The NASCAR Playoffs for all three top divisions heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for three night’s of racing.
Motor Racing Network will have live coverage of Friday’s Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series World of Westgate 200 (8:30 p.m. ET) and Performance Racing Network will provide the radio coverage of Saturday’s Xfinity Series Alsco 300 and Sunday’s South Point 400.
See Also: Las Vegas Schedule
After hosting the first race in the Cup Series Playoffs for the past two seasons, Las Vegas will kick off the Round of 12 for the first time.
Martin Truex Jr., the defending event winner, comes to Vegas sixth after the reseeded standings and is seeking his second win of the season and first at a 1.5-mile track since this race last year.
"Vegas is a place we feel good about," Truex Jr. said. "Our mindset going into the playoffs was that we want to go out and win a race each round to move on, so that’s how we will approach this weekend. If we can win, great. If not, then we need to be up front and get good stage points and a solid finish. I feel really good about how we’ve run with the 550 package the last few months, so that gives me a lot of confidence going into the weekend."
With the return of the 550 horsepower rules package, Vegas will mark the ninth 1.5-mile track of the season. Brad Keselowski, who won the first Vegas playoff race in 2018, is the only driver to finish in the top 10 in all eight races at this type of track this season, including a win at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Keselowski hopes to continue his success at Las Vegas where he has three wins in the last nine races with Talladega and the Charlotte Roval looming in Round 2.
"I think it’s the second most important race to win outside of Phoenix throughout the whole season because these next two weeks are very difficult to prepare for," Keselowski said. "We’d like to get a headstart on preparing for Kansas and Texas and not have to worry about breakdowns or wrecks, but we’re putting a lot of emphasis on it is the easiest way I can put it."
Denny Hamlin is the only two-time winner this season at 1.5-mile tracks (Homestead-Miami and Kansas) this year with the other wins going to February Vegas winner Joey Logano, Chase Elliott (Charlotte), Kevin Harvick (Atlanta), Austin Dillon (Texas) and Cole Custer (Kentucky). Custer is the only one of the group that has already been eliminated from the playoffs.
Hamlin trails points leader Harvick by 19 and will be looking to add to his 48 playoff points and bounce back from a tough opening round that saw him post an average finish of 15.3 in the three races.
"You can put yourself in a good position by gathering all the points that you can early on," Hamlin said. "I just think that I always go for stage points. It doesn’t matter what round it is because unless you’re locked in, they always matter.
"We didn’t have the best first round, but now our focus is all in on the Round of 12 and to work toward a championship. We’ve had fast cars, but there are still areas of improvement that we are working on."
See Also: Las Vegas Race Info and Lineups
The Xfinity Series Playoffs begin in Vegas on Saturday with Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric tied atop the reseeded standings with 2,o50 points.
Briscoe captured his first of a series-leading seven wins this season at Vegas in February.
"I feel like our mile-and-a-half program is where we’re the best, and I really want to win Vegas so we don’t have to worry about Talladega or the Roval," Briscoe said. "That would make our life a lot easier, but I can’t wait to get these playoffs going. I feel like we’re on a really good run."
Three of Cindric’s five wins this season have come at 1.5-mile tracks. He’s been out front in each of the nine races at the intermediates for a total of 567 laps led, including 39 en route to a second-place finish at Vegas.
"Vegas is kind of one of those places that I feel like got away from us earlier in the year, so I’d like to be able to rectify that with a very important race starting the playoffs," Cindric said.
Las Vegas natives Noah Gragson and Riley Herbst are looking to get their playoffs off to a great start. At their home track, Gragson has a 4.3 average finish in three starts and Herbst has a pair of ninth-place finishes.
"It’s always great to race in Las Vegas because it allows me to see family and friends that I don’t get to visit with too often during the season," Gragson said. " It’s also a track that really suits my driving style as we start off on the bottom and slowly work our way up the banking."
See Also: Gragson on "MRN Outloud"
Along with Briscoe and Cindric, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones and Harrison Burton are the only playoff drivers with a win at a 1.5-mile track this season.
"Las Vegas has become one of my favorite tracks and with the playoffs just beginning, it’s a really important time to keep our rhythm, be aggressive and be smart," Jones said. "I’m pumped to start the playoffs with three wins under my belt this year and ready to battle in the Round of 12."
The second race in the Round of 10 for the Gander Trucks is Friday (MRN, 8:30 p.m. ET) with Brett Moffitt holding the top spot with an eight point lead over his GMS Racing teammate Sheldon Creed in the standings.
Creed is one of four playoff drivers with a win at a 1.5-mile track this season after winning at Kentucky, joining Austin Hill (Kansas), Grant Enfinger (Atlanta) and Matt Crafton (Kansas).
"I’m ready to get to Vegas, we always have a good run there," said Creed, who will return in the same chassis he won with at Kentucky. "My guys have been working hard to get this truck ready and we’ve got the names of some of their family members on board this week, so it would be really cool to get another win on Friday for them."
GMS will also be bringing another previous race winning truck to the track with Zane Smith, who is ranked third in the standings. Smith, who finished sixth in his first Vegas Gander Truck start earlier this year, will be back in the same truck he won with at Michigan.
Toyota has won the last three races at Las Vegas with Austin Hill the defending event winner and Kyle Busch taking the other two races.
Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Christian Eckes, who finished third last year in this event, is currently the first driver below the cutoff line for advancing to the Round of 8.
"Stage points are crucial," Eckes said. "Obviously two points below the cutline is definitely where we don’t want to be, but in the aspect, it’s a little bit of motivation to go get some more. Hopefully, we can get some stage points like we did in the spring and get a better result as well."