Are they still racing stock cars?.It seems like a loooong time since Daytona, doesn't it? When the Smokeless Set takes the checkers at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this Sunday afternoon, it'll have been a full three weeks since the 500, a span during which the boys held a boring Fontana race that saw the stands half-filled, and then took a week off to celebrate, uh, some Christian holiday I probably don't understand. And it's not exactly the time of year that's going to make the public rush out and think "NASCAR." A mere few hours after the race on Sunday, the NCAA will announce its March Madness brackets, sending stock-car racing toward the kind of anonymity it experiences only one other time each year: when the NFL kicks off.
Nevertheless, Nextel Cup racing is about to get good. The flattish-tracked Vegas race has the potential to be a bit strung-out and boring, but there have been several good events here. Even better, the boys head down to ridiculously fast Atlanta next week, and then comes Thunder Alley in Bristol. Three more different driving experiences, you're not likely to find.What can we say about Vegas? (I mean: what can we say about the track.
I know what we can say about the city. It's fun. And where's my wallet?) The 1.5-miler in the desert doesn't drive anything like the high-banked 1.
5-milers in places like Texas, Charlotte or Atlanta. Its corners are banked a mere 12 degrees, which puts it on par with venues like New Hampshire and (believe it or not) Martinsville. When looking for comparisons, I like Loudon as the most direct resemblance, but I'll take a look at patterns from all three other "flatties," too: Phoenix, Martinsville and Richmond. None of these tracks are as big or as wide as Vegas, however; this place is its own entity.Matt Kenseth won the 2003 and 2004 events, and was a heavy favorite to three-peat before finishing eighth here last spring.
Jimmie Johnson was king in the desert a year ago: he led five times for a total of 107 laps, and put an end to Kenseth's streak. The Smokeless Set has only been running here since 1998, and has only featured six winners: Kenseth, Johnson, Mark Martin ('98), Jeff Burton ('99 and '00), Jeff Gordon ('01) and Sterling Marlin ('02). Burton's dominance here came at a time when he was lapping the field at both Phoenix and New Hampshire, which gives those track comparisons even more credence. So who'll roll nothing but sevens on Sunday? Read on.Two weeks ago: Greg Biffle dominated the first Fontana event, but blew up late, and when he did, I threw stuff around my apartment. However, Biffle's loss was my gain: his teammate Kenseth, whom I'd also selected and at more favorable odds, took the lead after The Biff failed, and won the event outright.
Considering I also had Kenseth over Tony Stewart, it was a double-win for me: +4.44 units for the week. That puts me at +1.44 for the season..Christopher Harris is a featured writer for the Professional Handicappers League. Read all of his articles at http://www.procappers.
By: Christopher Harris