When the drivers and teams finally find their way to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it feels as though the NASCAR season is finally settling in. At Atlanta, their is still a great deal of buzz and discussion about what happened at the Daytona 500. The analysts continue to discuss how the race unfolded including the numerous wrecks and storylines that developed from the race weekend. There is also something to be said about traveling so far away from Daytona, practically the other side of the country, to escape the discussion of Daytona and focus on the races ahead.
Journalists have also now been able to digest and assess how the teams stacked up at a traditional mile and a half track. For example, the Hendrick boys seemed to lack the necessary pace at the Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500 to challenge even the top ten. On the other hand, Stewart-Haas, Penske, and Joe Gibbs Racing all looked to show that they will be in top form most of the year. Yet, The upcoming race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will allow the teams to truly learn about the consistency of their traditional oval packages for the season ahead.
Racing teams will get to learn even more about the new NASCAR technical rules that hope to emphasize closer racing, which is due to the increased rear spoiler and decreased horsepower (Marks, The News and Observer). While we gained some insight last weekend at Atlanta, it will still take a few more races to determine if the changes will have any significant impact on the quality of racing. Once the green flag drops on Sunday, we should have an idea about the cars that will be able to use these new rules to their advantage.
Personally, it is difficult to believe that there will be a pronounced difference the quality of racing. Drivers are not going to want to run side by side or within a car length of each other in the early portion of the race. There will certainly be jockeying of positions, but to think that drivers in the top ten aren’t going to let a faster car easily pass them seems a little overly optimistic. Instead, the changes may simply be amplified in the dying laps when the drivers with the best cars will be pushing as hard as they are able to.
Can drivers such as Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Brad Keselowski pull away from the field this weekend? Or will they find themselves struggling to have more than a few seconds lead. Can Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, and Erik Jones fight for a top five finish? There will be a multitude of intriguing story lines by the time the checkered flag waves on Sunday.
The Pennzoil 400 will also leave us with a better picture as to who the big guns will be for the remainder of the season. Although it is still early, we have seen over the past couple of years that a even a few positions or stage points can make all the difference when trying to get into the playoffs. Hopefully with the race at, Las Vegas we will be gifted with exciting and tight racing amongst the Monster Energy Series’ best drivers. If this weekend can provide us with such a spectacle, then the remainder of the season will be must watch TV.
Marks, Brendan. “Why NASCAR’s New Rules Package Could be a Turning Point…” The News and Observer. 03.01.2019.