NASCAR drivers studying Vegas to prepare for playoff return

Kristopher Nichols
March 5, 2018

By the end of the day, Harvick would lead 214 of 267 laps, the most ever by a Las Vegas victor. In the end, Harvick would lead over 200 laps in winning his second-straight race. Harvick would cruise to a near 3-second victory over Kyle Busch. Harvick dominated practice, posting the fastest 15 and 20 consecutive lap times, forcing those in the garage to say the #4 vehicle is once again the auto to beat this weekend. In 2016, Cup champion Jimmie Johnson won at Fontana, and in 2014, Kevin Harvick went on to become the Cup Series champ after taking the checkered flag at Phoenix when NASCAR went west that year.

"It's early, this is only race three - we aren't anxious yet", Busch said. This year marks the first time in the sport's history that the speedway will host two races in a season.

Harvick restarted fourth after a slow pit stop and quickly dropped to fifth. Harvick's team had two issues with the new NASCAR-issued air guns on pit stops in the first part of the race.

For the first time, everybody is coming back to Vegas in six months for the opening race of the playoffs.

IN THE WIND: The drivers could get a respite from the high desert winds Sunday, but they're prepared for anything after being forced to steer through gales in practice.

"We just didn't have it early on, just super, super loose, but Adam and the guys made some great adjustments to flip that and be on the tight side for the majority of the rest of the day", Busch told the media after the race. "Not that this race when it was just a stand-alone event wasn't important, but anytime you can race at a track that you are going to come back at in the final 10, it's got some added importance to it".

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Kurt Busch's career-long victory drought in his hometown continues. He has 39 wins in the Cup Series, 47 wins in the Xfinity Series and 14 wins in the Truck Series.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority agreed to pay LVMS owner Speedway Motorsports Inc.

"At the end of previous year, and even in Atlanta, I was trying too hard", Johnson said.

ON THE POLE: Ryan Blaney earned his third career pole Friday, and his Team Penske Ford will start alongside Harvick on the front row. Truex led all three stages and 150 laps past year on his way to a victory that propelled him into his championship season. Michael Hubert will tapped to replace Frankos on pit road.

Ross Chastain and Johnson both had to start the race from the rear of the field after each team failed pre-race inspection three times. Johnson had to start at the back after his chief, Jesse Saunders, got the gate.

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