap 38 pit stop, before Harvick caught and passed McDowell to reclaim his advantage on the 50th rotation.
From there, as Truex was told by crew chief Cole Pearn to save fuel, Harvick opened up the margin to nearly five seconds over the final 30 laps of the caution-free stage. He ultimately crossed the line 3.422 seconds clear of Truex.
Saturday Xfinity winner Kyle Larson came forward to third, giving all three manufacturers — Ford, Toyota and Chevrolet — representation among the top three at the stage break. Blaney and Joey Logano completed the top five.
Brad Keselowski was sixth, with Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch and Paul Menard also among the 10 drivers who scored bonus points at the first stage break of the day.