NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas

 

Hmm. If there was any doubt that the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season was going to be something special, those doubts were erased on Sunday when 23-year-old William Byron drove his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet into Victory Lane. Remarkably the average age of the first three winners this season is 28. 

Will one of the veterans break out this week in Las Vegas or will someone like Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe walk away with the Sin City victory?  The plot thickens.
 
This Week's Pick Strategy:
Don't be tempted by the Busch Brothers. Just because they are Las Vegas natives doesn't mean they will miraculously run better than everyone else. Yes, both Kurt and Kyle have won at Las Vegas. Kurt won in last season’s Playoff race. Kyle won in 2009 in dramatic fashion (of course) after starting 39th. Statistically speaking Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick have a much better chance to win than the Busch Brothers. Just sayin'.
 
Drivers with Most Top 10s:
By Race and Track in the Last 5 Years (Last 8 races)
Both with 7 - Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano
All with 6 - Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex, Jr. and Ryan Blaney
Both with 5 - Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson

2020 Race Winner: Joey Logano

The Likely Suspects: Las Vegas Motor Speedway tends to be a strong track for Team Penske and Rousch Fenway Racing. Look for these drivers to run well on Sunday: Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., the Kyles (Busch and Larson) and Ryan Blaney.
 
My No-Brainer Pick: Joey Logano 

My Final Four: Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon and Michael McDowell
 
Second-Look Driver: This week's second-look driver is rookie Chase Briscoe, who will be making his  Cup Series track debut at Las Vegas this weekend. Briscoe has the dubious distinction of having won the last two NASCAR Xfinity Series races at Las Vegas, sweeping the races last season. He made the history books for becoming the first-ever driver in Xfinity history to win consecutive races at Las Vegas. Can Briscoe create history again this weekend? Stay tuned.
 
Last week's second-look driver, Tyler Reddick, finished in second place after starting way back in 35th. He drove that high line he's famous for throughout the race, giving fans and other drivers a primer on how to run Homestead's multi-groove track. In the end, the difference between winning and second came down to bad restarts and a setup that kept the car struggling most of the race until sundown.

"Obviously this was a 400-mile race, and everyone knew that," Reddick said. "I just didn't have a very good last restart. We kind of struggled to get our Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen Chevy going, and I had just a poor restart, and it was the difference, unfortunately. That's all there is to it. Needed to be able to hold on better at the start and just didn't."  

I'm sure that his frustration was doubled because he also finished second the previous day in the Xfinity Series race, only to be disqualified after post-race inspection due to a ride height issue in the rear.

Points to Ponder:
  • Five of the 24 Las Vegas races (21%) have been won from the front row: Kyle Busch, 2009 (pole); Carl Edwards, 2008 (second starting position); Brad Keselowski, 2014 (second starting position); Martin Truex Jr., 2017 (second starting position); Kevin Harvick, 2018 (second starting position).
  • Roush Fenway Racing leads the series in wins at Las Vegas with seven victories.
  • Brad Keselowski leads all active drivers in wins at Las Vegas with three (2014, 2016, 2018).
  • Four active drivers have multiple NASCAR Cup Series wins at Las Vegas: Brad Keselowski (three); Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano (each have two).
  • Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson lead all active drivers in second-place finishes in the NASCAR Cup Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with two each.
  • Among active Cup drivers,  Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick lead the series in top fives at Las Vegas with seven each.
  • Kevin Harvick leads the series in top 10s at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with 12. He is also the lap leader at Las Vegas with 679 laps led in 23 starts
  • Joey Logano leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series in average finish at LVMS with an 8.4 in 15 starts.  
 
Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game, make your final picks by 3:30 p.m. ET on Sun., March 7.  Enjoy the race!

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Carol D'Agostino has been playing Fantasy NASCAR for 15 years. She launched  NASCAR Fantasy Fusion for Skirts & Scuffs in October 2011. Each week, Carol pours through statistics and combs through her personal notebooks to arm fans with analysis and picking strategies that will leave their friends wondering how they got so smart. Carol also does race coverage for Skirts & Scuffs at Richmond Raceway and occasionally at her home track, Dover International Speedway. She is also part of the distinguished NASCAR Expert Picks panel at frcs.pro. formerly called Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet.
 
When she isn’t wielding her fantasy-racing superpowers, you’ll find Carol hammering out a news release or creating a marketing strategy at a small niche public relations firm she founded called Purple Cat or executing downtown revitalization projects for a small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
 

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Reviewed by Carol D'Agostino on Thursday, March 04, 2021 Rating: 5

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