2018 NASCAR Preview: Week 3 – Las Vegas

Race 1 of “NASCAR Goes West!”

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After the living hoopla that is the Daytona 500, and the spanking that points-leader Kevin Harvick put on the field at Atlanta, we’re two weeks in and off to the Left Coast.  Las Vegas has been a fixture at Week 3 for years (and does so well they’ve been awarded a 2nd date later in the season), and is part of a three-race “west coast swing.”  The Pennzoil 400 kicks that off and is set to run tomorrow afternoon; here’s what to look for:

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Ryan Blaney will lead the field to green on Sunday after winning the pole Friday for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photo: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Ryan Blaney was fastest on Friday and has earned P1 for Sunday’s race.  He’s got a pretty good record here, too, finishing 7th in 2017 and is 2nd among active drivers with a 10.7 average finish.  And, not sure how much this really matters, but he certainly wore the right firesuit this week.

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Kyle Larson has been fast in Practice all weekend long (Photo: Russell LaBounty/NKP)

Kyle Larson was fastest in 1st and 2nd Practice, and was 2nd in Happy Hour on Saturday afternoon.  Qualifying between the first two sessions didn’t pan out exactly as intended, starting Inside, Row 3.  He finished 2nd here in 2017, and certainly has the speed to put him up there again.

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Martin Truex Jr. celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas on Sunday, March 12, 2017. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

Martin Truex Jr. got the first of his series-leading eight wins at this race last year, and rolls off 4th tomorrow.  He was a master on the 1.5-milers in 2017, a disturbingly low 2.7 average finish — 2nd, somehow, to Bobby Labonte’s 2.4 in 1999.  How?

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NASCAR champion Kurt Busch is interviewed by the media at the LVCVA Ultimate Sports Weekend Pep Rally in Toshiba Plaza at The Park Las Vegas on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. CREDIT: Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau

-This is Kurt‘s home track (along with younger brother Kyle), but the elder Busch has yet to win here.  Of all the active tracks, it is his best in terms of average starting position (9.4), but his average finish is a paltry 21.8…his worst among all active tracks.  Not exactly sure how or why that works out, but he’d love to get the monkey off his back this weekend.

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Brad Keselowski (2) leads the start of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Kobalt 400 auto race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Sunday, March 12, 2017. (Brett Le Blanc/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Coverage of the race starts on FOX at 3:30pm, green flag scheduled for 3:46pm.

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