Las Vegas Story Lines

Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson posted the best 10 consecutive lap average in final practice. (Photo: Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – There are a number of interesting stories to keep an eye on during Sunday’s running of the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

New Sprint Cup Rules Package
NASCAR spent the beginning of the off-season creating a new rules package for 1.5-mile tracks like LVMS. After a four-hour test session Thursday teams will put things in plat for the first time under race conditions Sunday.

However, most everyone agrees the changes will be a work in progress.

“It's just a matter of getting the driver to find the limit and feeling comfortable with the aero, but the chassis, the engineers will play around with it for a while until that settles down, then the driver will begin to find the sweet spot and get comfortable,” said Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR vice president of innovation and racing development. “Probably it will take -- probably we won't have a good feeling where all this lands until we get about three under our belt, and that would be the Texas race. That's the way I'm feeling.”

One of the factors some drivers believe will be most important to adapt to is the elimination of a minimum ride height rule, which has a domino effect on other areas.

“There are more steps involved with making a decision now,” said Jimmie Johnson. “I feel like communication still is key, but the thought process on the pit box is more important than it’s ever been, because a simple change affects more things now.”

Emphasis on Winning
The first two races of the season appeared to bear out NASCAR’s hope of placing a more important emphasis on winning as part of the new Chase format. The ultra-competitive racing in the Daytona 500 was followed by a dominating Phoenix performance by Kevin Harvick, but more drivers willing to take chances to run him down.

Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. already have wins and virtual guaranteed spots in the Chase, so rolling the dice on strategy for another win comes with less of a risk. But will others also continue the aggressive nature to take the checkered flag that has permeated the opening two races of the campaign.

Penske Power
For the second straight week Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski comprise the front row. The duo has kicked off the season with two straight solid outings in Daytona and Phoenix and look to continue the roll in Vegas.

"Obviously, we haven't won on Sunday yet, so we have to figure out the big show," said Logano after Friday’s pole-winning run. "But we've had some good speed in our cars."

Home Cooking for Busch Brothers
Las Vegas marks a homecoming for Kurt and Kyle Busch and each of the brothers hope to make their first trip to Victory Lane this season.

But despite his Vegas roots, Kyle doesn’t expect any home track advantage at least from the grandstands. Busch says his past success hasn’t helped creating hometown fandom.

“I’ll tell you this, when I was coming up through the ranks I won a lot and probably won too much and didn’t make very many friends, so I’m not sure I don’t have many pulling for me anyways because I kicked their butt too much,” he said.

Practice Makes Perfect
Four-time Las Vegas winner Jimmie Johnson posted the best 10 consecutive lap average in final practice with an average speed of 183.392 mph. Johnson, who will start fifth, also was second fastest in this category in the second practice.

Jamie McMurray topped the final practice and also was ranked in the top six in best 10 consecutive lap average in both of Saturday's practices. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Larson were the only other drivers to post a top-10 average speed for a consecutive 10 laps in both sessions.

Ever since unloading for testing on Thursday, Michael Waltrip Racing has had fast cars for Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer. Jeff Burton will be racing a third car for MWR this weekend.

It appears Danica Patrick has a good car this weekend. Brad Keselowski tweeted on Friday, "Listening to those in the garage, it just may be a bad week to be from Randleman, NC. Cuz the 10 car is the best car this weekend." Patrick will start 22nd and was the fastest driver in 10 consecutive laps in the second practice.

Kevin Harvick, who topped Thursday's testing session, along with Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski and Vickers rounded out the top five in best average speed for 10 consecutive laps in final practice.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup

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