Las Vegas Weekend Story Lines

Matt Kenseth

Luck is always a factor when folks visit Las Vegas whether they’re racecar drivers or not. Matt Kenseth would certainly like to have better fortunes than how the first two races of the season have gone. (Photo: Getty Images)

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There’s much to keep an eye on this weekend as NASCAR heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a weekend of racing.

New Aero Package, New Tire
Sunday’s Kobalt 400 Sprint Cup Series race is the second using the new lower-downforce package that made its debut last week at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Generally drivers were enthusiastic about the results using the package and optimistic about its evolution moving forward.

"I love that the cars are harder to drive," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "I think all the drivers wanted that, and I think all the drivers will get out of it after (Atlanta), even the ones that didn't run good, and say, 'This is the right direction to go.'"

Goodyear has had time to create a tire to match the rules package, something the manufacturer was not able to do last year when a variation of lower downforce as used at Kentucky and Darlington.

This week in Las Vegas, Goodyear has a right-side tire that incorporates multi-zone tread technology, which features two distinct tread compounds -- one for endurance and heat resistance on the inboard two inches of the tread and one for traction on the outboard 10 inches. The left side has a compound change that creates more grip. Drivers believe having the right tires to complement the rules package is a must.

“It’s so important to have the tire wear well enough for safety but to give up like we saw last week in Atlanta,” said Casey Mears. “I’m looking forward to everything this weekend in Vegas.”

So far in the three races that have used a form of low downforce last year and in 2016, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski have the best average finishes.

“This is real racing,” said Edwards. “You can see the guys out here just digging for everything they’re worth.”

Kenseth Looks for Better Luck
Luck is always a factor when folks visit Las Vegas whether they’re racecar drivers or not. Matt Kenseth would certainly like to have better fortunes than how the first two races of the season have gone.

He went from the leader to 14th on the final lap of the Daytona 500 and followed that up with a frustrating day last week in Atlanta, which included a pit road penalty and subsequently dropping two laps off the lead.

Kenseth is a former Las Vegas winner and is optimistic about his chances to turn things around on Sunday with the new rules package.

“I think that this weekend at Las Vegas will be a better indication for this rules package because Las Vegas has a lot of grip, it’s really fast, and there’s always really bad aerodynamic effects as you get further back in the pack,” Kenseth said. “The reason that you have a tough time passing at Vegas is because of the aero, so I just think that this weekend will be a good base for looking at this new package.

Busch Brothers Homecoming
After missing last year's Kobalt 400, Las Vegas natives Kyle and Kurt Busch get a chance to race in front of hometown friends and family this weekend. The pair of Sprint Cup Series champions would like nothing better than to keep the momentum going from their early season success.

“It seems like either Carl (Edwards) or Jimmie (Johnson) are better than most there, but I love Vegas, the atmosphere and everything going on around that place,” said Kyle, who has opened the year with a pair of third-place finishes. “It’s always been a big race for us and the M&M’S team.” (Read More)

Earnhardt Jr. Looks for First Vegas Win
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has an impressive 9.7 average finish at LVMS during his Cup career, the best in the series. However he’s still seeking a trip to Victory Lane at the 1.5-mile track.

“We’re going to Vegas. Jimmie (Johnson) tested there and he liked what he saw, so I’m excited to get out there and practice,” he said. “Vegas is going to be a lot of fun – a lot of bumps going down into Turn 1. You’ll definitely try to run the high side at some point in the race in Turns 1 and 2. I don’t know if the top will work in (Turns) 3 and 4 – sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t – but we’ll definitely be trying everything we can, running every groove, wherever that car wants to run and be comfortable.

“Hopefully we have as good a car, as fast a car and as good a day (as we did at Atlanta), and try to put it in Victory Lane. I’ve never won there and I’d love to get that victory at Vegas on my résumé.”

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