Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Las Vegas NASCAR Storylines: 2014 Kobalt Tools 400

NASCAR Storylines for Week of Mar. 3, 2014

NASCAR the Vegas way.  
As NASCAR headed west to Phoenix many pundits tabbed Kevin Harvick as the odds-on favorite to find Victory Lane at the one-mile speedway.

And he didn’t disappoint, winning in dominant fashion. His win all but guaranteed a spot in the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Although Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn’t capture the checkered flag, he put forth another strong performance by reeling in a runner-up finish one week after winning the Daytona 500 and traversing the country for a week-long media tour.

NASCAR stays out west this weekend as they traveling slightly north to Las Vegas.

Neither Harvick nor Earnhardt have wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in Vegas, but don’t expect that to slow them down as they can now race all out with very little added pressure knowing that they’re most likely in the Chase.

With the series headed to their hometown for the KOBALT 400, the Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle, hope they can overcome their rocky starts to 2014.

Kurt and Kyle aren’t the only drivers with the opportunity to perform in front of a hometown crowd this weekend.

NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers Brendan Gaughan and Dylan Kwasniewski, both of Las Vegas, will compete in Saturday’s Boyd Gaming 300 in front of family and friends. It will be Kwasniewski’s first national series start at the track.

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Elliott Sadler is considered one of several favorites to contend for the Nationwide title in 2014, but the Virginia driver, who has had a solid start to the season, will need another strong showing in Vegas where he has never won to firmly ensconce him in contention.

Although the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is off until the end of March when they return to action at Martinsville, fans can expect to see reigning truck series champion Matt Crafton on Saturday in the Nationwide race.


Harvick Continues To Dominate Phoenix

Rolling into Phoenix International Raceway for Sunday’s race many pundits tabbed Kevin Harvick and his new crew chief Rodney Childers as the favorites to capture the checkered flag. The new duo didn’t disappoint as Harvick dominated, leading 224 of the 312 laps, including the final 62 circuits, for his track record fifth series win. Harvick and his team head to Las Vegas in fourth place, with their Chase ticket all but punched.

Earnhardt’s Confidence On Display Early In 2014
If there’s something different about Dale Earnhardt Jr. this season that might have been lacking in years past, it’s his confidence. He admits that his strong performance during last season’s Chase has provided him with more self-assurance through the first two races of 2014, and it shows with a victory in the Daytona 500 and a runner-up finish at Phoenix. Although he has never won at Las Vegas – the site of Sunday’s KOBALT 400 – he’s finished second there twice. So, fans should expect his confidence to continue.

Busch Brothers Return Home With Work To Do
Kurt and Kyle Busch’s seasons have not started the way they would have liked, but perhaps a little bit of hometown magic is just what the two Vegas natives need. When the Busch brothers arrive in Sin City for Sunday’s KOBALT 400, Kyle will be looking to improve upon his 14th-place position (-29), while Kurt looks to do the same in 30th (-61). In 10 starts at the 1.5-mile speedway, Kyle has one win and four top fives. Kurt is winless and has three top 10s in 13 starts.


Las Vegas Homecoming For Gaughan, Kwasniewski

Who says you can’t go home? Brendan Gaughan and Dylan Kwasniewski are both doing just that this weekend when they get to compete in the Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Saturday’s race will mark Gaughan’s fourth NASCAR Nationwide Series start at the speedway while Kwasniewski will be making his debut. They are not the only hometown drivers competing in the race; Kyle Busch returns behind the wheel of the No. 54 looking his first series victory at Las Vegas.

Sadler Strong In 2014
A new season is proving to a good thing for Elliott Sadler. After finishing second in the series standings in 2011 and 2012, the JGR driver was winless in 2013 and finished fourth in the points. In two races this season, Sadler has two top-six finishes. He captured the pole at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – the site of Saturday’s race – in 2012 and has two top fives.

Nationwide Regulars Shine In Vegas
Regan Smith was the first NASCAR Nationwide Series regular to take home a victory in 2014. The odds are good that another series regular could do the same this weekend at Las Vegas. The last two races held at the speedway have been won by series regulars – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2012) and Sam Hornish Jr. (2013).

Two Races Down, Rookies Continue To Show Strength
After the first two races of the season, Sunoco Rookie of the Year title contenders Ty Dillon, Dylan Kwasniewski and Chase Elliott continue to impress. The trio have each at least one top-10 finish and are currently fourth, fifth and seventh in the series standings, respectively. Dillon is the only one of the three to have a NASCAR Nationwide Series start at Las Vegas. In last year’s event, he finished 11th.


Crafton To Compete This Weekend In Las Vegas

After a solid showing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series last season with three top-10 finishes in as many starts, defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton will make his fourth career start in the NNS this Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Crafton finished third in both races at Kentucky Speedway, and placed 10th at Chicagoland in July.

Wallace Honored At NASCAR Hall of Fame
Although he wasn't at the track last weekend, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Darrell Wallace Jr. still spent some quality time with fans and dropped off the truck he drove to Victory Lane during last October’s Kroger 200 at Martinsville at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C. Wallace was the first African-American driver to win a NASCAR national series event since Wendell Scott won a NASCAR premier series race in 1963. Bubba is a graduate of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program.


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