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The Latest: Brad Keselowski wins NASCAR playoff opener

September 16, 2018
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Martin Truex Jr. (78) drives during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Latest on the NASCAR playoff opener at Las Vegas (all times local):

4:03 p.m.

Brad Keselowski has earned his third consecutive victory by winning the playoff-opening NASCAR race at Las Vegas, persevering through a wreck-filled afternoon and roaring away from the field in overtime.

Keselowski excelled on the final restart and secured team owner Roger Penske’s landmark 500th victory across all competitions.

Michael McDowell and Kurt Busch wrecked with just two laps to go, forcing a red-flag stop and overtime. After the drivers re-fired their engines for the two-lap shootout, nobody could keep up with Keselowski.

Kyle Larson was second, and defending Cup series champion Martin Truex Jr. was third.

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2:43 p.m.

Brad Keselowski has won the second stage of the first NASCAR playoff race, setting the stage for a big finish in Las Vegas.

Keselowski arrived at Las Vegas Motor Speedway riding back-to-back victories from the final two regular-season races. He pulled away from Stage 1 winner Martin Truex Jr. during a late restart and then held off Kurt Busch in second place to grab the second stage victory.

Keselowski hopes to keep pace in the playoffs with the Big Three of Truex, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. Harvick won’t finish in Vegas after blowing a tire.

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2:22 p.m.

Kevin Harvick is out of the NASCAR playoff race in Las Vegas after blowing his right front tire during the second stage.

Harvick’s blowout also took out pole-sitter Erik Jones, who couldn’t react quickly enough and rear-ended Harvick with 120 laps to go at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Harvick and Kyle Busch were tied atop the overall standings heading into the 10-race playoff.

Harvick likely doesn’t need a fantastic result from the first set of playoff races to advance, but the veteran driver was still furious about his tire failure.

“We had a great car, and then you put a set of tires on it and you can’t hardly make it through the field,” he said. “I’m not happy about anything right now.”

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2:15 p.m.

The NASCAR Cup series playoffs have begun at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Erik Jones started on the pole and was passed on the opening lap by Joey Logano as the 16 playoff competitors began their 10-race chase to the big finale at Homestead. Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. also held a lead during the first stage, with Truex winning it.

Las Vegas has a second race this season for the first time. The temperature reached only 58 degrees Fahrenheit (14.44 Celsius) during the March race, but the drivers were sweating in 99-degree (37.22) heat from the start on Sunday.

The desert sun made the 1½-mile track even slicker than usual, forcing drivers to exercise caution while looking for new grooves.

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