For it’s third official race weekend of the 2015 season, the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series are heading out west to Sin City. This marks the first of three Sprint Cup Series races on the west coast. After this weekend, the series will head to Phoenix, then Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California before returning back to the east coast to visit NASCAR’s oldest circuit, Martinsville Speedway.
The winner of last year’s Las Vegas race was Brad Keselowski, who secured a place in the front for him and his No. 2 team nice and early. The first quarter or so of the race was led by Kevin Harvick, who eventually finished 41st after having a problem with the left front hub of his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.
Jeff Gordon won the pole on Friday evening, turning a lap of 194.679 mph (27.738 seconds) and setting a new track-record in his No. 24 car. Prior to the qualifying session, Las Vegas was one of the three tracks on the circuit that he had never won a pole at. But that has obviously changed now. This was his second pole of the season (Daytona) and 79th of his career. He didn’t even get a chance to make a qualifying lap last weekend at Atlanta due to inspection issues, so you could argue that he is two-for-two when it comes to qualifying this season. Not too shabby.
Some notable starting positions include Kevin Harvick (18th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (4th), Joey Logano (2nd), Kyle Larson (5th, who was also fastest in the first practice session), Martin Truex Jr. (8th), Jimmie Johnson (9th) and Brad Keselowski (11th). You can see the entire starting lineup for the Kobalt Tools 400 on NASCAR.com.
As for some of the major storylines heading into the third race of the season, they include the Busch brothers, again. Kyle is still out of the car as he is recovering from injuries and Kurt is out of the car as well due to being suspended indefinitely (still) by NASCAR. The Delaware court found him not guilty and he has now begun the process for reinstatement into NASCAR. Las Vegas, Nevada is the hometown of both Kurt and Kyle Busch and fans will probably be somewhat disappointed that they won’t be able to see their hometown boys race come Sunday afternoon.
Thankfully, no race cars were victim of theft this weekend in Sin City. Brett Moffitt, who collected his first career top ten finish last week at Atlanta, got a new gig at Front Row Motorsports in the No. 34 car because their usual driver, David Ragan, is serving as the interim driver for Kyle Busch. Moffitt will drive that car for at least the next three races, which leaves open another seat in the carousel: the No. 55 car for Michael Waltrip Racing, which will be driven by Brian Vickers again.
Vickers will make his season debut this weekend after missing the first two races of the season and most offseason activity due to undergoing heart surgery. Missing races due to health issues isn’t uncommon for Vickers, who missed more than half of the season back in 2011 with blood clots and has had more health issues in the past. Hoping all of his issues are behind him, his focus is now on making the chase for MWR and ultimately, winning a championship. He has proven that he can win in the cup series before, as he captured the checkered flag at New Hampshire in 2013. That was Rodney Childers’ first win as a crew chief, which brings me to my next storyline.
Harvick has finished in the top two in his last five point paying races in the cup series and has added one Xfinity win in that time span as well. As it was aforementioned, he was leading for much of this race last year before a mechanical failure sent him home. I expect him, as well as Joey Logano and the other guys (Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson) to be very strong on Sunday.
There’s an Xfinity Series race this weekend, as well. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the biggest name in that race, wheeling the No. 88 TaxSlayer Chevrolet for JR Motorsports. His JRM teammate and employee, Harvick, will be in the Fox Sports 1 broadcast booth for the second time this season, providing insights on the Boyd Gaming 300. the race.
You can catch the Boyd Gaming 300 (Xfinity race) on FS1 on Saturday afternoon around 4:00 pm eastern time (1:00 pacific) and the Kobalt Tools 400 on FOX on Sunday afternoon around 3:00 eastern time (12:00 pacific).
I will be at the race track in Las Vegas this weekend, so be sure to follow along with me all weekend for the latest from the world of NASCAR!
Davey Segal is a multi-media journalist for Impact Sports