TRACK: LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY (1.5-MILE TRI-OVAL)DISTANCE: 267 LAPS – STAGE 1/2 80 LAPS, FINAL STAGE 107 LAPS (400 MILES)
WEATHER: RAIN 80% CHANCE SATURDAY, SUN 68 DEGREES SUNDAY
FAVORITES TO WIN PENNZOIL 400
Martin Truex Jr. (+550)
We will see how the crew chief transition from Cole Pearn to James Small works this weekend in Vegas. This, not Daytona, is their first true test together. Truex won the last time we were in Vegas (September) and has eight straight Top-11 finishes on the 1.5-mile track including five Top-4 efforts and two wins. He’s won 12 races on 1.5-mile tracks since 2016, nearly two times as much as the next closest driver.
Kevin Harvick (+475)
Another good driver here. Harvick has three Top-4 finishes in his last four Vegas starts, including a win in this race in 2018 and a runner-up last fall. He had quick speed in practice on Friday in being fourth in final practice on single lap runs, third on five laps and first on the 15 lap runs.
Brad Keselowski (+650)
He has three straight Top-3 finishes in Vegas to go along with nine consecutive Top-7 finishes there overall. He can overcome a rough day of practice on Friday based off of that.
Joey Logano (+750)
He’s the defending race winner and has eight straight Top-10 finishes in Vegas himself.
SLEEPERS TO WIN PENNZOIL 400
Kyle Larson (+1,300)
He’s been good at Vegas in the past with four Top-8 finishes in his last five tries, including three of which coming inside the Top 3 (2 runner-up showings). Larson, was ninth and seventh on single laps runs on Friday, seventh and 13th on five lap averages, third and ninth on 10 lap averages, while also being third on 15 laps and 20 lap runs.
Ryan Blaney (+2,000)
Has five Top-7 finishes in his last six starts in Vegas. He’s coming off an emotional runner-up finish this past week in Daytona.
Jimmie Johnson (+2,500)
Johnson was quickest on short run speed (1 lap and 5 lap) averages in final practice and second on the 10 lap runs too. He’s a four-time Vegas winner too.
William Byron (+2,500)
He finished seventh in the playoff race last Fall. Byron, was also 11th and 12th on single lap runs, 20th and 11th on five lap averages, seventh on the 10 lap chart and eighth on the 15 lap.
Alex Bowman (+2,500)
Bowman, was sixth in last September’s race in Vegas. He also was fifth and 10th on single lap runs on Friday, fourth and seventh on five lap runs, second and fourth on 10 lap averages, second on 15 laps and quickest on 20 lap charts.
Kurt Busch (+2,500)
Busch, was probably the top Chevy driver on Friday as he was fifth in this race last year, seventh and 14th on single lap runs, ninth and eighth on five laps, fifth in both sessions on 10 laps, fifth on 15 laps and fourth on 20 lap runs.
Aric Almirola (+4,000)
He had a fast car in Daytona and enters with scoring three Top-10 finishes in four Vegas tries since he joined SHR in 2018. Almirola, was first and third quickest in practice on Friday, third and second on the five lap runs, first and 10th on 10 laps and sixth on 15 lap averages.
Matt DiBenedetto (+6,600)
Why not here? This car has four straight top 15 finishes in Vegas with Paul Menard. Now, they get an upgrade in DiBenedetto. Plus, DiBenedetto was sixth and fifth in single lap runs, fifth and fourth in five lap runs and up front in long run speed too.
|DRIVER||ODDS TO WIN|
|Martin Truex Jr.||+550|
PENNZOIL 400 HEAD-TO-HEAD DRIVER PICKS
Kyle Busch (-125) vs. Denny Hamlin (-106)
Busch has three Top-7 finishes – two inside the Top 3 – in his last four Vegas starts. Hamlin hasn’t scored a Top-5 finish in each of his last six Vegas starts and even the fifth-place run that he had in 2015 is his lone Top 5 showing on the 1.5-mile track in his last 14 tries. A Daytona 500 winner hasn’t won the second race of the season since 2009.
PICK: Busch -125
Kevin Harvick (-125) vs. Denny Hamlin (-106)
Harvick, has three Top-4 finishes in his last four Vegas starts, including a win in this race in 2018 and a runner-up last fall. Hamlin, meanwhile, has one Top 5 in his last 14 Vegas starts.
PICK: Harvick (-125)
MANUFACTURERS ODDS TO WIN PENNZOIL 400
Ford’s looked fast last weekend in Daytona and are heading to one of their better tracks in Vegas. They’ve won three of the last four spring races on the 1.5-mile track, including four of the last five overall too. Chevy (+225) hasn’t won in Vegas since 2015 as that’s their lone win since 2013 there.
PICK: Ford +175
TRACK TRENDS TO KNOW
Over the past three NASCAR Cup Series seasons, the spring race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway has been a precursor to how the rest of the campaign will go.
In 2017, Martin Truex Jr. led 150 of the 267 laps in the Cup race en route to a dominating victory. He’d go on to win seven more times that season including the championship as well.
In 2018, Kevin Harvick won his first of eight trips to Victory Lane in the March race in Vegas as he led 214 laps that day. No one won as many races in 2018 as Harvick.
Joey Logano won last spring and would march to fifth in the final standings at the end of the year.
Also, expect this race to run under mostly green flag conditions. Last year’s race saw two caution flags fly — both for stage breaks. In the race in 2018, we saw only four cautions fly for just 29 laps. In the playoff race last year, we only saw four more yellows, half for stage breaks too, for 22 combined yellow flag laps.
Martin Truex Jr. has won 12 races on 1.5-mile tracks since 2016, nearly two times as much as the next closest driver. Furthermore, four drivers have combined to win 24 of the 33 races on 1.5-mile tracks since 2017: Truex (10), Kevin Harvick (6), Kyle Busch (4) and Brad Keselowski (4).
Usual Suspects Should Win
Over the last eight Cup races in Vegas, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano have combined to win them all.
Also, Penske, SHR and JGR/Furniture Row have won the last 10 Vegas races. The last non team of them to win? Roush/Fenway Racing (Carl Edwards) in 2011.
Stage 2 Success
Here’s a strange but true stat, the second stage winner at Vegas has won all five races under the stage racing era.
Vegas Wins For The Grown Folks
Joey Logano’s spring win last year was the first time that a Cup winner was under the age of 30 in any of the last 12 races run at the track. The recent trend shows that the drivers over the age of 30 will be contending for the win on Sunday.
Qualifying Won’t Hold Much Merit
Qualifying won’t hold much merit to who ends up celebrating in victory lane on Sunday evening in the Nevada desert. That’s because this is an impound race. That means Friday’s practice sessions hold a ton of weight on who we think will shine this weekend or not.
Just look at the starting positions of the top five finishes in last year’s playoff race in Vegas. That was an impound race too — 24th, 3rd, 18th, 8th and 23rd respectively. What about sixth through 10th?
19th, 14th, 15th, 22nd and 17th respectively.
Eight of the top 10 finishers came from Row 7 on back. A few weeks later at Kansas, another 1.5-mile track that was an impound race, just one car that started in the top finished in the top 18. That’s saying something. Qualifying is a bit of fools gold.
Last September in Vegas, Stewart-Haas Racing cars grabbed the top four starting spots. They elected for qualifying speed in hoping that the weekend’s race on the 1.5-mile track would reward clean air. The others went for true race pace.
You can tell which strategy worked.