Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Kobalt 400
Las Vegas Motor Speedway Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps)
Sunday, March 12 3:30 p.m. ET TV: FOX, 3:30 p.m. ET Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Stage 1 (Ends on lap 80), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 160), Final Stage (Ends on lap 267)
NASCAR XFINITY Series Boyd Gaming 300
Las Vegas Motor Speedway Distance: 300 miles (200 laps)
Saturday, March 11 4 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 3:30 p.m. ET Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Stage 1 (Ends on lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on lap 200)
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Alpha Energy Solutions 200
Martinsville Speedway Distance: 131.5 miles (250 laps)
Saturday, April 1 The Time: 3 p.m. ET TV: FOX Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Stage 1 (Ends on lap 70), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 140), Final Stage (Ends on lap 250)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Grand Theft Auto: Keselowski Steals Win At Atlanta, Goes For Second Straight Victory At Las Vegas
Brad Keselowski took advantage of Kevin Harvick’s late speeding penalty by passing Kyle Larson with six laps left to win last Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The victory extends Keselowski’s streak of seasons with at least one win to seven. The No. 2 Ford driver ranks third in the points standings (six markers behind Harvick) as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Kobalt 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX).
Keselowski is the defending race winner in Sin City. He took the checkered flag there last year in a highly competitive contest in which five different drivers led 24 or more laps – Keselowski, first-place, 24 laps led; Joey Logano, second, 74; Jimmie Johnson, third, 76; Kyle Busch, fourth, 38; Kurt Busch ninth, 31.
Keselowski has won two of the last three races at Las Vegas. In eight starts there, he claims two victories, three top fives and 10 top 10s.
The Kids Are Alright: NASCAR Youth Movement In Full Force Through First Two Races
The “young guns” in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series have proved they can battle with the veterans for wins through the first two races, even though they haven’t been able to close the deal yet.
Chase Elliott, 21, led the DAYTONA 500 with three laps remaining, while Kyle Larson, 24, ran the point in The Great American Race with one lap left before he was passed by race-winner Kurt Busch.
Last week at Atlanta was similar, with Larson leading with six laps to go before he was passed by race-winner Brad Keselowski.
Through the first two races, five drivers in the top-10 in the points standings are 26 or younger: 4. Chase Elliott (21 years old, 8 points behind Kevin Harvick, 14th at Daytona with 39 laps led, fifth at Atlanta), 5. Joey Logano (26 years old, -10, sixth at Daytona with 16 laps led, sixth at Atlanta) 6. Kyle Larson (24 years old, -11, 12th at Daytona with 16 laps led, second at Atlanta with seven laps led), 8. Ryan Blaney (23 years old, -27, second at Daytona with two laps led, 18th at Atlanta), 10. Trevor Bayne (26 years old, -32, 10th at Daytona, 12th at Atlanta).
Ford Strong Out Of The Gate
Ford has come out in full force to start the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. The first two winners of the season drive Fords – Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski. Also, four of the top five drivers in the points standings through the first two races wheel Fords – 1. Kevin Harvick; 2. Kurt Busch; 3. Brad Keselowski; 5. Joey Logano.
Kyle Busch (Toyota) is the only non-Ford driver who has won a stage so far. He took Stage 1 in the DAYTONA 500.
Kevin Harvick, whose Stewart-Haas Racing team switched to Ford in the offseason, has won the other three stages.
“But it was good from a Ford perspective, when you see two or three or four cars in the top five or six, you know how strong the Toyotas have been and the Chevys have been,” Roger Penske said following the Atlanta race. “This gives us at least a chance to say we’re on par with these guys. Now with a couple of wins I’d have to say we might be an inch or two ahead.”
Harvick Heads Point Standings After Leading Most Laps In Each Of The First Two Races
Kevin Harvick must be a fan of NASCAR’s race enhancements – particularly the stages. Despite finishing 22nd at Daytona and ninth at Atlanta, he leads the point standings (four points ahead of second-place Kurt Busch) due to his dominance in the two races. Harvick has won three stages and led the most laps in each of the first two races, with 50 circuits led at Daytona and 292 at Atlanta.
As a result of his three stage wins, the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing driver boasts three playoff points.
Don’t be surprised to see Harvick enjoy the stages even more as the year goes on. Since 2014, he has led 6,157 laps – 2,861 go-arounds more than the next closest driver (Brad Keselowski, 3,296). Joey Logano has led the third-most laps (3,143) over that time span. He’s followed by Jimmie Johnson (2,613) and Kyle Busch (2,586).
Larson Looking For First Victory Of 2017
Once Kyle Larson figures out how to close races, the wins look like they’ll start to pile up for the 24-year-old Californian.
Larson has come up just short of winning in each of his last three races. In last year’s season-finale at Homestead, the No. 42 Chevrolet driver led until Jimmie Johnson blew past him on the final restart to win the race. In the first two races this season, he was passed for the lead by Kurt Busch on the final lap at Daytona and Brad Keselowski with six laps remaining at Atlanta.
In his last five races, Larson has finished third (Phoenix), second (Homestead), 12th (Daytona) and second (Atlanta) for an average showing of 4.75 – second to Joey Logano (4.25).
Home Sweet Home – It’s homecoming weekend for Kyle (No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) and Kurt (No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) Busch when they race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The brothers got their start in racing at the Bullring, located right next door to the big track. Kyle has one Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at LVMS (2009), while Kurt is still looking to land in Victory Lane at Las Vegas.
NASCAR XFINITY Series
Back On Top: JR Motorsport’s Elliott Sadler Is New Points Leader
Just two races into the 2017 season, Elliott Sadler has launched himself into the standings lead by three points over Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate and JR Motorsports teammate William Byron as the NASCAR XFINITY Series heads to Las Vegas for the Boyd Gaming 300 on Saturday, March 11 at 4 p.m. ET (FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Sadler led the XFINITY points standings following 14 races last season; which should make it no surprise the veteran from Virginia is back on top. Sadler dominated the season-opener at Daytona two weeks ago, leading 40 laps and winning the first two stages, but was caught in a late-race incident that relegated him to a 24th-place finish. Under the new enhanced format, Sadler was able to gather valuable points during the first two stages; plus, he accumulated two playoff points. This past weekend at Atlanta, Sadler drove from a 22nd starting position to finish fifth, garnering enough points to take the series lead.
Sadler’s points lead isn’t astronomical, so he will have his work cut out for him this weekend at Las Vegas if he wants hold off second-place William Byron (-3), third-place Ryan Reed (-4) and fourth-place Brendan Gaughan (-8) from the standings lead. Sadler has made 10 series starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, posting two top fives, four top 10s and an average finish of 11.9. He finished eighth at LVMS last season.
Sadler’s early 2017 success is a direct result of his performance on track. Currently, Sadler leads or is near the top of several season-to-date loop data categories following the first two races of the season – Average Running Position (6.401, second-best); Driver Rating (102.5, third-best); Laps In The Top 15 (260, third-best) and Laps Led (40, third-best) – in each of the listed loop categories Sadler is the highest ranked NXS championship contender.
Playoff Outlook: Following Race No. 2 – Atlanta
Just because we have only had two NASCAR XFINITY Series races this season doesn’t mean we can’t already start looking at the post-season and who, as of right now, would be included in the playoffs.
Of the 12 drivers currently eligible for the 2017 playoffs, only four of them competed in last season’s playoffs – Ryan Reed, Elliott Sadler, Brendan Gaughan and Brennan Poole. Eight different organizations are currently represented by the drivers that are eligible for 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs following the race at Atlanta.
Below is a quick look at the top five seeded drivers if the playoffs were to start this weekend:
1. Ryan Reed – No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Mustang – Currently holds #1 seed due his win at Daytona. The Bakersfield, California native has five playoff points (series-most) and has an average finish of 9.5 in his first two 2017 starts. Reed, at the age of 23, will be making his fourth series start at Las Vegas this weekend. In his previous three starts at LVMS, he posted an average finish of 14.3 (sixth-best among championship contenders).
2. Elliott Sadler – No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro – Sadler currently holds the points lead, but would be seeded second in the playoffs due to his lack of wins. The Emporia, Virginia,
native has been strong this season, winning the first two stages at Daytona (collecting two playoff points) and posting a top-five finish last weekend at Atlanta. Sadler has made 10 series starts at Las Vegas, posting four top 10s and an average finish of 11.9.
3. William Byron – No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro – Currently the hottest rookie in the 2017 Sunoco Rookie class, Byron has posted back-to-back top-10 finishes to start the season. While this weekend will be the Charlotte, North Carolina, native’s NASCAR XFINITY Series track debut at Las Vegas, Byron did make a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at LVMS last season where he finished fifth.
4. Brendan Gaughan – No. 62 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro – Veteran RCR driver Brandan Gaughan has kicked 2017 off with two strong starts, posting a top five and an average finish of 9.0. Returning to Las Vegas this weekend, his hometown, Gaughan will be making his seventh career start at LVMS. The 41-year old, in his six previous starts at Las Vegas, has amassed one top five and four top 10s. His average finish at the 1.5-mile speedway is a 9.5 (third-best among championship Contenders).
5. Matt Tifft – No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry – Tifft is one of three Sunoco Rookies this season currently eligible for the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver from Hinckley, Ohio, has posted an average finish of 11.5 in his first two 2017 starts. The 20-year old will be making his NASCAR XFINITY Series career track debut this weekend at Las Vegas.
One For One: Busch Making Most Of His Starts In 2017
The lion’s share of Joe Gibbs Racing’s NASCAR XFINITY Series success can be attributed to the winning ways of Kyle Busch. With a series-leading 87 wins, including last weekend’s race at Atlanta, his career winning percentage is now an astounding 26.4% (series-best). Busch is scheduled to run just 10 races in the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2017 and he plans to win them all. Busch will be back in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry this weekend at his hometown track – Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Busch has made 12 starts at Las Vegas, posting one win (2016), four top fives and an average finish of 16.8. He has finished runner-up or better in his last three starts at LVMS.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Christopher Bell Is Center Stage At Atlanta
Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Christopher Bell earned his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of 2017 when he won the Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Bell held off fellow Toyota driver Matt Crafton in NASCAR Overtime to capture his first win of the season and third of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career. Bell has now won at least one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in each of the last three seasons.With the dominating win, he became the first national series driver to win all three stages of a race under the new stage
racing format. By winning all three stages at Atlanta, Bell earned the maximum playoff points possible in one race with seven. The win launched Bell straight to the top of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings, where he leads defending series champion Johnny Sauter and Ben Rhodes by seven points. Bell also became the second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver to clinch a
playoff berth in the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs, joining Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Kaz Grala. This will be the second-consecutive season Bell has qualified for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs.
Sauter Sizzling After Two Races
Through two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2017, defending series champion Johnny Sauter is looking like he’s in top form.
After qualifying second at Daytona, Sauter led 52 laps and finished with a top-15. He also scored two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff Points after winning Stage One and Stage Two. At Atlanta, he qualified sixth and finished with a top-five when he placed third. He currently is tied for second in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series point standings with Ben Rhodes. Have we mentioned Martinsville Speedway is next up for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series? We’re sure Sauter knows. In 18 starts there, he has three wins, six top fives, nine top 10s and 336 laps led.
Paving The Rhode(s) Ahead
ThorSport Racing driver Ben Rhodes is off to a strong start in his sophomore campaign in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He’s recorded back-to-back top 15s in his first two races of 2017. He finished fourth at Atlanta after starting 15th and finished 12th at Daytona. Last season, it took Rhodes eight races to land a top five. He got his first top five when he placed fourth at Iowa
Speedway in 2016. Rhodes is currently tied for second in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings with Johnny Sauter. The No. 27 ThorSport Racing driver finished 14th in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series point standings in 2016. Rhodes will be looking to stay consistently in the top eight this season and clinch his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff berth of his young career.
Rookies Rockin’ The Top 10
Through two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races in 2017, there are three Sunoco Rookie of the Year Candidates in the top 10 of the series points standings.
Kaz Grala (fourth): Grala started his rookie season out with a bang after winning the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona. He’s clinched a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff berth in his first full-time season with GMS Racing.
Chase Briscoe (eighth): Briscoe enters his 2017 rookie season with Brad Keselowski Racing after Daniel Hemric and Tyler Reddick departed for rides with Richard Childress Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Briscoe finished third at Daytona and 25th at Atlanta.
Grant Enfinger (ninth): Enfinger begins his first full-time season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with series powerhouse ThorSport Racing. Enfinger has appeared in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races since 2010 and won his first race in the series in 2016 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Graphics & Photos Courtesy of NASCAR