Driver Handicaps: Las Vegas

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This weekend the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. To help you make your Dale Jr. Reality Cup Racing fantasy picks, RacingOne brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for the 267-lap event.

Who's HOT at Las Vegas
  • Matt Kenseth has won twice in the last three races and has led the most laps of any driver with 221.
  • Jeff Burton, the only other two-time winner, has the best average finish (11.0) among all drivers that have entered all eight races.
  • Defending race winner Jimmie Johnson leads all drivers with an 8.5 finishing average.
  • Mark Martin leads all drivers with six top 10s.
  • Tony Stewart has the best finishing average (7.0) among all drivers that have started the last five events.

    Keep an Eye on
  • Kyle Busch finished second last season and has scored his two NEXTEL Cup wins on speedways with banking of 14 degrees or less.
  • Casey Mears has finished seventh in the last two events.
  • Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch, who both finished in the top 10 last season, are running the 2004 Dodge body style and were strong in testing at LVMS.
  • Jamie McMurray will return in the same car that raced from the 25th starting position to finish sixth at California two weeks ago.
  • Carl Edwards posted the fastest overall speed at 170.778 mph in the three days of testing at LVMS.
  • Kasey Kahne and Jeff Green were the only two other drivers to break the 170 mph barrier in testing.
  • Greg Biffle scored his first top 10 at LVMS last season. He will be driving the same car that led 168 laps before losing the engine two weeks ago at California.
  • Jeff Gordon scored his first top five last season since winning in 2001.

    Eye on the Rookies
    None of the Raybestos rookies have started a NEXTEL Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. David Stremme has had the most success in the Busch Series at LVMS with two third-place finishes. He is the only rookie that has led more than one lap at the track. J.J. Yeley is the only other rookie that has posted two top-10 finishes at Vegas. Martin Truex Jr., Reed Sorenson and Clint Bowyer have one top-10 each and Denny Hamlin is the only rookie that has competed in both the Busch and Craftsman Truck Series at the 1.5-mile speedway. Brent Sherman has the worst finish among the group with his 32nd-place finish in last year's Busch race.

    Last Five Number of Lead Changes
    2005-25
    2004-18
    2003-17
    2002-23
    2001-20

    Last Five Number of Cautions
    2005-10
    2004-6
    2003-6
    2002-6
    2001-6

    Qualifying Tidbits: Kasey Kahne's lap of 174.904 mph set in 2004 still stands as the track record at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Bobby Labonte is the only multi pole winner at Las Vegas. His two poles are the only ones posted by a Chevrolet at the track. Dodge has won the last two poles at LVMS with Ryan Newman winning in 2005. Last season, Jimmie Johnson (qualified ninth) became the second driver to win from a top-10 starting position. Matt Kenseth's 2004 victory came from the furthest starting position - 25th.

    RacingOne Staff Picks
    Jeff Wackerlin (Senior Editor) -- Jamie McMurray -- McMurray will become the fourth driver to win at Vegas with Roush Racing.
    Pete Pistone (Managing Editor) -- Greg Biffle -- Roush dominance at intermediate tracks will continue and Biffle will vindicate his Fontana disappointment.
    Jorge Mondaca (Assistant Editor) -- Casey Mears -- With the wave of momentum he is riding, as well as his great form in past Vegas races, look for Mears to finally get that elusive NEXTEL Cup victory.
    J.J. O'Malley (RacingOne Contributor) -- Kyle Busch -- The local boy hits the jackpot.
    Shawn Akers (RacingOne Columnist) -- Jimmie Johnson -- Hendrick Motorsports cars dominated the race last year.

    More Driver Notes - In order of point standings

    1. Jimmie Johnson (Points: 355) - Last year Johnson led 107 laps en route to his first win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Johnson, who will make his 150th career start, has two top-10 finishes in four starts at Vegas. In 2004, Johnson posted his worst finish (16th) at LVMS after making contact with the No. 4 car on pit road. This weekend Johnson will be behind the wheel of the same car (chassis No. 48339) that finished fifth last year at Kansas.

    2. Casey Mears (Points behind leader -39) - Mears will look to celebrate his 28th birthday with a win in Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. Last year he scored his second consecutive seventh-place finish at LVMS - his career best in three starts.

    3. Matt Kenseth (Points behind leader -47) - Kenseth finished eighth in this event last season putting a stop to his Las Vegas Motor Speedway win streak at two. His 9.2 finishing average at LVMS is second among all active drivers. Kenseth, who has led the most laps at Vegas with 221, will be behind the wheel of the same car (chassis No. RK-323) that went to Victory Lane at California two weeks ago.

    4. Kasey Kahne (Points behind leader -60) - Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the site of Kahne's first career pole after he became the first rookie to take the top spot at the track after setting a new track record of 174.904 mph. He went on to lead two times for 43 laps en route to a second-place finish in that event. Last year Kahne finished 38th after crashing in Turn 4 on lap 102. The Dodge Dealers/UAW team will bring a new car (chassis No. 124) to the race track this weekend. This is the same car that was fast in testing at LVMS and was raced by his teammate Jeremy Mayfield at Texas in November 2005. Both Kahne and Mayfield will have a special flame paint scheme for the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400.

    5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Points behind leader -68) - Earnhardt Jr. has one runner-up finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2003. That year he led 97 of 144 career laps led at the 1.5-mile speedway. Earnhardt's finishing average of 21.3 took a big hit last season after he was the instigator in an early crash when he clipped the left rear of Brian Vickers. The incident triggered a five car crash and saddled Earnhardt, Jr. with a 42nd-place finish.

    6. Mark Martin (Points behind leader -80) - Inaugural Las Vegas race winner Martin is second to Jeff Burton for the best finishing average among all drivers that have competed in every race. Martin's 12.6 average finish is coupled by two finishes outside the top 10 due to mechanical problems in 2003 and 2005. His worst finish (43rd) came in 2003 as a result of engine failure. Martin, who has a series leading six top-10 finishes at LVMS, will drive the same car (chassis: RK-315) that finished ninth two weeks ago in California. This also is the same car that won at Kansas in 2005.

    7. Ryan Newman (Points behind leader -82) - Newman, who has a 16.0 average finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, is coming off his third top-10 finish at the track after placing ninth last year. Last year Newman earned his first pole at LVMS marking his fourth consecutive start at the track of fifth or better. Newman will be behind the wheel of the same car (chassis No. PRS-20), with the Intrepid body that qualified 11th and finished 20th at California last month.

    8. Clint Bowyer (Points behind leader -84) - Bowyer will be making his first NEXTEL Cup Series start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Bowyer does have one Busch Series start at LVMS when he qualified fifth and finished ninth last season.

    9. Brian Vickers (Points behind leader -95) - Vickers' best finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway came in his first start in 2004 - 23rd. Last year he finished dead last after Dale Earnhardt Jr. clipped him early in the race. Vickers will be behind the wheel of the same car (chassis No. 353) that finished 18th at California two weeks ago.

    10. Elliott Sadler (Points behind leader -96) - In 2004, Sadler finished in the top 19 for the first time at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after he came home sixth. In his six other starts Sadler has finished 20th or worse with two outside the top 40. His career average finish at Vegas is 28.4.

    11. Dale Jarrett (Points behind leader -109) - Jarrett, the inaugural Las Vegas pole winner, is tied with Bobby Labonte for most poles (two) at the 1.5-mile track. His best finish in eight starts came in 2001 when he finished second after starting from the pole. Jarrett has five finishes of eleventh or better and an overall average of 17.1.

    12. Kyle Busch (Points behind leader -122) - Busch finished second during his rookie season last year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. His first start at the track came in 2004 when he ran a partial schedule in the NEXTEL Cup Series. In that race he finished 41st after crashing on lap 11. This weekend Busch will race a new car (chassis No. 316) that was tested at Kentucky and Las Vegas. The car will carry a special "Ice Age 2: The Meltdown" paint scheme.

    14. Jeff Burton (Points behind leader -128) - Burton is the only driver other than Matt Kenseth to have two victories at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Overall Burton has posted five top five's and has a 11.0 finishing average at LVMS - the best among all drivers that have entered every event. After placing 17th last season, Burton will make his second start at LVMS in an RCR Chevrolet.

    15. Jeff Gordon (Points behind leader -136) - Gordon captured his third top five at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in this event last season with a fourth-place finish. His best finish at the speedway was in 2001 when he went to Victory Lane. In 2003, Gordon led 53 laps before an accident relegated him to 37th, his worst finish at Vegas.

    17. Robby Gordon (Points behind leader -146) - Gordon posted his worst finish (39th) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after losing the engine. This year will be a different story as Gordon will have DEI power under the hood as he's in search of his first top 10 if he qualifies for his seventh Cup race at LVMS.

    18. Jamie McMurray (Points behind leader -148) - McMurray has one top-five finish in three starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway - fourth in 2004. This weekend McMurray will make his first start in a Ford at the track. He tested this weekend's chassis last month at LVMS and posed the fastest lap on the second day of the three-day test. This is also the same car that raced from the 25th starting position to finish sixth at California two weeks ago.

    19. Kevin Harvick (Points behind leader -153) - Last season Harvick had the fourth fastest time in qualifying, but his GM Goodwrench Chevrolet failed to pass post-qualifying inspection for not having a full tank of fuel during his run. He was forced to start 42nd after NASCAR said the fuel pump had been altered to make it appear like it was full. Harvick battled back from the rear of the field to post his best finish (fifth) at LVMS. Las Vegas is also the site of Harvick's first career top-10 in the NEXTEL Cup Series when he finished eighth in 2001. In 2004, Harvick had a strong run at Vegas leading 43 laps towards the end before running out of fuel. He ended-up finishing 21st, one lap down. Harvick, who has a 14.4 finishing average, will race chassis No. 154 in the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. Although this is the same car Harvick tested at Las Vegas, its only race came in last season's Coca-Cola 600. Harvick has scored one win and two second-place finishes in the last three Busch races at LVMS.

    21. Carl Edwards (Points behind leader -156) - Edwards finished 14th in his first NEXTEL Cup start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2005. During that weekend Edwards also won the pole for the Busch race and went on to finish seventh. This weekend Edwards will pilot the same car in the Cup race (chassis No. RK-270) that won at Pocono and Atlanta in 2005. Last month Edwards posted the fastest overall speed at LVMS in preseason testing at 170.778 mph.

    22. Tony Stewart (Points behind leader -156) - Stewart has posted five top-10 finishes in seven starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with his best finish coming in 2000 (second). The last time Stewart led a lap at LVMS came in 2004 when he led four times for 45 laps en route to a third-place finish, which was his third-straight top five effort at the 1.5-mile track. Stewart, who has a 10.4 average finish at LVMS, will drive chassis No. 122 in the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. This car made its debut at California two weeks ago where it led 28 laps before a late race engine failure relegated it to a 43rd-place finish. Stewart is the only driver to finish every lap at LVMS in the last five events.

    25. Kurt Busch (Points behind leader -181) - Busch will return again with the 2004 Intrepid body style for this weekend's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. The chassis (No. PRS-096) the Miller Lite team is using is the same one that they tested at Las Vegas where it posted the fastest speed in the final session. Busch is coming off top-10 finishes with Roush racing at LVMS and has the best starting average (4.8) among all drivers with more than two starts on the track.

    29. Jeremy Mayfield (Points behind leader -203) - Mayfield, who has led a total of 39 laps at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, has captured two top five's at the 1.5-mile track with his best finish of second coming in 2002. Last year he finished 20th and saw his LVMS average finish slip a little to 17.1.

    32. Joe Nemechek (Points behind leader -209) - Nemechek's best finish of ninth in eight starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway came in 2000 and 2003. His overall average finish is 23.3.

    36. Bobby Labonte (Points behind leader -227) - Labonte, a two-time Las Vegas Motor Speedway pole winner (1999 and 2003), has four top-10 finishes at the speedway. His best finish was in 2003 when he finished fourth. Labonte, who will make his first track start in the No. 43 Dodge, finished 41st in this event last season after getting caught up in a lap 11 crash.

    37. Sterling Marlin (Points behind leader -227) - Marlin has posted three top-10 finishes and one win (2002) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This season he will make his first start at the 1.5-mile speedway with MB2 Motorsports. The No. 14 will carry the black and red colors of Wiley X Eyewear for this race.

    38. Greg Biffle (Points behind leader -233) - Last season, Biffle boosted his finishing average at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to 23.0 with his first top 10 (sixth) at the track. In Biffle's first start at LVMS in 2004 he started ninth and finished 40th after engine problems plagued his No. 16 Ford. This weekend Biffle will pilot the same car (chassis No. RK-239) that led 168 laps at California two weeks ago. This car also has visited Victory Lane at Homestead and Michigan in 2005.
    
            
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