The old "better to be lucky than good" adage certainly applied to Sunday night's NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, as Kurt Busch caught a caution at just the right time with the laps winding down at the Cup Series South Point 400.
The Las Vegas native's good fortune got him a victory and an automatic berth into the third round of the series' playoffs.
With little more than 30 laps to go and the field cycling through green-flag pit stops, out came the yellow flag. Busch, who had not pitted under green, took advantage and when the green flag dropped again with 25 laps to go, Busch restarted from second place. A lap later, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver passed Matt DiBenedetto for the lead.
Busch, not among the race leaders until that point, hung on, survived a restart and overtime, and went on to get his first victory of the season -- and just his third podium of 2020.
Vegas was the first of three races in the second round that will see the playoff field trimmed from 12 to eight. The Round of 8 begins in three weeks.
DiBenedetto of the Wood Brothers finished second while Denny Hamlin, who led a race-best 121 laps for Joe Gibbs Racing, was third.
Hamlin's finish followed a big week of news for him. Earlier in the week, it was announced that he and basketball legend Michael Jordan had purchased a Cup Series franchise and would field a one-car team next season. Their driver will be Bubba Wallace.
Fourth was Hamlin's Gibbs teammate Martin Truex Jr., while Hendrick Motorsports' Alex Bowman was fifth.
Having tough nights among the 12 playoff drivers were Joey Logano of Team Penske and Austin Dillon of Richard Childress Racing.
Logano may well have fallen victim to payback. On Lap 88, Kyle Busch and Logano were going door-to-door when Busch appeared to bang into Logano. The contacted caused a rear tire rub on Logano's car and sent him to the pits.
Last week at Bristol, in the final race of the first round of the playoffs, Logano blocked Busch late in the race in a move that may have prevented Busch from getting his first victory of the season.
After the Bristol race, Busch said of Logano, "He's nobody's friend for a reason."
Logano fell off the lead lap Sunday because of the pit stop. Thanks to late-race cautions, Logano was able to move up to a 14th-place finish.
Busch had his own problem a bit later. During a green-flag pit stop on Lap 118, the air gun of Busch's tire changer failed and had to be replaced. Busch was running fourth at the time. He finished sixth but never threatened for the win again.
Dillon raced in the top 10 for virtually the whole race -- until he pitted under caution on Lap 191. That's when a penalty on pit road forced him to the rear of the lead-lap field. Then, with little more than 50 laps to go, Dillon's engine threw the belt which powered the power steering and the cooling fan.
The Round of 12 continues next weekend at Talladega Superspeedway and will be finished off at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course in two weeks.
--Field Level Media