Hold ‘Em or Fold ‘Em: Las Vegas 2023
Count your chips and place your bets. The second race of the west coast trip is here, and the City of Sin never disappoints. Las Vegas is one of my personal top 5 favorite tracks on the schedule. This track is very fast and brings lots of action. There is one thing that it doesn’t bring though, and that is first time Cup Series winners. Don’t waste your time looking for that wild card pick who is going for their first win this weekend. The driver that wins the Pennzoil 400 will be a driver who already has multiple wins in the series and probably has a championship under their belt as well.
The NASCAR Cup Series has been racing at Las Vegas Motor speedway since 1998. The list of winners at this track is full of sure-fire hall of famers. In the past 30 races at this racetrack, there have only been 17 different winners. Of those 17, eleven of them are former NASCAR Cup series champions. Only the best go to victory lane at this track.
The obvious favorite for this week has to be the hometown hero Kyle Busch. He has been on a tear so far this season and is looking to start a hot streak after winning at Fontana last weekend. He has 11 top 5 finishes in his 23 races at Vegas, with 1 win, and an average starting position of 10.7. You can make an argument for Kyle to be the favorite at any track he goes to just based off his talent, but Vegas is truly a track where he shines.
If you don’t want to go for a Chevrolet driver this weekend. You’re going to want to go for Joey Logano. He is the only driver in the field with an average finish above 10th and is currently tied with Brad Keselowski for the most wins at Vegas by an active driver with 3. There is one key element here to all the wins between Joey and Brad. Paul Wolfe is a mastermind at Las Vegas. He was originally Brad’s crew chief at Team Penske when he won all 3 of his races there. Wolfe was then switched to Joey’s car in 2020 and has won 2 times with him since.
Let’s look outside of the two obvious favorites. While it seems crazy that a person with 2 wins at this track isn’t an obvious favorite, but Martin Truex, Jr. isn’t a bad pick for Sunday as well. His car has looked each week this year and should have finished in the top 10 last weekend if not better. Truex has a better average finish at Vegas than Kyle Busch and has finished in the top 10 in eleven out his last 13 races. After an unusually inconsistent season for this team last year, they are out to make a statement early this year.
A longshot wildcard for this weekend could be Brad Keselowski. This one is a big long shot, but he has won at this track 3 times and it is one of his best tracks on average finish. Last weekend we saw that RFK Racing is making improvements to their program with both drivers finishing in the top 15 and Brad being in the top 10. His crew chief Matt McCall also has a win here with Kurt Busch back in 2020. If they really have made improvements and get a little bit of luck, this team could sneak in and get a win.
Lastly, to close out, we’ll go with “The Closer” Kevin Harvick. Another 2-time Las Vegas winner, that may be flying under the radar. Harvick finished 5th last week and even led 5 laps in the race. Stewart-Haas as a whole has continued to improve from last season and looks like they are ready to compete week in and week out for wins again.
My pick for this weekend is going to be Kyle Busch’s old teammate Martin Truex, Jr. After how badly last season went for this team and missing the playoffs after finishing 3rd in points in the regular season, they are due for a win. They have been strong all season and would have finished better last weekend if not for some mistakes and penalties on pit road.
Kyle Busch always runs good at Las Vegas, but only has 1 win. Every year there just always seems to be some bad luck that goes his way. Joey is the statistical favorite, but after a poor showing last weekend by the entire Team Penske camp, I don’t have too many expectations for them this weekend. Coming off a weekend like that, Las Vegas could be the perfect place for them to get it going, but I’m going to stick with Truex. This is a track he runs great at and should be able to finally capitalize on a win this season.