There are many reasons why Las Vegas race weekend is one of the favorite stops for fans, drivers, and everyone part of the traveling show that is the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Gambling, shows, relatively warm weather considering tomorrow is the last day of meteorological winter, endless strip clubs, and oh yeah, pretty good racing. Ever since Bruton Smith tore up a relatively flat track a few years ago and installed higher, progressive banking, the action at Las Vegas Motor Speedway has improved each year.
I think we all remember that memorable duel to the finish in the Nationwide race two years ago between Jeff Burton and Kyle Busch, which ended with checkers for Burton and the wrecker for Shrub.
We are sure to see plenty of side-by-side action both tomorrow and Sunday once the top groove comes in, and I expect that to happen early in the Nationwide event. There's talk about Kansas being in line for a second date in the near future, but if any track deserves an additional race weekend, it is this one outside of Sin City.
I love how this event is 427 miles long. The race is named for the company owned by Carroll Shelby, a former F1 driver and longtime American car builder. Shelby has designed vehicles for Ford and Dodge, and is probably most famous for his involvement in designing the sleek Cobra sports car in the early '60s.
The 427 comes from the cubic inch size of the motor that is most notorious for powering the vehicle (note also that the 427 was used in the early years of NASCAR by Ford before the manufacturer pulled out of the sport in the late 60s).
So for those of you who feel 500 miles is too long, but 400 miles not necessarily long enough (especially at some of the faster tracks like Atlanta or Charlotte), maybe this is the wave of the future: 400 and some odd mile-long races.
Let's just hope none of the crew chiefs or engineers forget about the extra 18 laps when calculating fuel mileage, but considering how they all have the FOX network feed in their pit box showing the ticker with the number of laps to go, I would hope that is not going to be an issue.
Fuel mileage on the other hand, probably will be. I have one of those eerie feelings that we are due for a fuel mileage finish on Sunday.
The big story of the day at the track had to be the fact that the Busch brothers swept the front row.
Of course, this is their home track, and thus probably one of the few times a year Little Busch doesn't hear more boos than cheers out of the stands. As for the Blue Deuce, is it to early to say they are back as a threat?
I'll hold off on making that an official observation for a few more weeks. Speaking of Rowdy, he will go the route Brian Vickers took at California, dropping to the rear due to an engine change.
Jimmie Johnson will move up and inherit the pole position when the green drops on Sunday, but it's not all bad for the 18 team: they get the first pit stall selection, the pole award money, and the track record.
Speaking of Kyle's newly minted track record, I find it amazing that these cars can travel around LVMS in 29 seconds flat.
Darrell Waltrip made a good point about how the cars were turning Atlanta-like lap times today, and remember AMS is banked 8 degrees higher in the bottom groove of the corners.
Plus, it's about 200 feet longer than LVMS, which probably doesn't make much of a difference.
I think the fact that 12 drivers ended up breaking Kasey Kahne's old record lap time can be contributed to several factors: a relatively cool day allowing for maximum grip, a track with relatively new pavement, a prevailing wind down into turn 1 for much of the session, and the new Goodyear tire which has a lot more grip than the slicker tires brought to Vegas a year ago.
Kudos to Goodyear and the drivers who tire tested at LVMS (Stremme, Martin, Vickers, Edwards) for picking out what appears to be a racy tire. Let's just hope they hold up well during long runs on Sunday.