NASCAR Pre-Race Media: Sunday’s South Point 400 (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN) race preview

TRACK: Las Vegas Motor Speedway (1.5 mile oval). DISTANCE: 267 Laps — STAGE 1: 80 Laps, STAGE 2: 80 Laps, FINAL STAGE: 107 Laps, MILES (400.5 Miles)

Starting Lineup


Kyle Larson

He won back in the spring and dominated a like track at Kansas in May. He’s the favorite for good reason. Larson has five top three finishes in his last six starts on the season.

Martin Truex Jr. 

He won this race a few years ago and has nine Top-11 finishes in his last 10 tries on the 1.5-mile track including six Top-4 efforts and two wins. He’s won 12 races on 1.5-mile tracks since 2016, nearly two times as much as the next closest driver. He was fourth, first and seventh respectively in the first round of the playoffs.

Joey Logano 

He has 10 Top-10 finishes in his last 11 Vegas starts.

Brad Keselowski 

He has a top 10 finish in all but one start at Vegas since Penske went to Ford’s in 2013. He won the Fall race in 2018. He was second and third respectively in 2019 and seventh and 13th in 2020, with a runner-up this spring.

Top Sleepers?

Ryan Blaney 

Has seven Top-7 finishes in his last nine starts in Vegas. His teammates have each had a top 10 finish in all but one Vegas start since 2013 too. Blaney, has four top four finishes in his last six starts on the season.

William Byron 

He finished seventh in the playoff race in 2019 and restarted the Spring race last year on the front row before contact cut his tire on the overtime restart. He was eighth in March.

Christopher Bell

Worth a look. He was seventh in March.

Alex Bowman 

Bowman, was sixth and fifth the last two Fall races.

Matt DiBenedetto 

Why not here? This car has six top 15 finishes in the last seven races in Vegas between Paul Menard and Matt DiBenedetto. Plus, DiBenedetto had two runner-up finishes last year too.

Chase Briscoe 

He swept both Xfinity race there last year.

Ross Chastain 

Larson did phenomenal in this car in Vegas. Chastain also won an Xfinity race for Ganassi there too. He also had a pair of top fives in the first round too. For these odds, you absolutely have to go with him here.

Who To Fade?

Chase Elliott

He’s had just two career top fives on this track with his last three finishes being 26th, 22nd and 13th respectively.

Kevin Harvick

His Vegas starts are fading. His last three finishes are 8th, 10th and 20th respectively.

Kurt Busch 

Busch, won last Fall but that happened due to some luck and was just his second top five in his last 18 Vegas starts.

Aric Almirola

His last four finishes in Vegas as 13th, 21st, 17th and 38th respectively.

Race Preview

This may be the second biggest race of the entire playoffs. With Talladega and the ROVAL looming, you can’t afford to leave Las Vegas behind the eight ball.

“The biggest thing I’ve been thinking about is the playoff bonus points and winning in Vegas,” Keselowski said. “The best thing we can do to control our own destiny is to go win Vegas and then Talladega just becomes what it is. It’s the same thing with the Roval, so we’re hopeful to just kind of not have to worry about it that way by scoring a win. If we’re not able to do that, I’d like to get a few more playoff bonus points with stages for those races and that would help a bunch, but, certainly, this round presents a lot of challenges for us.”

Chase Elliott agrees. He says that his full focus is on Sunday’s race in Las Vegas right now because the way he looks at it is, he’s probably going to crash next Sunday at Talladega.

“I think that’s just the odds,” Elliott said of a potential wreck on the Alabama superspeedway.

He says stage points have kind of changed the game in the playoffs now and most notably, everyone has adapted to see just how important they are.

“So, I think everybody knows how important stages are and what they can mean, especially stage wins,” Elliott continued. “Getting that extra bonus point is a huge thing, too. I think everybody knows that and that’s certainly a game that’s been played. I don’t know that it was as much played that very first year that we had playoff and stage points, but really ever since that first year, I think it has been known and everybody really gets that. And it’s just gotten more and more aggressive.”

Over the last 11 Cup races in Vegas, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Kyle Larson have combined to win 10 of them.

Also, Penske, SHR and JGR/Furniture Row have won the 11 of the last 13 Vegas races. The last non team of them to win other than Kurt Busch’s triumph with Chip Ganassi Racing last Fall? Roush/Fenway Racing (Carl Edwards) in 2011 and Hendrick Motorsports with Kyle Larson in March.

With them making up a majority of the drivers left in the playoff field, the odds of a non playoff winner are slim to none.

Denny Hamlin scored four stage wins in six tries in the opening round including a second place in one of the two other results. Kyle Larson had the other two stage wins, a pair of runner-ups as well as a pair of fourth place finishes in them too. Hamlin, was first, second and ninth respectively in the first round in overall finishes while Larson was second, sixth and first himself.

These are the top two right now but Larson dominated the spring race on this very track and has had five top three’s in his last six races in general. Hamlin, was third in this race last year and fourth in the spring.

Watch out for them.

Can Kyle Busch earn the win on his home track? He’s beaten himself this postseason with a crash in Darlington (35th), a pit road speeding penalty on his final stop in Richmond (9th) and an unscheduled stop late in Bristol (21st). In this round, he’s had no top 10’s in his last seven Talladega playoff races and three finishes of 30th or worse in three tries on the Charlotte ROVAL. Vegas may be his only chance.

His teammate Martin Truex Jr. may be in trouble too if not for Vegas. He has seven top eight’s in his last nine but just one top five since 2007 in Talladega and no top fives in three ROVAL starts.

Where they may luck out is, Kevin Harvick’s Vegas finishes are getting worse and worse in Vegas. He has two top fives in his last 19 at Talladega and one top five in 3 ROVAL starts. He’s also had just two finishes better than fourth all season.

Alex Bowman has two top fives in his last 12. Brad Keselowski has one in his last 10 and two in his last 18. Joey Logano has one top five in his last 13 and only four in the last 20. Can they all turn things around?

Top Stat

21 of the last 23 Cup races in Vegas resulted in a past champion winning. The only non title winner to have won at Vegas? Carl Edwards (twice) and Kyle Larson (March).

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