Las Vegas Motor Speedway was reconfigured for 2007 to add some more banking to the turns. Still, the track is one of the flatter ones on the circuit, making downforce an important factor. As the race progresses, drivers can experience late-exit push forcing them to throttle down coming out of the turns and lose speed if the car isn't handling properly. As with most flat tracks, passing is difficult and track position is very important. Two-tire calls are common but can cause or worsen a pushing car. Chassis adjustments can be used to offset this, but teams would like to have the car handling well straight away. Cars that can hold the bottom are able to pass going into the turns. Otherwise, most passing takes place upon corner exit. Las Vegas Motor Speedway hasn't traditionally been the most exciting track, but with Auto Club Speedway as its predecessor, we have a good idea of who might be fast this weekend.
Location: Las Vegas, Nev.
Shape: D-shaped oval
Length: 1.5 miles
Turns 1-4: 20 degrees
Front stretch: 9 degrees
Back stretch: 9 degrees
Drivers to keep an eye on
Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
After two races, Biffle ranks fifth in points. The series now heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway where Biffle has a decent record. In his five career starts at the track he has earned one top-five and three top-10 finishes. His average finish in that time is a respectable 14.6. Biffle is usually quite strong at flat and wide tracks, and Las Vegas certainly fits that bill. Biffle's abilities on the flatter tracks coupled with the strong horsepower generated by Roush Fenway's engines won't hurt, either. Both of those factors make Biffle a threat in the Shelby 427.
Mark Martin | No. 5 Pop-Tarts/CARQUEST | Hendrick Motorsports
After a promising debut with his new team in the Daytona 500, Martin suffered an engine letdown in the Auto Club 500 that relegated him to a 40th-place finish. He sits 27th in points but now is headed to a track where he has seen a good deal of success. In his 11 career starts at Las Vegas, he has picked up one win, five top-fives and nine top-10s. He led nearly 10 percent of all the laps he has competed in at the track and his average finish is a respectable 11.1. Martin will be looking to quickly move past the disappointment of last week and Las Vegas should give him a perfect opportunity to do so.
Kurt Busch | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Championship Racing
Busch has yet to finish outside of the top 10 this season, in any race, and is third in points. With such a strong start to the season he now heads to his home track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Busch hasn't had the best of luck here, but this season may be the time that changes. In eight career starts at the track he has only earned one top-five and two top-10s. His average finish in that time is a disappointing 20.1. Still, Busch has been very strong in 2009 and should continue to show more of the same this weekend, especially at a track similar in nature to the Auto Club Speedway where he finished fifth last weekend.
Denny Hamlin | No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing
Hamlin should be feeling strong after finishing sixth in last week's Auto Club 500. That finish is a perfect stepping stone to Las Vegas where Hamlin has a great record. In his three starts at the track, Hamlin has never finished outside of the top 10. In fact, his average finish is 7.3. His best finish was in 2007 when he finished third in the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. Hamlin is looking for more in 2009 than he has ever achieved in Sprint Cup before, and if he can get back to back top-10 finishes he may just get that ball rolling. Look for Hamlin to be a contender throughout the day in Las Vegas.
Martin Truex Jr. | No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet | Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing
Truex hasn't enjoyed the greatest of starts to his 2009 season, but he narrowly missed the top 10 in Daytona and won the pole for the Daytona 500. That means all is not bad in camp after all. Truex's average finish in three Las Vegas Motor Speedway starts is just 15.7, and he has failed to crack the top 10 in any of those tries. Still, Truex has been pretty strong in 2009 even if the finishes haven't exactly matched up. Truex may be one to keep an eye on in the Shelby 427 as many are already talking about him as a possible Chase contender.
Temper your expectations
Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports
Junior is already in a 2009 slump. He was at the center of "the big one" at Daytona and was the second blown Hendrick engine at the Auto Club Speedway. His position in the points (35th) needs a lot of work as a result. In 2008, Earnhardt carried on the tradition of Las Vegas being a strong track for Hendrick by finishing second. That was just his second top-five at the track and his first there since 2003. If Hendrick can address the engine issue, Earnhardt could still be a factor, and you don't ever want to turn your back on him, but choose wisely.
Clint Bowyer | No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing
Switching to a new crew in the organization isn't all that its cracked up to be for Bowyer. He has not turned in the strong results one might expect from him, but surely the team is still budding. It will probably take a while for the chemistry to be found and results to start rolling in. Looking at Bowyer's Las Vegas resume one has to think it probably won't be a turnaround week for the driver. His average finish in three career starts at the track is 26.3 with no top-fives or top-10s and just one lap led. Fantasy players may want to give Bowyer a bit more time to find his sea legs with the new team.
Juan Pablo Montoya | No. 42 Energizer Chevrolet | Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing
Compared to last season, Montoya has definitely made some strides forward. He is in the top 10 in points and has seen nothing but the top 15 in all of his races so far this season. It seems as though the partnership between Chip Ganassi Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. has actually improved Montoya's game. Don't be too enamored with the success just yet, though. This weekend will be a test for Montoya. He has an average finish of 20.5 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in his two starts there, and fans will want to see improvement there before buying into his early success.
David Ragan | No. 6 UPS Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
In typical Ragan fashion, 2009 has started quietly for the driver of the No. 6 Ford. He took home a top-10 in the Daytona 500, but only managed 17th in the Auto Club 500. His two races at Las Vegas have been split, one top-10 and one 37th-place result. Based on these stats alone it will be difficult to predict what kind of chance Ragan will have in the Shelby 427, but keep an eye on him. He is widely tipped to make the Chase and a strong result this weekend would do a lot to send him along that path.
Brian Vickers | No. 83 Red Bull Toyota | Red Bull Racing
After a rough start to the season in the Dayton 500, Vickers picked up a top-10 in the Auto Club 500. One wonders though how well he would have done if he had not had to start at the back of the field after qualifying first. Vickers hasn't been great at Las Vegas, though, and that is where he will want to continue his momentum and not suffer another setback. His average finish at the track is just 28.0 and last year was only a 24th-place finish in the UAW-Dodge 400 as well. If Vickers can score well at Las Vegas, he may be signaling his strength for the entire 2009 season.