The NASCAR Cup Series will head out west this week to compete at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Will the drivers who ran up front at Homestead be able to run up front at Las Vegas? Both tracks are high tire-wear tracks but the shaping of the tracks is different and so is the banking. Momentum is important in NASCAR and it is better to have it than to be searching for it. It should be fun to see which drivers can continue to run well and which finally break out of their early season slump. The Pennzoil 400 can be seen Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox.
Here are my picks for the Pennzoil 400…
* I am hedging my bets and picking Kevin Harvick to win the race, Ford as my winning manufacturer, but Hendrick Motorsports as my winning team. If Harvick or one of the Fords is not in Victory Lane, it should be one of the Hendrick cars. Using this strategy will give me a lot of opportunities to score some bonus points Sunday.
** I mapped out my allocations with each driver for each race. I do this each year to ensure I am using each driver at their best tracks. I will tweak it during the season if a driver gets on a hot-streak, but it gives me an idea of what allocations I have left with each driver.
Kevin Harvick (9): NASCAR threw me a curveball last week and sent Denny Hamlin to the back of the field. This left me scrambling and I decided to use an un-planned allocation with Kevin Harvick. I looked at the races this year and I will be OK with using another allocation with the No. 4 car Sunday. Harvick has been really good with the 550 aero package in the first races at Las Vegas. He has a 4.3 average finishing position, averaged 17 Stage points (fantastic!) and averaged 131 laps led in the first race in Sin City. Does it get any better than that? You can use the No. 4 car with confidence Sunday.
Martin Truex Jr. (10): Martin Truex Jr. is starting to find the mojo he had with Cole Pearn with his new crew chief James Small. Truex has finished 3rd, 4th, 9th, 2nd and 3rd in his last five races on the 1.5-mile tracks (4.2 average finishing position). There is a lot to like about Truex Sunday. He has a 5.8 average finishing position at Las Vegas in the current aero package and he has scored Stage points in every stage that has been run at the track. Truex is a safe play this week so I will use an allocation with the No. 19 car Sunday.
Brad Keselowski (10): Team Penske looked lost at Homestead but a trip to Las Vegas Motor Speedway should be just what they need to get their season jump-started. They have won every February / March race at Las Vegas in the current aero package (Joey Logano 2 wins, Brad Keselowski 1 win). Keselowski has been the most consistent driver in the field in Sin City. His 5.33 average finishing position in the current aero package is a series-best. So how good is Keselowski at Las Vegas? His average finishing position since 2012 is 4.4. I’ll take it!
Kyle Larson (9): Using an allocation with Kyle Larson paid off at Homestead and he should score well again Sunday. Larson may not be the Ace of Spades in Las Vegas, but he is a King of Hearts. Larson has a 5.6 average finishing position in the current aero package at Las Vegas. This is another track where running up against the wall and searching the track for grip will be important. I also like his fast pit crew this week. I have no problem using another allocation with the No. 5 car Sunday.
Alex Bowman (10): You almost have to play “The Showman” in Las Vegas. I really like what I have seen from Hendrick Motorsports at the intermediate tracks in the playoffs last year and what they did last week at Homestead (had three cars finish in the top 10). Alex Bowman has finished 8th, 5th, 3rd, 5th and 9th in his last five races on the 1.5-mile tracks. One of my crew chief friends told me the track most similar to Las Vegas is Chicagoland Speedway. Bowman is the master at Chicagoland so he should be good Sunday.
Garage Driver: Joey Logano (8) will be in my Garage Sunday. There is nothing better than having the driver who won the last two spring races at Las Vegas as an insurance policy. I planned on using Logano in my starting lineup but he looked horrible at Homestead. Now Logano starts 15th. If he is able to return to normal, I will put the No. 22 car into my lineup.
Good luck and be sure to follow me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR. I will send out a Tweet during the race to let you know if I plan to swap out one of my drivers for my Garage pick.
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