This will be the 31st time that the Cup Series has visited the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. 26 of those have come in March.
Vegas has become a track that has produced a ton of lead changes lately with the last 6 featuring at least 20 including 7 of the last 9 overall.
It has character with some bumps in the turns and has turned into a track that can reward pit strategy in the event you can take two tires later, or even gamble with fuel only. Nothing changes this year since nothing about the car, not the track, changed between last season and this.
Also, over the past five NASCAR Cup Series seasons, the spring race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway has been a precursor to how the rest of the campaign will go. This is key for your futures bets.
In 2017, Martin Truex Jr. led 150 of the 267 laps in the Cup race en route to a dominating victory. He’d go on to win seven more times that season including the championship as well.
In 2018, Kevin Harvick won his first of eight trips to Victory Lane in the March race in Vegas as he led 214 laps that day. No one won as many races in 2018 as Harvick.
Joey Logano won the next two spring races and would march to fifth in the final standings at the end of the year in 2019 and the Championship 4 in 2020.
Kyle Larson won the 2021 spring race and won the title too later. The entire top six of the finishing order that spring took up six of the eight spots into the Round of 8 last postseason.
Last year, Alex Bowman beat Kyle Larson and both made the Round of 12. Larson had his car in the Final Four last year. Ross Chastain was third in the spring race and marched to his first Championship 4. William Byron was 5th and made the Round of 8.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway Trends:
• The last 9 Vegas races were won by a non front row starter. The last time someone from the front row won in Vegas was Kevin Harvick in this Spring race in 2018.
• There’s only been 1 pole sitter to ever in in Vegas history (30 races). That was Kyle Busch back in 2009.
• There’s only been two overtime finishes in Vegas in the last 17 races.
• Over the last 14 Cup races in Vegas, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Kyle Larson have combined to win 12 of them. All but Hamlin is a series champion.
• 23 of the last 26 Vegas races were won by a past champion as well.
Also, Penske, SHR, HMS, JGR/Furniture Row have won the 13 of the last 14 Vegas races. The last non team of them to win other than Kurt Busch’s triumph with Chip Ganassi Racing in the 2020 Fall race? Roush/Fenway Racing (Carl Edwards) in 2011.
The second stage winner at Vegas has won seven times and was fifth in another in 10 tries. 2020 was the only outlier when Chase Elliott swept both stages in the spring race but cut a tire in the end. Kurt Busch snuck up and stole a win in the Fall race. That’s 4 of the last 6 races this stage produced the race winner too.
8 top 7’s in his last 11 Vegas starts including five straight Top-6’s. He was 4th here last spring and third in the Fall race to go along with being third at Kansas’ spring race too. With what Tyler Reddick did in this car a year ago, I expect big things out of Busch on Sunday. Maybe a second straight visit to victory lane?
He has two consecutive Top-2 finishes in the spring race including a 2021 win at that. Larson also has had fast race cars in each of the last two fall races in the Nevada desert as well, and on like tracks to Vegas last season he’s finished 2nd (Kansas 1), 8th (Kansas 2) and 9th (Coke 600). Larson needs a good finish and I think that can come on Sunday.
Chastain won an Xfinity race for Ganassi here and was 3rd last spring after leading 83 laps and runner-up last Fall after leading 68 more. On top of that, Chastain finished 7th in both Kansas races last season as well. One could say he should be the favorite on Sunday. Especially after leading 91 laps Sunday in Fontana which included a pair of stage wins and third place result.
Better to just place them all together in this pack because it’s far better to go with a favorites pack, or one of Toyota’s. If you feel better about the Toyota’s, then this pack is for you. Ford has been the most dominant team on the 1.5-mile track with 14 wins in 30 tries. However, Toyota’s had dominated this track and Kansas (the closest resembling track) last season.
In the spring Vegas race, Toyota led 107 of the 274 laps (39%) that day. In Kansas 1, they led 171 of 267 laps (64%) and took home finishing spots 1-3-4-5-6. In Kansas 2, they led 94 of the 267 laps (35%) but finished 1-2-3-5.
So whom among them are available?
Denny Hamlin (+1000) was +650 last year and you get him for these odds now. Hamlin won the 2021 Fall race and was 4th and 2nd respectively in the 2 Kansas races last year. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver also has 4 top 5 finishes in his last 5 Vegas starts including a fifth place run the last Fall. His teammates are a respectable +1200 each between Christopher Bell and Martin Truex Jr. Bell has a pair of Top-10 finishes in his last three Vegas starts. It could be three straight if not for being an innocent bystander in the Kyle Larson vs. Bubba Wallace on track spat last October. Bell finished fourth in Stage 1 and was running up front when he was collected in their feud. On a like track, Bell also was 5th and 3rd in the 2 Kansas races last season as well and enters as this race on the heels of a runner-up finish in his Duel and a third place result in the Daytona 500. Truex has 10 Top-8s’s in his last 11 Las Vegas starts. He was 6th and 5th respectively at Kansas last season at a like track.
Don’t sleep on the 23XI Toyota camp either. Tyler Reddick (+1500) hasn’t started off well for this year. However, I do feel that changes this weekend. Vegas is just what he needs. Reddick has three consecutive Top-10 finishes here including 7th in last year’s spring race and sixth in the Fall. He led 32 laps in last October’s race. Reddick also had 2 finishes outside the top 30 last year at Kansas but both were due to crashes while leading when a tire went down too…This car, won both Kansas races however with Kurt Busch in the spring and Bubba Wallace in the Fall. On top of that, this car won the opening stage here last Fall as well. His teammate Bubba Wallace (+4000) shows finishes of 25th and 36th here last year. However, he won Stage 1 in the Fall race before he lost his cool up front with Kyle Larson. Wallace also won the Kansas race last Fall too.
He finished seventh in the playoff race in 2019 and restarted the Spring race in 2020 on the front row before contact cut his tire on the overtime restart. He was eighth in the 2021 playoff race and placed 5th in the spring.
3 of his last 5 Vegas starts he had a top six. His other six finishes were outside the top 10 too. At Kansas, Bowman finished 9th in the spring and 4th last Fall including leading over 100 laps that day. He also won this very race last season too.
He was 4th the last time out here and 8th in Stage 1 of the spring race before a crash.
His teammate was so good here last year and Suarez actually finished each stage in the second race in third. He enters hot on the heels of a pair of Top-10 finishes to begin the 2023 season off with.
He has a Top-10 finish in all but three starts 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 and seventh in 2021. Now he’s with his own team at RFK Racing and picking up speed including a Top-10 result last weekend in Fontana.
He finished eighth in the Fall race and while he crashed in the spring event, he was in the Top-5 at the end before that incident.
He finished 11th in Alex Bowman’s car last Fall and in eight Xfinity Series starts on his home track, he had a Top-6 in all including a pair of runner-up finishes last year.
Finished ninth in the Fall Cup race last year as well as having three Top-10 finishes, including a win, in his last four Xfinity Series starts too.
He has 11 Top-10 finishes in his last 14 Vegas starts including a win last Fall, but with also only being 14th here in the spring race and 17th in both races at Kansas last year makes me wary.
Prior to a runner-up in the 2021 playoff race, Elliott had just two career top fives on this track with his last 4 finishes being 26th, 22nd, 13th and 9th respectively. He has six finishes of 21st or worse there too and was only 29th and 11th at Kansas last season and 21st in last year’s Vegas playoff race too.
He has eight Top-7 finishes in his last 12 starts in Vegas. He was 12th and 9th respectively in Kansas though too and 28th last Fall.
He has had three Top-4 finishes in a 5 race span before being eighth, 10th, 20th, ninth and 12th in his last four. At Kansas though, Harvick was only 15th and 36th respectively a season ago too.
I don’t see a second-year driver winning here. He finished 19th in the spring, 29th in the Fall as well as being 11th and 12th respectively in the pair of Kansas races last season as well.