Monday, February 28, 2011

Las Vegas Kobalt 400 Storylines

The City of Entertainment gets more of it with NASCAR
NASCAR continues its two-race western swing, heading to yet another style of racing.

After a restrictor-plate race at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway and a run at the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway, both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series hit the fast 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is coming off two consecutive record-breaking races. The most recent, at Phoenix, featured a track-best 28 lead changes. This Sunday, the schedule shifts to Vegas for the Kobalt Tools 400.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series saw some history – again – at Phoenix, as race-winner Kyle Busch led all 200 laps. Busch, a Las Vegas native, will try for career win No. 45 this Saturday at the Sam’s Town 300.

A number of storylines heading into this weekend’s action …


Gordon Chases More History
Ending a 66-race winless drought, Jeff Gordon’s Phoenix victory on Sunday also made it career win No. 83 – tying Cale Yarborough for fifth on the all-time list.

On deck in the record books: Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip, at 84 wins. If Gordon does win this weekend, it would be the first time since October 2007 that he won consecutive races (Talladega and Charlotte).

Can another jackpot be in the cards? It sure seems that way: Gordon ranks first in pre-race Driver Rating with a 117.0. Last year, Gordon dominated much of the race, leading 219 laps only to finish third.

Family Reunion Atop Standings
The Busch brothers – Kyle and Kurt – enjoy the first and second spots in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings heading into their hometown race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Kyle holds a three-point advantage over older sibling Kurt.

It’s the first time family members have sat 1-2 in standings since father-son duo Bobby and Davey Allison did it after the season-opening Daytona 500 in 1988. Since 1975, when the position-based points system went into effect, no brothers have been 1-2 in the standings.

Kyle won the 2009 Las Vegas race; Kurt’s best finish at Vegas was third in 2005.

Return To Normalcy For Johnson
He didn’t win, but five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson landed back in the top five. It was the most recent example of a developing trend: Johnson shrugs off a tough Daytona 500 finish with a top five in race No. 2.

Johnson’s last five Daytona 500 finishes: 39th (2007); 27th (2008), 31st (2009), 35th (2010), 27th (2011).

Johnson’s last five finishes in the season’s second race: 3rd (2007), 2nd (2008), 9th (2009), 1st (2010), 3 rd (2011).

Expect more the same. Johnson has four wins at Las Vegas, more than any other driver.

Return To Glory For Iconic No. 43
AJ Allmendinger has opened the season with finishes of 11th (Daytona) and ninth (Phoenix). The resulting points position: 4th.

That put the iconic Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 back near the top of the points standings for the first time in more than two decades.

The last time the No. 43 car was this high in the standings was after Martinsville on April 26, 1987. The driver: Richard Petty.

Weekend Marks 50th Anniversary of Wendell Scott’s First Start
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Wendell Scott’s first start -- March 4, 1961 at Fairgrounds Speedway in Spartanburg, S.C. -- every car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series will display a decal with Scott’s photo this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Scott, the first African-American to win a premier series race, ran 495 career races in what is now the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Labonte Stays In Top 10
Bobby Labonte, 2000 series champion, sits in the top 10 in points for the second consecutive race, the first time he has done that since August, 2004.

- NASCAR Media Services

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