Las Vegas 101: Hitting the jackpot in Sin City
NASCAR’s median trip on the West Coast swing finds it in the high desert as the circuit heads just outside the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. While not even a month into the blooming season, this Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will reveal which teams have an edge on the competition in terms of speed.
No better time for Kyle Busch to compete at his home track as the Nevadan enters this weekend off an eye-popping victory at Auto Club Speedway that marked his maiden win with Richard Childress Racing.
Let’s get ready for Sunday’s action with trends to watch, the best moments from Vegas, the on-track schedule and tire notes.
RELATED: Vegas is part of NASCAR’s history | Projected Las Vegas results
ROLLING THE DICE
Four of the last six Cup races on the 1.5-mile Nevada oval have had a caution come out within the last 15 laps. Two of the last three spring races have gone to overtime. These late-race moments led to strategy calls that determined the winner. Last spring, Alex Bowman made a two-tire stop before the final restart that propelled and kept him out front to claim his lone win of 2022. But in 2020, Ryan Blaney led when a late yellow came out. He elected to come down pit road while most of the field stayed out. Joey Logano took the checkers in that spring race while Blaney’s call parachuted him down to an 11th-place finish.
In a city known for gambling, crew chiefs and drivers will have to play their cards right in the event a late-race caution comes out Sunday.
VIVA LAS VEGAS?
Kyle Busch is riding the hot hand entering Sunday, but he only owns one win on his home track two decades back in 2009. He does have four consecutive top fives on the intermediate oval, but playoff points always come at a premium, and with the Next Gen breeding 19 different winners last year, every race on the calendar becomes a virtual must-win to confirm your postseason ticket.
TRENDS TO WATCH
— No manufacturer has won the first three races of a season since 2010 (Chevrolet); Chevy has won the first two races of 2023.
— Joey Logano has won two of the last four spring Las Vegas races.
— Martin Truex Jr. owns five consecutive top 10s at Vegas.
— The pass for the win came in the final three laps in both Las Vegas races in 2022 (via Racing Insights).
1998: Mark Martin wins inaugural Cup race at Las Vegas | WATCH
2017: Kyle Busch, Logano fight after final-lap contact | WATCH
2020: Kurt Busch wins first Vegas race in 22nd attempt | WATCH
2022: Bubba Wallace, Kyle Larson clash after wreck | WATCH
Saturday, March. 4
— 1:35 p.m. ET: Cup practice [FS2, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio]; NOTE: Practice coverage moves to FS1 at 2 p.m. ET
— 2:20 p.m. ET: Cup qualifying [FS1, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio]
Sunday, March. 5
— 3:30 p.m. ET: Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube [FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio]
RELATED: Full Vegas weekend schedule
GOODYEAR TIRE NOTES/RULE CHANGES
Teams will get one set of tires for practice, one set for qualifying and eight sets for the race.
Las Vegas isn’t known for its tire wear but has become a temperature-sensitive track as the surface ages. If the ambient temperature is warmer, the less grip the track will have and the more tires will wear. The cooler the temps, the more grip the track will have, and tires will wear less.
The tire codes will be the same ran at Las Vegas last September and what was used at Auto Club Speedway last Sunday.
Entering the 2023 season, competition officials have revised the penalty structure for detached wheels, shifting away from the four-race crew chief suspension that had been in place since 2015.
In the event of a lost wheel that is contained to pit road, the offending team will be subject to a pass-through penalty under green-flag conditions. If the infraction occurs during a caution period, the offending team will restart at the tail end of the field.
If the wheel breaks free outside of pit road, the new rules guidelines mandate a two-lap penalty plus a two-race suspension for two crew members. Each penalty is series-specific: Violations in one series will not impact those crew members‘ eligibility to participate in other series.
Members of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing team became the first to be penalized under the new rules after the vehicle’s left-front tire detached under caution on the backstretch at Auto Club Speedway. Tire changer Danny Olszowy and jackman Kellen Mills are suspended for the next two Cup Series events.
MORE: See rules changes for 2023 | Penalty issued to No. 19 JGR team | Las Vegas weather
Fans can get in on the action all season long with NASCAR Fan Rewards, a free program that rewards fans for participating in the action when they watch races and play NASCAR Fantasy.
There‘s no cost to join. Fans must be 18 years or older to participate in the program.
Earn points by checking into a race from home or at the track, setting your Fantasy Live lineup, making purchases on the NASCAR.com shop and more. Points can be redeemed for race tickets, merchandise and VIP experiences at the track, including pace car rides and waving the green flag at qualifying.
Want to manage a team and race your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out NASCAR Fantasy Live, which is open now. The free-to-play game lets you choose your drivers each week and show off your crew-chief instincts by garaging a driver by the end of Stage 3, and there is a $25,000 prize for the winner.
How to play: Fantasy Live | Set up a team today!
ALSO ON NASCAR.COM
Get additional camera views by logging on to NASCAR Drive, where each week, a select number of in-car cameras will be available — as well as a battle cam and an overhead look.
NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement to the NASCAR Mobile App. Log in to the mobile app during the race for polls, quizzes, the cheer meter and more — and see instant results from NASCAR fans like you.