NASCAR Las Vegas Weekend Preview
Kenny Wallace calls it "Lost Wages"
The third weekend of the NASCAR season brings us to Las Vegas for both Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series. Yes, Danica is still in the number 7 car for JR Motorsports and not only that, but she drew first qualifying spot for the Nationwide cars, so will be first out of the drivers trying to qualify for the race.
Jimmie Johnson was the first car out for qualifying, underway as I finish this. Dale Jr. went out second and grabbed the pole positon, which he still held .as this went to post. ....well, Jeff Gordon JUST took it away.
While Las Vegas is technically a “cookie-cutter” track, being 1.5 miles and a D-shaped oval, it is the only track that features progressive banking. The transition from the relatively flat banking of the straight stretches transitions into the corners, differently than at any other track on the circuit. For this reason, drivers who have trouble at other cookie cutter tracks often excel at Las Vegas.
Of the current drivers, Jeff Gordon is a favorite. The Busch brothers are also favorites, given that this is their home town track. Oddly, although Jimmie Johnson seems to have figured out all the cookie cutter tracks, Las Vegas isn’t a great track for him.
In addition to the racing, however, Las Vegas is, of course, a lot of fun for the fans and the drivers, if they like the night life. Every year, the Dale Earnhardt Foundation also sponsors the Celebrity Poker Tournament, with Kerry Earnhardt hosting the event which took place Thursday evening. Kenny Wallace, always hilarious at these things, served as Master of Ceremonies.
This week, a few drivers may have a new lease on life at the track. Carl Edwards is a new dad, with wife Kate having given birth to Anne on Wednesday, a week later than expected. However, her arrival means Carl doesn’t have to worry about things at home and can concentrate on racing to win. Matt Kenseth has a new Crew Chief in Todd Parrott. Todd is one of my all time favorite Crew Chiefs and I am ecstatic to see him working with Matt, one of my favorite drivers. It has been one full year this week since Matt last won a Sprint Cup Race, having followed up his Daytona 500 win in 2009 with the win at Fontana. Las Vegas saw the beginning of his downhill slide that resulted in him missing the Chase for the first time since its inception. Hopefully, the partnering of Matt and Todd will be the start of Matt’s climb back to domination.
Richard Childress Racing has seen improvement so far this season, although it is early, and Jeff Burton is a consistent top ten finisher here. The rest of RCR ain’t too shabby at LVMS either. Added to that is Kevin’s current lead in the point standings, followed very closely by his two teammates and any one in the operation could come out of Las Vegas with the win.
On the Nationwide side of racing, Danica will race again, as she continues to learn more about running in a stock car. Her progress so far is about what we should expect. She did well at Daytona, before getting caught up in a wreck. The race at California was a definite trial for her, and a person could be critical, but in reality, it is going to take her some time to acclimate herself to all the styles of tracks and figure out how to drive the very different kind of car the right way.
So who’s your pick? I’m going to go with my favorite driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Already the detracters are claiming he is heading for another mediocre season and I just don’t buy that.
My dark horse is Martin Truex Jr. Don’t ask me why, he just is.
So Viva Las Vegas. Give us your picks and favorites, and trash talk if you will.