Barnes: Five takeaways from the Kobalt 400

By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief

The third NASCAR round from Las Vegas Motor Speedway is over, and after a long hiatus from Victory Lane Brad Keselowski made his long awaited return in the Kobalt 400 on Sunday.

1) Weather

Someone somewhere was throwing every odd obstacle at the NASCAR community on Sunday. First, there was rain. Then, there was intense gust of winds. Later, there was a sandstorm that hit so hard that the cameras from the FOX telecast were shaking, which made it where we were barely able to see the competitors through the dense desert grains.

2) Rookies on rails

Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney were kids on a mission. Early on and continuously throughout, the pair sliced through the field together. At one point they ran fifth and sixth respectively. Late in the race Elliott found the backend of a slowing Matt Kenseth, crushing his No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet and ending any hopes he had of an upset win. For Blaney, he battled among the top five but in the end would settle for sixth.

3) Penske goes 1-2

Blaney and Wood Brothers Racing are considered a branch off of Team Penske, so technically their sixth place finish matters here too, but the performance by Keselowski and Joey Logano all weekend was about as flawless as you could ask from any organization. The duo combined to lead 10 times for 96 laps. Ford may be struggling overall as a manufacturer, but without question Team Penske are carrying them and keeping them from the depths of irrelevancy.

4) Another Pole, another rough run

Kurt Busch won the pole, led early, and looked like a true contender that would hang around until the end. A pit road speeding violation changed all of that and just when he made his way back up into contention late in the running, a loose wheel decided to push the former champion back down. He finished ninth, which is respectable considering everything the No. 41 team encountered, but when will this team stop shooting itself in the foot?

5) Chip Ganassi Racing struggles to find itself

Neither Jamie McMurray nor Kyle Larson was talked about on Sunday, unless we are referring to the two cautions Larson was involved in. So much was made of what could be in 2016, but the recent two weeks have not been impressive. McMurray hung on to finish 16th after starting 29th and although the positions gained is great, a team as solid at CGR shouldn’t be starting that far back to begin with. For Larson, the 23-year-old appeared to struggle all afternoon with the handle of his car before being involved in a wreck that would relegate him to 34th. Perhaps it is just a bad race, but it can’t continue if they hope to be Chase contenders come Richmond.

Overall, the racing in the Kobalt 400 was excellent, which was astounding considering the conditions. Much like last week at Atlanta we saw a similar competition package that the drivers up to this point enjoy. Momentum is only as good as your last race goes the saying, so we will see If Keselowski and Logano can carry any into Phoenix next weekend or if someone else will rise to the occasion.

Image: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images

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Joey Barnes is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Motorsports Tribune. He has covered auto racing since 2013 that has spanned from Formula 1 to NASCAR, with coverage on IndyCar. Additionally, his work has appeared on Racer, IndyCar.com and Autoweek magazine. In 2017, he was recognized with an award in Spot News Writing by the National Motorsports Press Association.

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