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The Setup – South Point 400
By Tyler Miller – @rickybobby_jr

 

This week NASCAR kicks off the playoffs with its second trip to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This is the second year Las Vegas has hosted a playoff race. Prior to 2018, this race was in New Hampshire and Las Vegas was restricted to one race per year. Joey Logano won at Las Vegas in March, edging out teammate Brad Keselowski by .236 seconds. This is a Sunday night race, with a green flag time shortly after 7 pm eastern. Let’s get started!

Race Distance: 267 laps, Stage 1 ends on lap 80, Stage 2 ends on lap 160.
Lineup Lock 7:00 pm eastern Sunday

Spring winner – Joey Logano (started 10th)
Spring pole sitter: Kevin Harvick
Prior race winners: (start position) Spring/Fall
2018: Kevin Harvick (2)/ Brad Keselowski (13)
2017: Martin Truex Jr (2)
2016: Brad Keselowski (4)
2015: Kevin Harvick (18)
2014: Brad Keselowski (2)

Indy Recap:

What went right?
In a word. Nothing. Denny Hamlin was an obvious play due to starting 33rd in a backup car. Hamlin scored 64.5 points on Fan Duel ranking 3rd via his 6th place finish. Matt DiBenedetto and Chris Buescher both did ok, but not enough to make up for all the other drivers that I recommended in Victory Lane who crashed out of the race.
What went wrong?

Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson: all recommended in Victory Lane, all finished 30th or worse. NASCAR can be frustrating as hell when multiple wrecks take out drivers and ruin your day. Missing out on Kevin Harvick who led 119 out of 160 laps from the pole position is also really frustrating. I should have recognized how difficult it would be to pass the leader and put more of an emphasis on the pole sitter. To paraphrase Bill Belichick, we’re on to Las Vegas.
What to watch for in practice/qualifying:

Playoff Teams The NASCAR playoffs are unique in that all teams continue racing throughout the playoffs. All of the drivers from 17th on back are still trying to win a race to finish the season strong. We need to pay attention to who is in and who is out, particularly for cutoff races in weeks to come. For right now, I’m not looking at anything much differently. The top drivers are going to run well, but as we progress into the playoffs, we utilize as many of the playoff teams as possible in our lineups.

Team Penske Las Vegas has been a good track for Team Penske. Logano and Keselowski finished 1-2 in March. Last year Keselowski finished 6th and 1st and Logano finished 7th and 4th in the two races at Las Vegas. Don’t forget about their third teammate, Ryan Blaney, who finished a lap down in the spring, but finished 5th in both Vegas races a year ago.
Busch Brothers This is a home track for Kyle and Kurt Busch. Kyle won at Las Vegas in 2009 and Kurt is winless in 19 career races. The Busch brothers might be a storyline leading into this weekend, but don’t get caught up in the hype, especially considering Kyle’s premium price in DFS.

DiBenedetto’s New Ride Matt DiBenedetto excelled at Bristol immediately following the news that he would not be back with his current team next season. Fresh off the announcement that he will take over the 21 car for the Wood Brothers next year, I’m interested to see how DiBenedetto runs this weekend. DiBenedetto will also sport a new look this weekend with sponsorship from Barstool Sports.
Aric Almirola He doesn’t show up in the top 15 in driver rating (20th) or Average Running Position (22nd), he hasn’t led a single lap and his average finish is 22.9, but Aric Almirola has finished in the top 10 in each of the last 3 races at Las Vegas. His top 10 streak started when he moved to Stewart Haas Racing from Richard Petty Motorsports. Keep an eye on Almirola this weekend, he could be a great value play for Sunday.

What Vegas thinks (via Westgate):
Kyle Busch is favored to win at 9-2. I like Keselowski and Logano at 6-1, 13-2 respectively. I also like Ryan Blaney as a longshot at 25-1.

Kyle Busch: 9-2
Kevin Harvick: 5-1
Brad Keselowski: 6-1
Joey Logano: 13-2
Martin Truex Jr: 13-2
Denny Hamlin: 15-2
Erik Jones: 12-1
Kyle Larson: 12-1
Chase Elliott: 16-1
Kurt Busch: 20-1

Driver Ratings at Las Vegas:
1. Jimmie Johnson 104.6
2. Kyle Busch 103.7
3. Kevin Harvick 102.5
4. Joey Logano 101.6
5. Brad Keselowski 96.1
6. Martin Truex Jr. 95.7
7. Kyle Larson 93.3
8. Chase Elliott 91.3
9. Ryan Blaney 90.2
10. Erik Jones 87.5
11. Denny Hamlin 82.9
12. Kurt Busch 82.9
13. Ryan Newman 80.5
14. Austin Dillon 76.6
15. Jamie McMurray 74.5

* 15 of the top 17 in driver rating have had a single race at Las Vegas with a driver rating over 100 (includes Paul Menard (16th) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17). Only Erik Jones and McMurray are excluded.

Average Running Position
1. Kyle Busch 9.252
2. Joey Logano 9.392
3. Jimmie Johnson 10.720
4. Kevin Harvick 11.140
5. Chase Elliott 11.489
6. Martin Truex Jr. 11.661
7. Ryan Blaney 12.432
8. Brad Keselowski 12.535
9. Kyle Larson 12.781
10. Erik Jones 14.028
11. Denny Hamlin 14.668
12. Ryan Newman 15.283
13. Kurt Busch 15.649
14. Austin Dillon 17.196
15. Paul Menard 17.347

Laps Led
1. Jimmie Johnson 582 (13.5% of laps run)
2. Kevin Harvick 497 (11.6)
3. Joey Logano 328 (10.2)
4. Brad Keselowski 280 (8.7)
5. Martin Truex Jr. 260 (6.5)
6. Kyle Busch 254 (6.3)
7. Kurt Busch 96 (2.4)

2019 Spring Top 10:
1. Joey Logano
2. Brad Keselowski
3. Kyle Busch
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Kurt Busch
6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
7. Aric Almirola
8. Martin Truex Jr.
9. Chase Elliott
10. Denny Hamlin

2018 Fall Top 10
1. Brad Keselowski
2. Kyle Larson
3. Martin Truex Jr.
4. Joey Logano
5. Ryan Blaney
6. Aric Almirola
7. Kyle Busch
8. Daniel Suarez
9. Ryan Newman
10. Paul Menard

2018 Spring Top 10
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Kyle Busch
3. Kyle Larson
4. Martin Truex Jr.
5. Ryan Blaney
6. Brad Keselowski
7. Joey Logano
8. Erik Jones
9. Paul Menard
10. Aric Almirola

Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Truex, and Almirola have all finished top 10 in each of the last 3 races at Las Vegas.
Stay tuned for updated content following qualifying on Saturday night.

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