Las Vegas 101: Odds, Goodyear tire info, rules and more for Round of 12 opener

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·7 min read
Las Vegas 101: Odds, Goodyear tire info, rules and more for Round of 12 opener
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The Round of 12 of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs is upon us. Now, it‘s a matter of finding out who‘s willing to gamble for the win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The South Point 400 is set for Sunday at 7 p.m. (NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) with 12 drivers left to fight for a championship. A week ago at Bristol Motor Speedway marked the end of the postseason road for Tyler Reddick, Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola and Michael McDowell.

The other contenders are ready to roll down the Las Vegas Strip and test their luck in the Nevada desert.

RELATED: Las Vegas weekend schedule | Cup Series standings

COMING UP FIRST…

Fresh off his Bristol victory, Kyle Larson is set to lead the field to the green flag at Las Vegas alongside Ryan Blaney. William Byron and Martin Truex Jr. make up Row 2 while Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin roll off fifth and sixth respectively. Check out the entire starting lineup here.

RULES PACKAGE

Sunday‘s race marks the first race of the Playoffs that features the 550-horsepower, higher-downforce package. NASCAR utilizes the lower-horsepower package and its higher downforce at tracks larger than 1.4 miles to encourage closer racing via taller spoilers and longer front splitters.

GOODYEAR TIRES

Teams will be quite familiar with this tire compound at Las Vegas as Goodyear returns with the same combination run in the spring as well as in 2020.

This tire package, specified for low-wear tracks, has been used at Las Vegas, Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan International Speedway, while the right-side compound is also utilized at Kansas Speedway.

“Since Las Vegas is a low wear track, we formulate our tread compounds to specifically introduce some wear on this type of surface,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear‘s director of racing. “Last fall, we were able to add a little more grip to the right-side tire at Las Vegas and a couple other similar tracks. After some positive results in 2020, we have brought that back to the track in 2021, and that has continued with earlier races at Las Vegas, Texas, Kansas and Michigan with this right-side.”

LAS VEGAS HISTORY

— Las Vegas Motor Speedway came to be after Ralph Englestad (CEO, Imperial Palace) and Bill Bennett (CEO, Circus Circus and Sahara) recognized an opportunity for a state-of-the-art speedway in 1995.

— The speedway was completed in June 1996 on a 1,600-acre plot near Nellis Air Force Base that once housed a drag strip dating back to 1958 as well as a road course and ⅜-mile paved oval. The complex now holds the 1.5-mile speedway, an industrial park, drag strip, ½-mile dirt track, ⅜-mile asphalt oval and two road courses.

— Tony Stewart and Richie Hearn were the first to test the track on June 22-25 in Indy Racing League vehicles. Hearn won the inaugural race — the IRL Las Vegas 500K — on Sept. 16, 1996 and set a then-record for mile-and-a-half tracks with a fast time of 222.359 mph.

— Bruton Smith and Speedway Motorsports agreed to purchase the track in December 1998 for $215 million — $150 million for the track and $65 million for the real estate and warehouses.

— Smith led a massive renovation of the track in 2006 in which the banking in the turns changed from 12 degrees to 20 degrees and the backstretch to 9 degrees, while also moving pit road 150 feet closer to the grandstands and building a ¼-mile oval within the frontstretch grass.

— Part of that renovation brought upon the two-story, four-building Neon Garage as well as a state-of-the-art media center that can hold 500 media members.

— Las Vegas hosted its first Playoff race in 2018 and served as the Playoff opener, its first year as a host of two Cup Series races as well.

Source: Racing Insights

RELATED: Who has won at Las Vegas? | Memorable moments at Las Vegas

SIN CITY STORYLINES

— The 12 drivers left to fight for the 2021 Cup championship are Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Christopher Bell and Kevin Harvick.

— Hamlin, Truex, Larson and Harvick are the only drivers to finish in the top 10 in each of the first three races of the postseason this year.

— Larson‘s 59 playoff points are more than Truex and Hamlin‘s combined (53).

— Larson‘s 3.0 average finish in the Round of 16 ties the best Round 1 start since the introduction of the elimination format.

— Team Penske has found plenty of luck at Las Vegas lately, winning five of the last 11 races there while finishing in the top 10 in 86% of their starts since 2014 (25 of 29). All three Penske drivers were top-10 finishers in March.

— Kyle Busch makes his 600th career Cup start Sunday at the site of his first start, which took place on March 7, 2004. He‘s the second youngest to hit 600, behind only Richard Petty, who is the only driver to win his 600th start (Richmond, 1973).

— Kevin Harvick‘s 36-race winless streak is the sixth-longest of his career and longest since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.

— 12 of the last 13 Las Vegas winners are Cup champions, the lone exception being Kyle Larson, who won in March.

— Winners of Stage 2 have gone on to win in six of the last eight Vegas races, the highest rate at any track. The exception is Chase Elliott, who finished 26th in Feb. 2020 and 22nd in Sept. 2020.

— Joey Logano has led in 11 consecutive events at Las Vegas, a track record. The next longest streak is four in a row, a tie held by Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott.

LUCKY IN THE LIMELIGHT?

Kyle Larson capitalized as the 9-2 favorite at Bristol and came away with the win. He‘ll look to do the same while trying to sweep the season at Las Vegas as an 11-4 (+275) favorite, according to BetMGM.

Hometown Cup champion Kyle Busch has won only once at Las Vegas, that coming all the way back in 2009. But with five top 10s in his last seven Vegas starts, BetMGM lists Busch at 13-2 odds with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin next at 7-1. Hamlin, though, has yet to win in Sin City.

Two-time Vegas winner Martin Truex Jr. is listed at 15-2 odds while defending Cup champ Chase Elliott carries an 8-1 shot into Vegas.

Joey Logano may seem like a tempting bid at 12-1 odds considering he‘s won two of the last five Vegas races, but he has finished 15th or worse in each of the last four mile-and-a-half contests. Logano‘s best finish on a 1.5-mile track this year is ninth.

Well under the radar is Matt DiBenedetto, who has snuck his way into two runner-up finishes in the last three races at Las Vegas. At 66-1 odds, perhaps this Penske-affiliated Wood Brothers Racing driver is worth the gamble.

RELATED: Sunday’s odds for Las Vegas via BetMGM

FANTASY LIVE

Want to manage a team and race your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out the playoff version of NASCAR Fantasy Live, which is open now and offers a fresh start for those of you who played the regular-season contest. The free-to-play game lets you choose your drivers each week and show off your crew-chief instincts, and there is a $10,000 prize for the winner.

The 2021 Fantasy Live points leaders are Kyle Larson (1,171), Denny Hamlin (1,164) and Chase Elliott (958).

This year, NASCAR.com also has the Playoffs Grid Challenge game, presented by Ruoff Mortgage, where you can pick the winners for each round of the playoffs right up through the Championship 4. First prize is $10,000.

How to play: Playoffs Grid Challenge | Playoff Fantasy Live

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.

New for this season, NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement in 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.

And finally, head over to the NASCAR Mobile App for AR Racing presented by Mobil 1, where you can design your own car and race the playoff drivers at the playoff tracks in augmented reality.