The NASCAR season is just three weeks old and the drama is already full throttle.
The drama came to a boiling point on Sunday in Las Vegas when Joey Logano and Kyle Busch raced each other hard to the finish. While battling for third place and positioning on the track, Logano got loose and into Busch’s side, which sent Busch’s No. 18 Toyota into a spin onto pit road.
The feud continued on pit road while the race winner, Martin Truex Jr., celebrated in the background.
Truex reaped the benefits of the new racing format on Sunday by sweeping each stage and picking up the maximum amount of points possible: 40 season points and five playoff points for the win as well as 10 season points and one playoff point for each of his two stage wins. Truex became the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver to win each stage of the race.
“I think stage racing has been really fun so far,” said Truex. “I was a proponent of it before the season started, but we all didn't really know how it was going to play out, and I think it's been a lot of fun and it’s been exciting. It's cool to get rewarded for running good and pushing hard and being up at the front of the pack more consistently than other guys. The strategy certainly gets mixed up depending on where you're at on tires and what track you're at. There's so many things that dictate when you can pit and when you want to make these stages work.”
The new racing format has certainly rewarded the drivers that have put themselves in a position to earn points at the end of each stage.
After three races, two drivers have received points in each of the three stages in every race: Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson.
And the two drivers atop the driver standings? Keselowski and Larson.
Currently, Larson sits one point behind Keselowski with 131 points. Larson has proven himself to be a top competitor early on this season. In each of the three races, he has competed for the win. At Daytona, he looked like he would be headed to victory lane before running out of gas in the closing laps. Instead, he finished 12th. He then backed up his performance the following two weeks with back-to-back runner-up finishes.
“I am super happy with how our season has gotten started,” said Larson following the race in Las Vegas. “Way better than wherever I’ve started a season. I'm really happy about that, proud of our team. You know, the stages were really exciting, or the ends of them, because of the way the cautions fell and different pit strategies and stuff, people staying out, made it exciting taking off. I’m really liking the format change and all that. I had fun and hopefully we can keep these Top Fives rolling and maybe get a win or two here shortly.”
While the drivers are certainly enjoying being rewarded for their racing, the new format has created exciting racing for the fans. As the drivers continue to race hard for each spot in the stages, the drama will continue to unfold as the 2017 season progresses.