NASCAR begins its West Coast swing this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where all three top divisions will be in action.
The NASCAR Cup Series will compete at the 1.5-mile track for the 25th time since 1998. This year will mark the third consecutive season that Vegas will host two races for all three series.
Only six drivers in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 have won at least one race at LVMS. Jimmie Johnson leads all drivers with four wins with the last coming in 2010.
Las Vegas will mark the first race at a 1.5-mile track this season, along with the 550 horsepower rules package that debuted in 2019. Martin Truex Jr. won twice at 1.5-mile tracks last year, including last September at Las Vegas.
"I think overall, as a company, we feel really good about where we ended last season with the 550 (horsepower) package," Truex Jr. said. "With us winning Vegas in the fall, Denny (Hamlin) winning Kansas and then Kyle (Busch) at Homestead, all of our cars were really fast at those places at the end of the year, so that gives me a lot of confidence going back to Vegas this weekend. Everyone has had a few months to work on their stuff and get better, so it will be a challenge to keep that advantage we felt like we had late in the season and continue that as we get going with the heart of our season now that Daytona is out of the way."
Truex Jr. is the only driver to score stage points in every stage at Las Vegas since stage racing was implemented in 2017. In fact, his victory last year continued the streak of every Stage 2 Vegas winner going on to grab the checkered flag in the race.
Las Vegas Loop Data Stat Leaders (Last Five Races)
|Average Running Pos.||Laps in Top 15|
|1. Joey Logano – 5.2||1. Joey Logano – 1,279|
|2. Martin Truex Jr. – 5.6||2. Martin Truex Jr. – 1,246|
|3. Brad Keselowski – 7.1||3. Brad Keselowski – 1,157|
|4. Kyle Larson – 9.7||4. Chase Elliott – 1,149|
|5. Chase Elliott – 10.3||5. Kyle Larson – 1,058|
|Fastest Laps Run||Driver Rating|
|1. Martin Truex Jr. – 216||1. Martin Truex Jr. – 123.8|
|2. Kevin Harvick – 151||2. Joey Logano – 116.8|
|3. Brad Keselowski – 143||3. Kevin Harvick – 114.5|
|4. Joey Logano – 98||4. Brad Keselowski – 109.7|
|5. Kyle Busch – 72||5. Kyle Larson – 103.4|
Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski each have a win at Las Vegas in the last three races with Logano winning this race in 2019. Keselowski’s current streak of nine consecutive top 10s at LVMS leads all drivers and has three victories in that span. Keselowski finished right behind Logano in this race last year to kick off a solid start out west for Penske that also saw Ryan Blaney finish third and fifth, respectively, at Phoenix Raceway and Auto Club Speedway.
"Definitely Team Penske fired off really strong in the West Coast part of the season last year, but there were some good decisions made on the cars," Keselowski said. "We probably rested on our laurels a little bit too much over the summer and paid for that in the playoffs, but I think there’s a good fire under everyone’s butt to get started here in 2020."
Along with Keselowski, Kevin Harvick was the only driver to finish in the top five in both Vegas races last season.
Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin will be looking to become the first driver to win the first two races of the season since his former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth accomplished the feat in 2009 (Daytona and Auto Club) for Roush Fenway Racing.
"Our team is picking up where we left off last year and really clicking so far," Hamlin said. "I’m very happy with our performance, but we still have a lot of work to do and a lot more challenges coming our way. We’ll be ready to get back at it this weekend in Las Vegas and hopefully take the checkered flag."
See Also: Pennzoil 400 Entry List
Thirty-eight drivers are on the entry list for the Pennzoil 400. Ross Chastain will drive the No. 6 RFR Ford for Ryan Newman, who was released from Halifax Medical Center on Wednesday following his last-lap accident in the Daytona 500. Chastain will compete in all three races this weekend.
Saturday’s Boyd Gaming 300 will mark the 26th race at Las Vegas for the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
See Also: Boyd Gaming 300 Entry List
There have been 18 different winners over the years and Chastain is looking for his second victory after taking his first series win in the 2018 September race.
"We are past Daytona. This No. 10 team has set the reset button, and we are going to Las Vegas this weekend – a place I have been fortunate enough to win before," Chastain said.
Daytona winner Noah Gragson will look to continue the momentum at his home track.
"I always look forward to coming back to Las Vegas because it allows me to visit with family and friends," Gragson said. "It adds a little pressure because I want to perform in front of my hometown crowd."
The last driver to win the opening two Xfinity races of a season was Tony Stewart in 2008.
The NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series will be in action on Friday night.
See Also: Strat 200 Entry List
The Strat 200 will feature defending race winner Kyle Busch making his first of five Gander Truck races this season.
"I’m looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the Cessna Tundra for the first time in 2020," Busch said. "The goal is to go five-for-five again and have another perfect Truck Series season."
Chastain, Todd Gilliland, Sheldon Creed and Brett Moffitt are the only drivers that finished in the top 10 in both races at Vegas last year.
Daytona winner Grant Enfinger finished 11th in this event in 2019.
Motor Racing Network will have live coverage of the Strat 200 starting at 8:30 p.m. ET with live streaming at MRN.com and the NASCAR Mobile app.
Kurt Becker and Dan Hubbard will call the action from the MRN broadcast booth. Kyle Rickey and Dillon Welch will be in the turns with Woody Cain and Hannah Newhouse reporting from pit road.