MENCS: Final Practice Garage Talk Notes Las Vegas

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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series across the country to Las Vegas, Nevada for the Pennzoil 400. The race is 267 laps with stage breaks at lap 80 and lap 160. The track is bumpy and the wind usually affects the handling of the cars. The racing should be good this week so make sure you tune in at 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

This will be the first race in the MENCS using the full 2019 rules package. The cars will have reduced horse power like last week but the change comes to the front of the cars. The cars had brake ducts to cool the tires and brakes at Atlanta because of the high tire wear at the track. The brake ducts will be change with air ducts. So what is the difference: Last week the air from the front of the car was directed to the brakes and tires. This week the air will be directed to the sides of the car to create a large hole in the air and promote drafting, similar to Superspeedway tracks.

Click here for Las Vegas Test Session Result from January.

 

Track Notes

Goodyear brought a new left-side tire to the track this week. The MENCS will use the same tire combination as the Xfinity Series so the two drivers competing in both races (Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon) should have an idea of how the tires will fall off in the race. This is the same tire combination used at the tire test at Las Vegas in January.

Teams received 3 sets of tires for practice, 1 for qualifying and 8 sets for the race. Tire wear is not an issue at Las Vegas so we may see a lot of two-tire pit stops Sunday.

The race at Atlanta will not have the same rules package as the race next week at Las Vegas. The tires wear out very fast at Atlanta. Lap times fall off 4 seconds over a long run. The teams must have brake ducts to keep the brakes and tires cool. After this race the Cup Series will have aero ducts in front of the cars to cool them down.

Interesting Info: The last 8 winners at LV have had even numbers on their cars (also 13 of the last 15 winners had even numbers). The last 5 winners at LV have been Cup Series Champions. That limits the field to Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson

(LVMS= Las Vegas Motor Speedway)

 

Driver Notes

Chase Elliott: The No. 9 team needs a good finish this week after a 17th-place finish at Daytona and a 19th-place finish at Atlanta. LVMS ranks as the 2nd worst track for Elliott. He has finished 36th, 34th, 3rd and 38th in his 4 races in the desert. Elliott made some long runs and he said, “Not good…just not good guys. I is snappy loose, bouncy and does not suck up to the pack. It is slow enough that I can handle it though. Not sure that is a good thing.” Elliott was 27th fastest at the time. The report is that the team made “Major adjustments.” He went back out and said, “It is a lot better in traffic for sure. It is still bouncy but we took a lot of the looseness out of it.”

Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has 4 wins at LVMS on his resume but the last came in 2010. He has not finished inside the top 10 at the track since 2016. The No. 48 team tested at LVMS in January and posted the 4th-fastest time. Johnson needs a good run after his 24th-place finish at Atlanta. Johnson made some short longs and he said, “It is bouncing way too much. Especially in turn 1. It starts off tight and gets tighter with every lap.” After his final run Johnson said, “We freed it up a lot. We are a lot closer to where we need to be. We should be good if we keep going in that direction.”

Alex Bowman: The No. 88 team has been the best for Hendrick Motorsports this season but that is not saying much. Bowman finished 11th at Daytona and 15th at Atlanta. Bowman finished 16th and 19th in his two races at LVMS in a Hendrick Motorsports car. This team needs to find some speed to compete upfront.  Bowman made some short runs and said, “Same shit as last week. The first 4-5 laps feel decent and then it is undividable. I mean completely undividable!”

William Byron: Byron ran well at Daytona but struggled at Atlanta. Las Vegas ranks as his 3rd-worst track. He has competed in two races in the desert and he finished 37th and 27th. Not too good. Byron made a short run and said, “The car is way too bouncy. I loose control in 1 and 2 and slides through 3 and 4.” The team made some changes and sent him back out. Byron sade, “Much better. Still hitting the bumps pretty hard but it is easier to control.”

Kyle Larson: Larson could easily be entering the race at LVMS with a win on his 2019 resume but a pit road speeding ticket cost him a lot of track position at Atlanta. Now Larson competes at his best 1.5-mile track. Larson has finished 2nd, 3rd and 2nd in his last 3 races at LVMS. Larson made some long runs and said, “I lack a lot of grip, especially at the top. I prefer to be middle-up but the car does not agree. How is our teammate (Kurt Busch)? Anything to work with there?” The team told him the No. 1 car was pretty good. On his last run Larson said, “Sorry guys, its evil.” He was 14th fastest at the time.

Kurt Busch: Chip Ganassi Racing hired the lead engineer from Furniture Row Racing and so far the team said the cars are a lot faster than last year. Busch participated in the tire test at LVMS posted the 3rd fastest time on the 1st day and the 7th best time on the last day. Busch said, “The car smacks the track on turn 3 but it is better than Friday. We need to work on that and then it should be close to where we need it.” After his last run he said, “It looks like we have our arms wrapped around it. We will be OK.”

Kevin Harvick: Harvick led 214 of 267 laps in this race last year but the win was taken away from an illegal rear window brace. You know Harvick will be out to prove that his win last year was not a fluke. The No. 4 car has won 2 of the last 4 races at LVMS. Harvick made two laps and he said, “It is bouncing and bouncing all over the track.” Rodney Childress told him to bring it in to be fixed up. They sent Harvick back out and he made a 24-lap run. He was not fast on the single lap average speed but he posted the 2nd-fastest 20-lap average speed.

Clint Bowyer: Bowyer participated in the tire test at LVMS and he liked his car. He was 7th fastest the first day and improved to 3rd fastest on the final day. Bowyer also ran well at Atlanta by qualified 3rd and finishing 5th. Bowyer was not happy with his car. He said, “This S.O.B. needs to go back in the box. Worst car I ever drove. Should I wreck it so we can go to a backup?”

Daniel Suarez: Suarez ran well at Atlanta. He ran 68% of the laps in the top 10 and finished 10th. Last year he finished 8th at LVMS. The word in the garage is that the Fords have the cars to beat. Suarez could be a good sleeper pick Sunday.  

Aric Almirola: Stewart-Haas Racing looks like the best team again early in the season and Almirola seems to be their 2nd-best driver. He won the pole at Atlanta, led 36 laps and finished 8th. Almirola is one of only two drivers (Martin Truex Jr. the other) who have finished every race on a 1.5-mile track inside the top 10 since the playoffs begun last year. Almirola was happy with his car. He said, “The bumps are not as drastic as they were in qualifying. It is loose in 1 and 2 but it may be the wind more than the car.”

Brad Keselowski: Keselowski told PRN Radio after the race last week, “With this win we can change our strategy. We are locked into the playoffs so we can use more aggressive pit strategy to win more races.” That could make Keselowski more dangerous this season because crew chief Paul Wolfe is the best at using strategy to win the race. Keselowski had the best car at the test at LVMS in January. He also won the last race at LVMS. This is setting up to be a big weekend for the No. 2 team. Keselowski made some long runs and he said, “The driveability is good. Not sure how the speed is because it feels slow, but I am wide open.” The team responded, “You are P5 on the speed chart.”

Joey Logano: LVMS ranks as the 2nd-best track for Logano (behind Texas). Logano has finished every race since 2013 at LVMS in the top 10. Logano is the best in the series at using the draft to his advantage. The three Team Penske cars used three different setups to try and find the best one for the race. Logano made some long runs and said, “We are the same loose as last week.” Logano ran well last week so that might not be a bad thing.

Ryan Blaney: LVMS ranks as the best 1.5-mile track for Blaney. He has finished 5th, 5th, 6th and 7th in his last 4 races at the track. Blaney is also very good at using the draft to get to the front. Blaney made a long run and said, “The car is perfect when I run by myself but it is all over the place in traffic.” The team told him, “The dirty air is causing problems for everyone. Just hold onto it.” Blaney said after his final run, “I am not sure what everyone has for tires but I feel like we are close to the fastest car on the track.”

Paul Menard: Menard could be a good sleeper pick this week. He tested at Las Vegas in January, he has finished both of his races at LVMS with the Wood Brothers in the top 10 and he ranks 8th in average finishing position in races that include drafting. Menard was complaining that his car was too loose (common problem).

Kyle Busch: If any driver is going to have an advantage this week it will be Busch. He is competing in the Truck Series, Xfinity Series and MENCS races. That is 600 laps of racing. Busch also participated in the test session at LVMS. He spent most of his time starting in the back and racing to the front. It was impressive to watch. Kyle made a long run and said, “Free into 1 and 2 and neutral into 3 and 4. Compaired to the field we are not bad. I would like to tighten it up a tick but not so much we lose the speed.”

Erik Jones: Jones is off to a hot start in 2019. He finished 3rd in the Daytona 500 and 7th last week at Atlanta. Jones finished 8th in this race last year. He has become a good driver on Superspeedways so he should be able to work the draft to get to the front Sunday. The No. 20 car had the same setup as the No. 18. Both cars ran almost identical speeds. Jones like the car and just wanted it to get over the bumps a little smoother.

Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has stunk at LVMS but the new rules package could help him out a lot this week. Hamlin is coming off a win in the Daytona 500 and he ranks 2nd in the series in average finishing position in races which include drafting. Hamlin made a long run and said, “It feels like I a dragging the splitter. The car will not rotate at all so we need to lift it up.” At the end of practice Hamlin asked, “I am supposed to be able to hold it wide open, right? Because it drags so bad on the splitter that I cannot do that.”

Martin Truex Jr.: Truex had the car to beat in Atlanta and now he heads to a track where he leads the series in driver rating (132) and laps led (252) over the last 2 seasons. Truex has finished the last 9 races on a 1.5-mile tack in the top 10, with an average finishing position of 3.3. Truex made 9 lap run and said, “GD this thing is junk. Either we got a bad batch of tires or we completely missed the setup. Put some new tires on it and try again.” He was 29th fastest at the time. I am sure Cole Pearn will fix him up.

Matt DiBendetto: DiBenedetto participated in the tire test at LVMS in January but he did not look very good. He was 8th fastest (out of 17 cars) the first day and 13th fastest in the final practice. The No. 95 car did look very good in the draft at Daytona so he does have some upside this weekend.

Daniel Hemric: Hemric was the biggest surprise at Atlanta. He was running 4th at the end of the race when he had a tire go down. Henric was the first car on the track in final practice and he went to the top of the speed chart.

Austin Dillon: Dillon was one of the surprises of the test session at Las Vegas in January. The No. 3 car posted the 4th fastest lap on the first day and the 2nd fastest lap in final practice. Dillon also spent some time leading the draft with Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer unable to pass him. He said in the media center, “At Atlanta we went drastically with a handling package for one car (Daniel Hemric) and for speed with the other (Austin Dillon). We found that we need to be where the No. 8 car was last week so both cars will have that setup this week.”

Ty Dillon: Ty Dillon did not have the same success at the test session at Las Vegas as his brother. Dillon was 9th fastest the first day and 10th fastest in the final practice. Dillon did finish 6th in the Daytona 500 so Dillon could run well if the draft is a large factor in the race Sunday. Dillon told his team, “It is really bouncy and way too loose. I cannot hold it wide open. It gets worst in traffic.”

Ryan Preece: Preece has been really impressive this season. He finished 8th in the Daytona 500 and he was running in the top 10 at Atlanta when he got into an accident on pit road. Preece participated in the test session at LVMS in January. He was 3rd fastest the first day and 9th fastest in final practice. Preece made some long runs and said, “I hope you have a plan because we have a lot of work to do.” After his last run Preece said, “The rear has a lot more security. The front is a little tight but getting better.”

Chris Buescher: Buescher told PRN Radio, “The switch to Hendrick Motorsports engines has really helped us this season. Also having Hendrick Motorsports pit crews had drastically improved our pit road speed.” Buescher finished both races at LVMS in 15th place last year. Buescher said, “A little free in 1 and 2 but really good in 3 and 4. The balance is pretty good too.”

Darrell Wallace Jr.: Bubba surprised everyone by posting the fastest lap in the first day of testing at LVMS in January. He was only 10th fastest in the final practice. So far this season Bubba has finished 38th at Daytona and 27th at Atlanta. Not good. Bubba was complaining that the car was “Too free and sliding the front through the corners.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse Jr. has not had any success at LVMS (his average finishing position is 23.2) but the switch to the new aero package could benefit Stenhouse. He is one of the better drivers in the garage at using the draft to his advantage. Stenhouse made two long runs and said, “Either the other cars are slow or we are fast. We seem to run up on cars really well. I would not change too much.” Stenhouse was 3rd fastest at the time.

Ryan Newman: Newman participated in the test session at LVMS in January. He finished 5th fastest in the final practice and looked really solid both days. LVMS is one of the best 1.5-mile tracks for Newman. He finished 9th and 11th in the 2 races at the track last year. Newman began practice with some long runs and he said, “Much better then Friday. Good work guys.”

 

Cars that looked good in practice: Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon, Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola

* Kevin Harvick was slow on the single lap speed chart but his car has OK long run speed.

 

Good Sleeper Picks: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Daniel Hemric, Daniel Suarez and William Byron

 

 

Final Practice Speeds

 

Best 10-Lap Average Speed

 

Click here for Starting Lineup

Click here for Friday Afternoon Practice Speeds

Saturday Morning Practice Canceled

 

 

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