NASCAR National Series News & Notes — Las Vegas

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube
The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The Date: Sunday, March 3
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90)
Distance: 400.5 miles (267 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 80),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 160), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 267)
2018 Winner: Kevin Harvick

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Boyd Gaming 300
The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, March 2
The Time: 4 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 3:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90)
Distance: 300 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)
2018 Winner: Kyle Larson

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series
Next Race: Strat 200
The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The Date: Friday, March 1
The Time: 9 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 8:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90)
Distance: 201 miles (134 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 134)
2018 Winner: Kyle Busch

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

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Man of Steel: Keselowski’s winning ways might have only just begun

Brad Keselowski won last week’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway even while fighting the flu. The Team Penske driver arrives at Las Vegas this week statistically fortified, at least – as the winner of three of the last six races there.

He returns to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube (at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) having won the series’ last race at the track – September’s 2018 Playoff opener. He also won the March race in 2014 and 2016.

Not only has Keselowski proven himself specifically adept at the Vegas 1.5-mile oval, he may be a favorite this weekend for his propensity to go on winning streaks. Three times in his career he’s won back-to-back races (2014, 2016, 2018) and he won three consecutive – at Darlington, S.C., Indianapolis and Las Vegas last season. Two other times in his career he’s won two races in a three-race span –in 2012 he won Chicago and Dover, Del. and in 2016 he won at Kentucky and New Hampshire; both times with a race in the middle to split up the wins.

His work – and Team Penske’s work in particular – has been especially productive on the Vegas high banks. Keselowski has led laps in seven of the last eight races there and led 50 or more laps three times in that span. His Penske teammate, reigning Cup champion Joey Logano, holds a seven-race top-10 streak heading into the weekend, leading a total of 241 laps in that span.

Harvick returns to Vegas to defend last season’s win

The defending winner of Sunday’s Las Vegas race is Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick, who took the trophy last year in what ended up being part of a three-race win streak to kick off the season – with victories at Atlanta, Vegas and ISM Raceway. Harvick is currently second to leader Denny Hamlin in the points standings, trailing by eight points.

Harvick’s victory in this race last year marked the second consecutive race he essentially dominated. The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford led 181 of 325 laps en route to his Atlanta win and answered that by leading 214 of the 267 laps at Vegas, the most laps ever led by a driver at Vegas.

However, on either side of Harvick’s Vegas win last March, he had a DNF at the track, finishing 38th in the March 2017 race. In last September’s Playoff opener, Harvick’s Ford suffered a cut tire after leading 14 laps, ultimately finishing a very uncharacteristic 29th.

He has two wins (2015) and four top-10s in the last seven Vegas races – leading five of the last six races for a total of 394 laps out front.

Hometown love: Busch returns to Las Vegas

Kyle Busch returns to his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada, fresh off a historical achievement in the sport – becoming the all-time winningest driver in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series with his 52nd career win at Atlanta Motor Speedway last Saturday.

Busch is now the winningest driver in both the Truck Series (52 wins) and the Xfinity Series (92 wins) and would like to add to his Cup win column as well. He’ll be competing in all three series races at Vegas this weekend, a favorite to keep collecting trophies along the way to perhaps topping NASCAR’s overall win list (in all three series). He has previous wins at his home track in all three series – a Cup win in 2009, an Xfinity Series win in 2016 and a Truck Series win last year.

In all, the 34-year-old currently has 195 wins across all three of NASCAR’s series (51 in Cup, 92 in Xfinity and 52 in Truck). Only the legendary seven-time Cup champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty has more (200 wins).

Although Busch has only one Cup win at his Las Vegas Motor Speedway “home track,” he remembers it well.

“It was cool,’’ said Busch, who also won back-to-back pole positions at Vegas in 2008-09. “To go out there and run a smooth race and have a shot at winning at the end of the race, that’s what it’s all about. I watched Vegas being built from the ground up and I remember when it wasn’t anything but a gleam in the eye of (track founder) Richie Clyne – all those guys who made that place happen.”

Busch and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones are the only drivers to score top-10 finishes in the first two races this season. Following Atlanta, the 2015 Monster Energy Series champion Busch is ranked third in the standings, nine points behind series standings leader and JGR teammate Denny Hamlin.

Tried and True(x) at Las Vegas

Martin Truex Jr. climbed out of his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota last week at Atlanta Motor Speedway frustrated and motivated. And that was after a second-place finish.

The 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion crashed out of the season-opening Daytona 500 and finished 35th so he has ground to make up. Although the positive showing at Atlanta moved him from 28th to 12th in the points standings, Truex felt for sure he had a car capable of winning.

He’ll get another chance this weekend at Las Vegas, where he led a race-best 150 laps en route to the 2017 victory and has finished fourth or better in four of the last five races. He was third in the September Playoff race despite leading the most laps (96) on the afternoon.

Las Vegas marks the second straight week for Truex to show his 1.5-mile expertise. Since the start of his 2017 championship season – a span of 23 races on 1.5-mile tracks – Truex has eight wins, 19 top fives, 22 top 10s and led 1,446 laps.

Like the rest of the field, Truex is eager to see how the new competition rules package will play out. Cup teams tested at Las Vegas in the offseason.

Hamlin’s early season success continues

Denny Hamlin’s 11th-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway last weekend was good enough to compliment his season-opening Daytona 500 victory and keep him atop the points standings by eight points over Kevin Harvick heading to Las Vegas this week.

The good vibes will be especially helpful at Vegas, a track where Hamlin is winless. In fact, his 15 laps led in 14 starts at Las Vegas is the lowest total laps led for him at any venue where he’s made that many starts. Last year, his 17th-place finish in this race was the only non-top-six finish in the opening five races for the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

The upside is that the last time Hamlin won the Daytona 500 in 2016, he also led the most laps (10) of his career at Vegas. The “West Coast Swing” – races at Las Vegas, Phoenix and Fontana, Calif. – has been a point on his resume Hamlin would love to improve. The only venue of that trio where he’s won is Phoenix, where he’s led a healthy 671 laps, including a race-best 193 laps in the 2017 Playoff race in which he crashed out late in the event.

“The FedEx No. 11 team is really clicking so far and I’m happy with our progress and achievements, but we still have a lot of work to do and a lot more challenges coming our way,’’ Hamlin said. “But we’re still leading the points, and we’ll be ready to get back at it this weekend in Las Vegas and pad our lead a little more.”

Chip Ganassi Racing is on a roll

Chip Ganassi Racing is having the best start of its two-car history, statistically speaking. Although the team is still looking for its first win of 2019, for the first time in history, both team cars are ranked among the top-10 after the season’s opening two races.

Kyle Larson, driver of Ganassi’s No. 42 Chevrolet, is ranked fourth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings – the highest he’s been ranked in his career at this point in the season and the highest a Ganassi driver has been ranked at this point since 2010, when Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray was ranked fourth. Larson’s new teammate Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet, is ranked eighth.

Larson holds the distinction of being the season’s lap leader – 142 laps combined at Daytona and Atlanta. And he arrives at Las Vegas with good reason to feel optimistic about earning his first Monster Energy Series victory in more than a year.

In the last three Cup races at Vegas, Larson has two runner-up finishes and a third-place result. He has three top-five finishes in six career races at the track. He led 24 laps in his runner-up showing in last year’s Playoff race, the first time he’s led laps there despite his top-of-the-field finishes.

Mr. Jones has 2019 by the horns

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones is ranked seventh heading to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the highest he’s been in the standings – ever – at this point in his three-year Cup career. Jones has top-10s in both races to start the season – third at Daytona and seventh at Atlanta last week.

He and JGR teammate Kyle Busch are the only drivers in the series to finish top-10 in both races. Jones has completed every lap run and is averaging an impressive fifth-place finish heading out West.

Last year the 23-year-old had a top-10 sweep of the three West Coast races – finishing eighth at Vegas, ninth at ISM Raceway and seventh at Auto Club Speedway in California. Plus, he won the Busch Pole position for the September race at Vegas.

He’s finished in the top-10 in four of his last eight races dating back to 2018 – a career year for the young Michigan driver who scored his first-ever Monster Energy Series victory in the Daytona summer race and qualified for the Playoffs for the first time.

Sunoco Rookies: Blank slate in Vegas

This will be the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for all four of the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders.

Richard Childress Racing’s 2019 rookie, Daniel Hemric, has the best previous finish at Las Vegas – he finished second in the 2016 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race. The best finish out of the group in an Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas is sixth by both Ryan Preece (fall) and Hemric (spring) in 2018.

For the second straight week, Preece leads the Rookie of the Year standings. The driver of the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Chevrolet is ranked 25th in the series driver points standings as well – with a top 10 in the Daytona 500.

RCR’s driver Daniel Hemric is currently second in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, 12 points behind Preece. Hemric is also ranked 29th in the series driver points standings.

Front Row Motorsport’s Matt Tifft, who drives the No. 36 Front Row Motorsports Ford, is ranked third in the rookie standings (22-points behind Preece) and 33rd in the series driver points standings.

Cody Ware, driver of the No. 51 Rick Ware Motorsports Chevrolet, is ranked fourth in rookie standings (27 points behind Preece) and 34th in the driver championship standings.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.:

Extra Seat Time – Four drivers not competing for Monster Energy Series points will be competing in the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube this weekend – Parker Kligerman, Joey Gase, BJ McLeod and Ross Chastain.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Head west: NASCAR Xfinity Series rolls the dice at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

The NASCAR Xfinity Series packs up and heads west this week to Las Vegas, Nevada, for the Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 2 at 4 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway has hosted 23 NASCAR Xfinity Series races dating back to the first event held on March 16, 1997 – Jeff Green won the race from the pole, driving for car owner Gary Bechtel in the No. 8 Chevrolet. Since then, the Xfinity Series has seen 17 different pole winners and 17 different race winners at Las Vegas. NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin and drivers Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth lead the series in poles at Las Vegas with two each. Martin also leads the series in wins at Las Vegas with four (1999, 2005, 2008 and 2011).

Last season’s Boyd Gaming 300 saw Christopher Bell win the pole for the event, but the race was dominated by Monster Energy Series driver Kyle Larson, who led 142 of the 200 laps en route to the victory. It was Larson’s first of four wins he would capture in 2018 in the Xfinity Series.

Currently, Las Vegas Motor Speedway is riding a different winner streak in the NASCAR Xfinity Series that dates back to 2009 and has reached 11 different winners – Greg Biffle (2009), Kevin Harvick (2010), Mark Martin (2011), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2012), Sam Hornish Jr. (2013), Brad Keselowski (2014), Austin Dillon (2015), Kyle Busch (2016), Joey Logano (2017), Kyle Larson (2018 spring) and Ross Chastain (2018 fall).

Four former Las Vegas winners are entered this weekend but only three can snap the streak – Kyle Busch (2016), Ross Chastain (2018) and Austin Dillon (2015) – the fourth winner entered this weekend, but not included in the streak is Jeff Green (1997).

The Bell rings and Joe Gibbs Racing takes top two spots

Making a statement early in the season with the top two spots in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver championship standings, Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Christopher Bell (first) and Brandon Jones (second) are championship hungry.

Coming off a big win at Atlanta Motor Speedway last weekend, Oklahoma native Christopher Bell is now the points leader by four points over his JGR teammate Brandon Jones. In addition, he has guaranteed himself a spot in the Playoffs and banked seven Playoff points in the process. Both drivers are looking to bring the Joe Gibbs Racing organization its third driver title (Kyle Busch, 2009 and Daniel Suarez, 2016) at the conclusion of 2019.

Last season in the spring race at Las Vegas, Christopher Bell won the pole in his series track debut and finished runner-up behind race winner Kyle Larson.

“I enjoy Vegas and coming off the win at Atlanta gives us a little extra momentum and confidence going into this weekend,” said Bell.

Bell’s teammate Jones led the points following the season-opener at Daytona and is now just four points back from Bell in second after his fourth-place finish at Atlanta last weekend.

“This year is off to a great start,” said Jones. “There’s only been a few teams that have been able to consistently run inside the top-five both during the stages at the end of the race, and fortunately our No. 19 team has been one of them.”

Jones has also seen success at Las Vegas, in his four career starts at the 1.5-mile speedway he has accumulated three top 10s; including two seventh-place finishes in last year’s races.

Jeffrey Earnhardt has also been impressive this season for Joe Gibbs Racing. The grandson of NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt has posted an average finish of 10.5 in his two starts with the organization. This weekend, Kyle Busch will be back in the No. 18 Toyota Camry. Busch has just one series win at his home track, back in 2016.

Xfinity Champ Tyler Reddick looking to cash out on his 2018 success

A lot of big changes happened for the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, Tyler Reddick, following his big win in the season-finale at Homestead-Miami – a new organization, new crew chief, new car – but none of it seems to be slowing him down. The California native is now fourth in the Xfinity Series driver points standings as the series heads out to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Boyd Gaming 300.

Last season, Tyler Reddick won the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship with JR Motorsports, driving the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro with crew chief David Elenz. This season, Reddick has moved to Richard Childress Racing to drive the flagship No. 2 Chevrolet Camaro with crew chief Randall Burnett. After coming off such a successful season, one might think the wholesale changes would slow him down, but instead he hasn’t missed a beat. In two starts this season he has amassed one top five, two top 10s and an average finish of 7.0.

Reddick is looking to bring RCR its first driver title since Austin Dillon’s championship in 2013. Reddick made his series track debut in this event last season, positing an eighth-place finish.

This time Ross Chastain returns to Vegas as a winner

JD Motorsport’s driver Ross Chastain is returning to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, his first time back since winning his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series race at the 1.5-mile complex last fall. Chastain is just one of 12 first-time winners the NASCAR Xfinity Series has seen over the last three seasons.

Season

First-Time Winner

Organization

2019

Michael Annett

JR Motorsports

2018

Chase Briscoe

Biagi-DenBeste Racing

2018

John H. Nemechek

Chip Ganassi Racing

2018

Ross Chastain

Chip Ganassi Racing

2018

Spencer Gallagher

GMS Racing

2017

Alex Bowman

Chip Ganassi Racing

2017

Christopher Bell

Joe Gibbs Racing

2017

Cole Custer

Stewart-Haas Racing

2017

Jeremy Clements

Jeremy Clements Racing

2017

Ryan Preece

Joe Gibbs Racing

2017

Tyler Reddick

Chip Ganassi Racing

2017

William Byron

JR Motorsports

Though now he has returned to JD Motorsports with Gary Keller for 2019, last season’s victory at Las Vegas came with Chastain piloting the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Camaro. Chastain’s performance was impressive as he led 180 of the 200 laps (90%). The win marked the fourth time in three season Chip Ganassi Racing had ushered in a new winner into the series – more than any other organization during that time. Plus, Chastain became just the second driver in series history to win his first race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway; joining Jeff Green (1997).

This season Chastain ran the season-opener at Daytona for Kaulig Racing, posting a 13th-place finish, and then last weekend at Atlanta he joined the JD Motorsports crew to finish 14th. Now the Florida native is ninth in the driver points standings looking to make the Playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Chastain has made five series starts at Las Vegas, posting one win and an average finish of 15.6.

Sunoco Rookie Update: Standings tighten following Atlanta

Xfinity Rookie Standings

Rookie

Points

Awards

John H. Nemechek

60

1

Justin Haley

60

1

Noah Gragson

59

0

Chase Briscoe

51

0

Brandon Brown

43

0

Following the second race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the 2019 Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings have

tightened up with John Hunter Nemechek and Justin Haley tied in points (60 each) at the top. This class looks to be one of the most competitive in a while as all five rookies are only separated by 17 points in the standings after two races.

Four of the five rookies this season will be making their series track debut at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this Saturday. Chase Briscoe is the lone rookie with a start at Las Vegas – last season in the fall race he started 13th and finished 31st.

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.:

West Coasters Are Gearing Up – Several of the NASCAR Xfinity Series finest hail from the West Coast, so it is no surprise when the series pulls into Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend drivers like Noah Gragson (Las Vegas, Nevada), Kyle Busch (Las Vegas, Nevada), Ja Junior Avila (Los Angeles, California), Cole Custer (Ladera Ranch, California), Tyler Reddick (Corning, California) and Zane Smith (Huntington Beach, California) will be extra excited to showcase their talents in front of their local fans.

Local Favorite Kyle Busch Is Back – The NASCAR Xfinity Series’ winningest driver all-time, Kyle Busch, will return to the series this weekend for his first start in 2019. Busch will be in the No. 18 Toyota, replacing Jeffrey Earnhardt, this weekend at Las Vegas. Busch calls LVMS is home track and has had quite the success in front of his friends and family, as he has made 14 series start posting two poles, one win (2016), four top fives, five top 10s and an average finish of 15.8.

Dillon Jumps In With Kaulig Racing At Vegas – Austin Dillon will be back in Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 Chevrolet this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with crew chief Alex Yontz. This will be Dillon’s first Xfinity Series start of the 2019 season. This season, car owner Matthew Kaulig has expanded his stable to two entries with Justin Haley driving the fulltime No. 11 Chevrolet and multiple drivers piloting the part-time No. 10 Chevrolet team. Ross Chastain drove the No. 10 in the season opener at Daytona finishing 13th. Dillon made his first start for Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 team last season at Indianapolis where he started 32nd and finished eighth. Dillon has made six series starts at Las Vegas, posting a win (2015 from the pole), three top fives, five top 10s an average finish of 6.0.

Zane Smith To Make Debut With JR Motorsports – JR Motorsports will have 19-year-old Huntington Beach, California, driver Zane Smith behind the wheel of the No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro with crew chief Taylor Moyer this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Smith has showcased his talents working up the ranks racing in the CARS Late Model Series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West, but most impressively was his stint in ARCA. Over the past three seasons he has made 36 starts in the ARCA Menards Series and has posted four wins, 19 top fives, 25 top 10s and three poles. He even finished second in the ARCA driver championship standings last season. Though this will be Smith’s first NASCAR Xfinity Series start, it will not be his first NASCAR national series start, as the youngster made his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut last season for DGR-Crosely Racing at Gateway Motorsport Park – he started 10th and finished fifth.

2019 Season Review Following Atlanta – Below is a snapshot of the stats we are starting to see this season:

Races: 2

Laps Completed: 283

Winners: 2 (Michael Annett and Christopher Bell)

Pole Winners: 1 (Tyler Reddick)

Stage Winners: 3 (Christopher Bell, 2; Ross Chastain and Justin Haley, one each)

Lap Leaders: 11

Lap Leader (most): Christopher Bell – 146 laps led (51.59%)

Drivers with 100% Laps Completed: 13

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

King of the trucks returns home

Last week’s win at Atlanta Motor Speedway checked off another historic box in Kyle Busch’s NASCAR Hall of Fame-worthy career. It marked his 52nd trip to Victory Lane in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series – putting him in sole possession of first place on the series’ all-time wins list.

The win broke a tie with NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr.

Busch isn’t one to rest on his laurels as the Las Vegas native is heading right back to the track to take on the triple-header weekend at the 1.5-mile venue located right across the street from the 3/8-mile Bullring where he cut his teeth in racing.

He’ll pilot his No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota in Friday night’s Strat 200 (9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in Saturday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Boyd Gaming 300 (4 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and then cap off the weekend in his Monster Energy Series No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the Pennzoil 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Friday night’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race could set Busch up to collect a hat trick of weekend wins for the third time in his career. Twice before (Bristol – August, 2010 and August, 2017) he has completed the sweep with the 2010 feat marking the first time a driver had taken the checkered flag in all three of NASCAR’s national series races in a weekend.

Also of note, Busch is part of a select group of 31 drivers who have captured at least one win in each of the three national series.

Busch doesn’t have an extensive Gander Outdoors Truck Series resume at his home track, but it is impressive. In his two starts, spaced 17 years apart, Busch placed ninth in 2001 and then won this spring race last year. As impressive are his starting stats – he started third in 2001 and was the pole sitter for the win in 2018.

Leader of the pack

By virtue of solid finishes in the opening two races of the season, journeyman Grant Enfinger has quietly taken the reigns of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series points standings for the first time in his career.

After starting fifth at both Daytona and Atlanta, Enfinger crossed the line as the runner-up at the season opener and was third last week at Atlanta. That gives him a one-point advantage over Daytona winner Austin Hill in the points.

Now in his third full-time season in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, Enfinger has a pair of wins to his credit – including last fall’s race at Las Vegas. In total, he has made five starts at the desert venue, and improved upon his finish each time he took to the track. His first venture in 2012 netted a 12th-place finish, and he scored a 10th-place finish when he returned in 2016.

Since then he finished ninth in 2017 and then fourth and first in the two races last year.

Overall, Enfinger has led 45 laps at Las Vegas – including 40 en route to the win in the fall. He’s completed 100% of the laps run during his five starts and has an average finish of 7.2.

Former Vegas winners in looking to double down

The field for the Strat 200 (Friday, 9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) features five previous Las Vegas NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race winners – and all are looking to double their wins under the neon lights.

Johnny Sauter’s first career NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series victory came at Las Vegas in 2009, as he outlasted his then…and now current, again…teammate at ThorSport Racing, Matt Crafton. The win came from the front row, after qualifying second, and marked the first of 11 starts so far at the track for the Wisconsin native.

He won the race in a Chevrolet during his first stint with ThorSport but will be in the No. 13 Ford this time around for the Ohio-based team. Sauter has tallied six top-five finishes at Vegas, including four runner-up placements – two in the pair of races last year. He’s led 121 laps and tallied an average finish of 7.0 there.

Timothy Peters, now behind the wheel of the No. 44 Chevrolet for Niece Motorsports, won the race in 2013 after passing NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. on a late-race restart.

Peters has 11 starts at the 1.5-mile track, with one pole award, the win, and five top fives to his credit. He’s led 82 laps there and tallied an average finish of 10.4

However, his luck hasn’t been as good in recent years. After a string of six straight top-10 finished, Peters placed 11th in 2017 and 19th in the fall race last year.

Ben Rhodes also captured his first career NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series win at Las Vegas, beating Christopher Bell on the final restart and holding him off to take the win in 2017. The victory came in the second of four total starts Rhodes has made at the track.

Rhodes also has a strong average finish at Las Vegas, a 6.0, in fact. He’s led 24 laps (20 coming during his win) and completed all 570 of the laps in those starts.

Both of the winners from 2018 are back – Kyle Busch (spring race) and Grant Enfinger (fall race). Busch has just two Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts at his home track, while Enfinger has made five appearances at Las Vegas.

Fugle looking for win at Vegas

Rudy Fugle, who will be atop the pit box for Kyle Busch’s attempt at back-to-back wins this week, has won at a lot of tracks as a crew chief – 14 different ones in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, in fact – but never at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

If there was ever a time to bet on him to get that missing trophy, this weekend would be a good one. Fugle has 23 Truck Series wins – 17 of them on tracks 1-2 miles in length and 13 of those at 1.5-mile tracks. In fact, Las Vegas is the only active 1.5-miler he hasn’t won at.

And he’s going to Las Vegas this week with the all-time winningest Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver behind the wheel…in the driver’s hometown…where he is the defending winner of this spring race.

Sunoco Rookie Update: Burton Jumps Out Front

Heading to Las Vegas this weekend, the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series 2019 Sunoco Rookie of the Year class now has two races under their belts (Daytona and Atlanta) and look to be an impressive bunch already.

Kyle Busch Motorsport’s Harrison Burton has launched himself into the rookie standings lead, followed by Sheldon Creed (-11), Gus Dean (-23), Tyler Dippel (-33), Anthony Alfredo (-47), Natalie Decker (-18) and Tyler Ankrum (-67). The Huntersville, North Carolina, native scored some stage points and finished eighth in last weekend’s race at Atlanta to propel him into the rookie standings lead.

Burton also is ranked fifth in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series points standings, just 24 points back from the series standings leader Grant Enfinger. The other six rookies this season are ranked as follows in the driver points standings – Sheldon Creed (10th), Gus Dean (14th), Tyler Dippel (18th), Anthony Alfredo (27th), and Natalie Decker (29th), while Tyler Ankrum has yet to make a start this season.

All six rookies this season have yet to make a start in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series at Las Vegas, this weekend will be their track debut.

Decker, Ruch and Cobb are women to watch in Vegas

This weekend’s NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race the Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will have three female competitors – Natalie Decker (No. 54 DGR-Crosley Toyota), Angela Ruch (No. 8 NEMCO Motorsports Chevrolet) and Jennifer Jo Cobb (No. 10 Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing Chevrolet) attempting to qualify for the event.

Decker, the 21-year-old Eagle River, Wisconsin, native is making the transition to the Truck Series after competing in the ARCA Menards Racing Series for the past two years. She is coming off a career-best season, finishing seventh in the 2018 ARCA driver championship standings after scoring two top-five and nine top-10 finishes throughout the 20-race season. This season, Decker exited the season-opener at Daytona early after a cut tire damaged her truck and relegated her to a 32nd-place finish. Then last week at Atlanta, she made her track debut at the 1.5-mile facility; starting 16th and finishing 24th.

Returning this weekend, after not competing at Atlanta, is 35-year old Puyallup, Washington native Angela Ruch, who will be piloting the No. 8 NEMCO Motorsports truck in Vegas. Ruch is coming off an eighth-place finish (second-best finish by a woman at Daytona) after becoming the first female competitor to lead laps at Daytona two weeks ago. Ruch is currently 21st in the series standings despite not starting last weekend. Both Decker and Ruch will be making their series track debuts this weekend at Las Vegas.

The veteran of the three women entered this weekend is Jennifer Jo Cobb, who is the only owner/driver of the three; as Jennifer runs her own trucks out of Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing. At the age of 45, the Kansas City, Kansas, native Cobb has been competing in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series since 2008. She and Ruch are the only two female competitors to have posted a top-10 finish in the series – Cobb finished sixth at Daytona in 2011. Cobb has made 10 series starts at Las Vegas, posting a best finish of 12th last season – which is the best finish for a female driver at Las Vegas in the Truck Series.

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series etc.

OEM win breakdown: Chevrolet leads the manufacturers in truck wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with nine, but hasn’t won since John Wes Townley’s victory in 2015. Toyota has seven victories, including two recently back-to-back with Ben Rhodes (2017) and Kyle Busch (spring, 2018). Ford, the most recent winner in the fall with Grant Enfinger, has five series wins at Las Vegas. Dodge owns the other two series wins at the track – in 2001 with Ted Musgrave and in 2003 with Vegas native Brendan Gaughan.

Stefan Parsons attempting to make third start: Stefan Parsons, son of Phil Parsons and nephew of NASCAR Hall of Famer Benny Parsons, will be attempting to make his third NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series start, first of 2019. In the fall last year, Parson finished 15th at Bristol and 20th at Phoenix. He’ll be driving the No. 1 Beaver Motorsports Chevrolet.

Reed all about it – another Ryan is back: Ryan Reed returns to the track this weekend to drive the No. 17 DGR-Crosley Toyota at Las Vegas – the only site he has raced at previously in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. He raced to a 17th-place finish at Las Vegas in 2012…his only career series start. Reed did run five full-time seasons in the NASCAR Xfinity Series all with Roush Fenway Racing, mostly recently posting 10 top-10 finishes in 2018.

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