Last week’s race at Phoenix International Raceway was at a track that is not like any other that NASCAR visits. The only thing we can take from the race last week is that all the teams are still learning about the new layout of Phoenix. Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch who were always good there but didn’t do well with the new configuration in the fall came back to form. Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart who dominated the race last fall did not fare as well. If last week’s race was the beginning of the real NASCAR season then this week is the first race where those teams who are outside the top 35 in owners points start to get worried. This week’s race is the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a 1.5 mile speedway. This track is one of the typical 1.5 mile NASCAR staples but there are some differences. The banking in the corners is 20 degrees, compared with some of the other 1.5 mile tracks; it is between Kansas and Texas in banking in the corners of 11 and 24 degrees respectively. The Front and back stretches are banked at 9 degrees. It is a D shaped oval like most of the other 1.5 mile speedways.
This track is all about handling and speed. Just like all the other wide 1.5 mile tracks there will be multiple grooves to run in if your car is not right or to compensate for during long green flag runs when your tires wear down. As always on these tracks the Crew Chief needs to watch where those cautions fall, as someone might try to steal it on fuel millage. A drivers prerformance at this track will be an indication of the rest of their season due to the number of 1.5 mile tracks in the NASCAR schedule.
This is the first race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway since Dan Wheldon lost his life in the IZOD IndyCar World Championship race last fall. Dan Wheldon won the Indianapolis 500 in 2005 and 2011. He also was the IndyCar Champion in 2005. Expect there to be tributes to Dan at various times during race coverage.
At this race there will be some focus on those drivers who are outside the top 35 in points who would be expected to be higher in the standings. That would include Jamie McMurray, Jimmie Johnson, David Regan and David Reutimann.
Previous race winners here are Jimmie Johnson (4), Carl Edwards (2), Matt Kenseth (2), Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon and they will run good here. Additional drivers to watch are Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick. If there is a dark horse to watch that would be Dale Earnhardt Jr., he is the next highest rated driver on this track other than those above. This race was the only race the Sprint Cup Series runner up Carl Edwards won last year. This is the Busch Brothers, Kurt and Kyle’s home race track.
If you can’t get to the track, watch the race on Fox starting at 2:30 PM ET. Follow me on Twitter during the race @brian_jr1.