NASCAR Cup Series News & Notes – Las Vegas Motor Speedway

The NASCAR Cup Series 2021 season has started off with three different winners in as many races with Michael McDowell (Daytona 500), Christopher Bell (Daytona Road Course) and William Byron (Homestead-Miami) all celebrating in Victory Lane.

Now the chances for the premier series to see its fourth different winner are pretty good as it heads out to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube on Sunday, March 7 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Next Race: Pennzoil 400 Presented by Jiffy Lube

The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway

The Date: Sunday, March 7

The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV: FOX, 3 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 80),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 160), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 267)

Of the 50 seasons in the Modern Era (1972-2021), the NASCAR Cup Series has started the schedule with three different winners in the first three races 33 different times (66%); including 2021. If the series were to produce a fourth different winner this weekend it would be the 23rd different season in the Modern Era to start with four different winners through the first four races.

There are 13 different NASCAR national series Las Vegas Motor Speedway winners entered this weekend in the NASCAR Cup Series race. None of which have won yet this season.

Sunday’s event, the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube, will be the 27th NASCAR Cup Series race held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The previous 26 series races have produced 14 different winners all-time, led by recently retired Jimmie Johnson with four victories (2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010). Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski leads all active drivers in wins at Las Vegas with three victories (2014, 2016, 2018). Keselowski also won at Vegas in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2010.

Of the 14 all-time Cup Las Vegas winners, six are entered this weekend and four of the six have multiple wins; including defending race winner and Brad Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano, who has grabbed the checkered flag the last two Spring visits to Sin City (2019, 2020). Logano also won in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Las Vegas in 2017.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick make up the rest of the quartet of Cup Vegas multiple winners entered this weekend. Truex earned his Victory Lane hardware at Las Vegas in the Spring race of 2017 and the Playoff race of 2019. While Harvick secured his two wins at Las Vegas in the Spring of 2015 and the Playoff race of 2018. Harvick also collected a pair of NASCAR Xfinity Series victories at Las Vegas in 2004 and 2010.

Las Vegas native and Joe Gibbs Racing’s driver, Kyle Busch, is the only former Cup Las Vegas winner to grab victories in all three NASCAR national series. Busch scored his Cup win in the 2009 race; the only driver to win from the pole at Las Vegas in the series. He also has two victories in the NASCAR Xfinity Series (2016, 2019). Plus, he has won the last three consecutive spring NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at the 1.5-mile track (2018, 2019, 2020).

Kyle Busch’s brother, Kurt, also a fellow Las Vegas native, is the most recent NASCAR Cup Series winner at Las Vegas Motor Speedway driving his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to Victory Lane in last season’s Playoff race. It was his first and only victory at his home track.

Richard Childress Racing teammates, Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick, have each won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Dillon posted his Xfinity win in 2015 and his Camping World Truck win in 2010. Reddick captured his Xfinity win in 2019 and his Truck Series win in 2016.

Four more drivers have won in just the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Las Vegas including Stewart-Haas Racing’s rookie, Chase Briscoe, who swept both Las Vegas NASCAR Xfinity Series races last season becoming the first driver to win consecutive races at the 1.5-mile track in the series. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ross Chastain collected his first career NASCAR national series victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Playoff race of 2018. Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Kyle Larson also won in the Xfinity Series at Las Vegas in the Spring race of 2018. And JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won at Las Vegas in 2012 en route to his second consecutive Xfinity Series title (2011-2012).

Finally, Richard Petty Motorsport’s Erik Jones won in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Las Vegas in 2014.

Points Leader Denny Hamlin looking to achieve a couple of firsts at Las Vegas

Heading to Las Vegas this weekend, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin sits atop the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings looking to get his first win of 2021 and his first career win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Hamlin has yet to win this season, but has been in contention almost every week, and now holds a 20-point lead over Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick in second in the driver standings. In three starts this year, Hamlin has put up two top fives and an average finish of 6.3.

Hamlin will look to keep the momentum going this Sunday at Las Vegas, a track he has made 18 series starts at posting three top fives and eight top 10s; including a best finish of third twice, most recently last September.

McDowell takes hot streak to Vegas

Front Row Motorsport’s driver and 2021 Daytona 500 champion, Michael McDowell, is having the best start to a season in his career. And now the 36-year-old, Glendale, Arizona native is taking his hot streak Las Vegas to try his luck. McDowell and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick are the only two drivers this season to finish in the top-10 in all three of the opening races of the year.

McDowell is currently fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, just 33 points back from Denny Hamlin in the standings lead. This season McDowell has leveled-up and it is showing, in the first three starts of the year he has finished first (Daytona 500), eighth (Daytona RC) and sixth (Homestead-Miami).

Now the 2021 standout is looking to keep the success going at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend. McDowell has made 14 series starts at Las Vegas posting a best finish 18th back in 2017. He finished 36th in last season’s Las Vegas spring race and 21st in the Playoff event.

Byron adds his name to the postseason list

Last weekend Hendrick Motorsport’s driver William Byron grabbed his second NASCAR Cup Series career win (Daytona, Homestead) and as a result added his name to the list of drivers locked into the Playoffs for 2021; joining Michael McDowell and Christopher Bell.

Byron is currently 13th in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings through three races. The North Carolina native has posted an average finish of 20.0 so far this season, making the win last weekend that much more important to his title hopes.

Looking ahead to this weekend, Byron has made six series starts at Las Vegas posting one top-10 finish (seventh) in 2019.

NASCAR Tests the Circuit of The Americas

For the first time at the Circuit of The Americas, three former NASCAR Cup Series champions – Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. – shook down the 20-turn, 3.41-mile-long course in stock cars as part of a Goodyear tire test in preparation for the inaugural EchoPark Texas Grand Prix on May 23.

“The track’s fun,” said Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Chase Elliott. “It has a lot of character to it, I feel like. I’ve never been here, never seen it in person before today and really haven’t watched a ton of races here, so it’s really been a pretty steep learning curve for me, trying to piece together all the different parts of the track and understand where you need to be good and how to make it flow. I’m trying to learn, but it’s been fun. I hope people (fans) will come out and give it a chance. It’s a different type of racing.”

Elliott currently leads all active drivers in road course wins in the NASCAR Cup Series with five victories.

“One of the things about this track here in Austin, it’s got a couple of key action spots,” said Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski. “Turn 1 is designed as though a fan said, ‘how can I have the most calamity in that corner on the start?’ So, there’s a couple of things – first off, it’s up hill, which helps the car stop, so it encourages the driver to try to out-brake another driver, which is big on a restart or a start because all of the cars are already so close together. Second thing is, it’s really wide on entry, so it’s almost impossible to block because there’s just a lot more racetrack. And then, of course, the third part is it’s a super slow corner meaning you have to use a lot of brakes to get through there. So, like I said, almost like it was intentional – I’m sure it was intentional – to create some epic starts. I think you’ll see that here.”

Keselowski has yet to win on a road course in the series but has put up seven top-five finishes including finishing fifth at the Daytona Road Course just two weeks ago.

“I feel like this is kind of part Sonoma, part Watkins Glen,” said Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. “There’s some fast sections, some slow sections. It’s got the older asphalt, wearing tires out more like Sonoma, but it’s got the really high-speed straights and the really hard braking zone like Watkins Glen going down the backstretch. It’s a mix of both. It’s got a little bit of a blind corner, up-and-down elevation change like Sonoma. It’s a pretty unique place … It’s all about markers and points on the track and when you turn in and what gear you’re in and how much speed you’re carrying and finding the brake points and all those things. It takes over two minutes to get around here, so if you make a mistake, you’ve got to wait two minutes to correct it, and you can’t forget it when you come back around. It was interesting to do that and a lot of fun to do that.”

Truex is tied with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch for the second-most road course victories in the NASCAR Cup Series among active drivers with four each.

NASCAR Cup Series Etc.

Sunoco Rookie Update – Through first three races the NASCAR Cup Series season, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe has held the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings lead and following his 18th-place finish at Homestead-Miami he has extended his lead to nine points over Front Row Motorsport’s Anthony Alfredo in second.

Looking to this weekend, expect Briscoe to keep building on his early success. The 26-year-old will be making his series track debut at Las Vegas this weekend, but he has won the last two consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series races at the track sweeping the races last season – the first driver in Xfinity history to win consecutive races at Las Vegas. While Alfredo has not garnered the same amount of success Briscoe has at the 1.5-mile track, he did make his Xfinity Series debut there last season and finished in the top-10 (eighth).

Las Vegas Raiders QB David Carr headlines Grand Marshals at Vegas – There will be quite the professional sports flair when the commands to start engines are given at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend. Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr headlines the trio as he will deliver the most famous words in motorsports just moments prior to the start of the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube. Carr’s command will top off a weekend that will see Buffalo Bills running back Antonio Williams announce engines for Friday’s Bucked Up 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and Utah Jazz star forward Joe Ingles deliver the message for Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race.

“This will be such a thrill to have the chance to bring the NASCAR Cup Series cars to life,” Carr said. “I know there have been a long list on luminaries who have served in this role, and it’s pretty cool to join them. I’m sure it’s going to be exhilarating once those cars fire up.”

Carr joins rap star Pit Bull, TV star and comedian Kevin James and Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as grand marshals for Cup races so far this season.

Spectators welcome but tickets going fast – The March 7 Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is sold out. Due to a limited-capacity requirement imposed by the Southern Nevada Health District, the speedway has reached its allowable threshold and no longer can sell tickets to the NASCAR Cup Series event.

Tickets do remain for both the Alsco Uniforms 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series races on Saturday, March 6 as well as the Bucked Up 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday, March 5.

“This is the first time I can ever remember being disappointed to announce a sellout,” said LVMS President Chris Powell. “While we appreciate that Gov. Sisolak has provided sports and entertainment venues an opportunity to get fans back in the stands, we’re disappointed that the local health district has not allowed us to reach the 20-percent capacity recommended by the governor. Nonetheless, we know it will be three great days of racing for those who are able to attend, and we hope to welcome a full house in September for the South Point 400.”

The speedway estimates 12,500 fans will be in attendance for the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube. That number represents grandstand seating as well as suites and clubs.

Race fans still can get their speed fix on Friday and Saturday as good seats remain for both races. Saturday tickets are $29 and Friday tickets are $19. Kids 12 and under are free on both Friday and Saturday with a ticketed adult. Visit lvms.com for tickets, RV camping and race weekend information.

Thunderbirds to perform flyover at Las Vegas – The world-renowned U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will perform the flyover for the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, March 7.

The “America’s Ambassadors in Blue” – officially known as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron – will electrify the crowd with their signature “Delta” formation over the speedway at the end of the national anthem for the NASCAR Cup Series race.

“We’re honored to have the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds take to the sky during the Pennzoil 400 pre-race ceremonies,” LVMS President Chris Powell said. “For both our fans in the stands as well as those tuning in from home, the sight of the Thunderbirds flying above the speedway will get us ready for the excitement of NASCAR racing.”

The Thunderbirds, stationed at Nellis Air Force Base located adjacent to the speedway, feature six F-16 Fighting Falcons, the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter aircraft. Created 68 years ago in 1953, the USAF Thunderbirds are the third-oldest formal flying aerobatic team in the world. The Thunderbirds have performed at over 4,000 airshows worldwide, including more than a dozen times at LVMS, accumulating millions of miles in hundreds of different airframes over the course of their more than 54 years of service.

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