The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will compete at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this week. NASCAR will be back to their normal three practice sessions schedule for the weekend. There was one practice Friday and two practices Saturday. There was also a test session at this track in January so the teams will have plenty of team to get their cars setup for the race.
Here are the Garage Talk Notes for the practices at Las Vegas…
The weather for final practice was partly cloudy and 57 degrees. The temperatures for the race are forecasted to be sunny and 60. This track is very heat sensitive so as long as the temperatures stay close to the practice temperatures, then there should not be a big difference in speeds.
The racing in Las Vegas will be much different from what we saw at Atlanta. The race last week was in the driver’s hands while the race this week will be determined by which crew chief sets up their car the best.
Each team will get four sets of tires for practice and 1 set for qualifying and the start of the race. The tires used this week will be the same tire compound used in the test session at Las Vegas in January. The Xfinity Series and MENCS will use the same tires so the 5 drivers (Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon and Cole Custer) who will compete in both races should get a good indication of how the tires will perform in the race.
Aric Almirola and Chris Buescher served a 15-minute in final practice because the failed inspection twice on Friday.
Chase Elliott: Elliott started 12th and finished 3rd in this race last year. The only driver with more top-5 finishes on the 1.5-mile tracks last year was Martin Truex Jr. Elliott made some long runs in practice and said, “I need to be snugger on entry.” They brought him in for adjustments and sent him back out. Elliott said, “That’s better. A lot more secure.” At the end of practice Allen Gustafson told Elliott, “Run it as long as you want and then make some pit road practice. After that were are done.”
Jimmie Johnson: Johnson is a 4-time winner at Las Vegas. They have not had as much speed this season as they have had in the past. Johnson made several long runs in Saturday’s practices. He said, “I know loose is fast, but I am on the edge loose. It would be better if I was a tick tighter.” He was 16th-fastest at the time. At the end of practice Johnson said, “It is tough to get through the bumps in turns 1 and 2 but we have 3 and 4 dialed in perfect.”
Alex Bowman: Bowman made some long runs and said, “It is just way too bouncy.” The team made some adjustments and he reported, “It still bounces all over the track.: Greg Ives told him, “We are doing our best but this track has a lot up bumps so we need you to try and find the smoothest way around the track.” On his final run Bowman said, “It is better but still tight in the center.”
William Byron: Byron will be making his debut in the MENCS at Las Vegas this week. He finished 14th in his only Xfinity Series race at the track. Byron had the fastest car in the test session at Las Vegas in January. After his long run Byron said, “It is good on entry and in the center but too free on the exit.” They brought him in to tighten up the No. 24 car. Byron spent most of the final practice in the top 5. The car has good speed now it is up to the rookie to get it to the front.
Kyle Larson: Larson will be one of the drivers to watch this week. He finished 2nd in this race last year and had the 2nd-fastest speed in the test session at Las Vegas in January. Larson made some long runs and said, “It is on the edge but I can handle it.” Larson also said he learned something in the Xfinity Series practice that is really helping his car for Sunday. Larson had the fastest car in the 1st and 2nd practice sessions. He was also had one of the fastest cars on the long runs. He is one of the drivers to beat Sunday.
Jamie McMurray: McMurray is a good sleeper pick this week. Las Vegas is one of his best tracks. He started 10th and finished 8th in this race last year. The No. 1 car is not as good as his teammate (Kyle Larson). McMurray went out in morning practice Saturday and said the car was a lot better in race trim then it was in qualifying trim.
Kevin Harvick: The No. 4 team is not messing around this week. They are bringing the car that finished 2nd in both races at Pocono last year and third at Charlotte (led 149 laps). The team is very confident with this car. The word in the garage is that the 4 car is the car to beat Sunday. Harvick made a lot of long runs and said, “The balance is about where we need it to be.” Harvick was fastest on the 15 and 20-lap speed chart.
Clint Bowyer: Bowyer finished 10th in his first race at Las Vegas while driving for Stewart-Haas Racing. “Your lap times are really respectable,”Mike Bugawicvitz tells Bowyer who adds that the No. 14 and No. 4 look to be two of the fastest cars on the track so far at Las Vegas.
Kurt Busch: Busch has had no luck at his home track. He always runs well but has a problem at the end of the race. Last year the electrical system failed in the car. Busch qualified 3rd for the race Sunday. He said the car was, “Too bouncy” through the corners. His car was really bottoming out in the morning practice. They worked on the right heights to make it handle better.
Aric Almirola: Almirola said he could barely drive the car in qualifying. He will start 29th Sunday. His car was not much better in race trim. Almirola reports the car is really unstable in the corners. The team worked on the balance of the car to make it turn into the corners better and free up on the exit. They talked to Kevin Harvick’s crew chief between practice sessions and they decided to put Harvick’s setup in their car. Almirola came out and posted the 10th-fastest speed at the beginning of the final practice.
Brad Keselowski: Won 2 of the last four races at Las Vegas and it would have been 3 of the last 4 if he did not blow his engine on the last lap last year. Keselowski leads every statistical category for the last 4 races at Las Vegas. The No. 2 team put 3 different setups in the car in the morning practice Saturday. They choose the best one and tried to dial it in for the final practice. This is a common strategy for this team and it usually works well for them. Paul Wolfe told Keselowski, “Do not worry about our speed. This wind is crazy. It is not forecasted to be this windy tomorrow, so we should be as good as last year.” Keselowski dominated this race last year.
Joey Logano: Logano is the MENCS Points Leader and he should run well Sunday. Logano has the 2nd-best average finishing position and Driver Rating in the last 4 races at Las Vegas. Logano was making a long run in final practice and Joey Gase slammed on the brakes in front of him and ruined Logano’s speed. He is a faster than him posted speed.
Ryan Blaney: Blaney has the 3rd-best average finishing position and the 5th best driver ranking in the last 2 races at Las Vegas. He said this is one of his favorite tracks. The No. 12 car will start from the pole this week. After the morning practice the team put the setup from the No. 2 car in the No. 12. Blaney made some long runs and said, “It has good grip and it is not as bouncy as yesterday.” Blaney had the fastest speed in the final practice.
Paul Menard: Menard is a good sleeper picks this week. He always performs well early in the season and the Wood Brothers have brought fast racecars to this track the last 3 seasons. He qualified 12th for the race. The car was better in qualifying trim then he was in race trim, but he is still a decent pick in DraftKings for the price.
Kyle Busch: Busch is at his best when he competes in either the Camping World Truck Series race of the Xfinity Series race before he climbs behind the wheel in the MENCS race. Busch will be competing in all three series at his home track. The No. 18 team could not find a good balance in their car. I am sure he will be a lot better in the race then he was in practice.
Erik Jones: Jones qualified 8th and finished 15th in his first race at Las Vegas last year. I expect a better performance from him this week. Jones seemed to be the best car from Joe Gibbs Racing. He was fighting a balance problem like his teammates, but Jones felt he could drive it.
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin is off to a hot start this season and he has performed well at Las Vegas the past two seasons. In the morning practice Saturday Hamlin made a short run and said, “It is crashing in the center and wrecking on the exit.” They brought in the No. 11 car for major adjustments. He went back on the track and a brake hose broke and popped his tire. In final practice they had the car dialed in a lot better. Hamlin spent most of the practice in the top 10.
Daniel Suarez: Suarez did not like his car at all in the morning practice Saturday. He said, “It chatters in the corner and it has no forward bite.” He was 32nd fastest after 3 long runs. The Joe Gibbs cars found some speed between the practice sessions. Suarez came out and made a long run and went to 7th-fastest on the speed chart.
Martin Truex Jr. won 7 of the 11 races on 1.5-mile tracks last year, including the race at Las Vegas. Truex had problems in qualifying again this week. His tires were unbalanced (The inner liner tire was no inflated enough). Truex was still able to qualify 4th. NASCAR let the team change the inner liner for the race. Truex was by far the best Toyota in practice. The No 78 car was the 3rd-fastest on the 10-lap speed chart and 2nd fastest n the 20-lap speed chart.
Ryan Newman: Newman is a great value pick this week. He ranks 4th in average finishing position and has the 10th-best Driver Ranking in the last four races at Las Vegas. Newman had the 4th-best speed in the test session at the track in January. Newman told the team, “It is loose on exit, kind of snappy loose.” After 2 runs in final practice Newman said, “I still do not have the feel I had in the test.” Although Newman spent a lot of time complaining about the care, his lap times were some of the fastest all weekend. He is a great pick in all games which award position differential points.
Austin Dillon: Dillon will get some extra track time this week since he will be competing in the Xfinity Series race. This usually helps a driver in the race on Sunday. “Loose on entry, tight on exit” was the report from Dillon after his long runs. “Sideways. I can’t get into the corner. Too loose all the way through” reports Dillon after a long run in practice. He was 31st fastest at the time. The team put a completely different setup in the car in final practice and Dillon ran just inside the top 20.
Ty Dillon: Dillon was fighting a tight race car in practice. The team made some changes and Dillon climbed to 15th on the speed chart. Dillon was pretty fast on the long runs. Dillon will be a good pick in DraftKings this week because of his price and ability to move up in the race.
Kasey Kahne: Las Vegas is one of Kahne’s best tracks. He ranks 9th in driver ranking and average finishing position in the last 4 races at the track. Kahne made some long runs in final practice. He told the team, “Each change is making it better so we are going in the right direction. I need to rotate a little better through the center then it will be good.”
AJ Allmendinger: Allmendinger is a good sleeper pick this week. His average finishing position in the last 3 race at Las Vegas is 14.4. Allmendinger was fighting a tight race car in the practice sessions. The worked a lot on the car. Allmending made several long runs and said, “The changes are helping but we are not there yet. Just keep going in the same direction.”
Chris Buescher: Buescher made 2 long runs and said the car was “Still a little tight in the corners.” The team worked to free him up. On his second run he said “It is a tick better.” The team liked their car for Sunday. Buescher is a good pick in DraftKings at his discounted price.
Darrell Wallace Jr.: Wallace Jr. has never competed in a MENCS race at Las Vegas. He does have 3 Xfinity Series races (13.3 average finishing position) and 2 Camping World Track Series race (3.5 average finish position) at the track. He told Fox Sports 1 that his car had a leak in the radiator. They fixed it and he really liked his car. He said, “It has decent speed and the balance is pretty good.”
Trevor Bayne: The No. 6 car was horrible in qualifying but it was a little better in race trim. Bayne qualified 24th and he ran 17th in the morning practice Saturday. Bayne had decent long run speed in his car.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse liked his car a lot more in qualifying then he did in race trim. The car was too loose in and out of the corners. He is a good candidate to LOSE place differential points Sunday.
David Ragan: Ragan said, “It is just way too free. It is a handful through 3 and 4.” He made another long run and said, “It wants to over rotate in the exit. It has way too much wheel in it.”
Michael McDowell: McDowell was not too happy with his car. He told the team, “We may have to try a new shock package. It is bouncing the splitter off the track and causing it to be way too loose.” They changed shocks between the morning and afternoon practices. He went out for a long run and said, “It is like a new car. The stability is really good, the speed feels good and the balance is about where I need it to be.”
Matt Dibenedetto: “It is horrible in 1 and 2 but decent in 3 and 4.” There are some big bumps in corners 1 and 2 that the team is working on the car getting through. Dibenedetto did not like the way his car got through the corners. He said, “I am way too late to the throttle on the exit.”
Cars that looked good in practice: Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott
Good Sleeper Picks: Ryan Newman, Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer
* I heard one crew chief say on the radio that only four cars show up in the top 10 on the 5, 10 and 20-lap average speed charts: Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr and Brad Keselowski
Click here for Friday Afternoon Practice Speeds
Click here for Saturday Morning Speeds
Click here for Final Practice Speeds
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