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Truex is Stage 1 leader of Kobalt 400 in Las Vegas; Harvick wrecks out

Las Vegas Motor Speedway - Kobalt 400 Practice

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 05: Martin Truex Jr, driver of the #78 Furniture Row Toyota, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 5, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

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Martin Truex Jr. is the leader after Stage 1 (Laps 1-80) of Sunday’s Kobalt 400 NASCAR Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Kyle Larson is running second, followed by Ryan Blaney, pole-sitter and defending race winner Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott.

The 267-lap, 400.5 mile race began with Keselowski leading the first 19 laps before Truex beat him out of the pits following stops under caution.

That didn’t stop Keselowski; he regained the lead on the ensuing restart on Lap 25 and once again put the rest of the 39-car field in his rearview mirror until teammate Joey Logano took the lead from Laps 71-75 and then Truex for the remainder of the stage.

There have been four lead changes thus far in the race, along with three caution periods.

On Lap 18, rookie Corey Lajoie incurred heavy damage when he bounced off the outside wall and across the track into the inside wall, ending his day.

On Lap 69, Kevin Harvick was running sixth when he appeared to have a right front tire blow out near the end of the front stretch heading into Turn, and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford hit the wall hard. Harvick, who was the NASCAR Cup points leader coming into the race and had led the most laps this season, was also one of three drivers who had earned points in every stage in each of the first two races of the season.

“It started vibrating about four, five laps there before it blew out, and I was just trying to ride it to the end of the stage there and obviously it didn’t make it,” Harvick told Fox. “It either just cut the tire, came apart or melted the bead. I’m fine.”

Harvick was critical of the response of the safety team to reach him, telling Fox, “The worst part was the medical response took them forever to get to the car. I thought we had made that better, but obviously we haven’t.”

Logano did not pit during the ensuing caution following Harvick’s wreck and assumed the lead on Lap 71 but had a rough restart on Lap 75, allowing Truex to again regain the lead.

Stage 2 will be from Lap 81 through 160 and the final stage will be Laps 161 through 267.

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