Friday 5: NASCAR Cup teams looking for answers in Las Vegas

This article discusses the upcoming NASCAR Cup race in Las Vegas and the uncertainties surrounding it. It also highlights the importance of 1.5-mile tracks in the season and playoffs. The article mentions the challenges faced by Ford and Toyota with their new car bodies. It also explores the improved performance of Chevrolet teams Trackhouse Racing and Richard Childress Racing. The article concludes with insights from pit crew changes and drivers gaining confidence.


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Friday 5: NASCAR Cup teams looking for answers in Las Vegas

The winningest Cup driver over the last year has no idea what to expect this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“Hopefully, our car drives well and we can lead most of the race like we did last year,” William Byron said, “but there’s definitely a lot to see how it unfolds.”

In the 36 Cup races since he took the checkered flag last March at Las Vegas, Byron has won a series-high seven times — including this year’s Daytona 500. But even he is unsure what to expect Sunday because Ford and Toyota have new car bodies this season.

What happened at Daytona and Atlanta the past two weeks doesn’t carry over because of the special package for superspeedway racing that chokes horsepower and keeps cars close together.

This weekend will be the first chance to see how much Ford and Toyota have improved their bodies. Byron and the rest of the Chevrolet camp will find out how well their same Camaro ZL1 body from last year compares to the competition.

Erik Jones, whose Legacy Motor Club team switched from Chevrolet to Toyota before this season, said he is intrigued to see how his team measures against the rest of the field.

“I just want to know where we stack up in the game,” Jones said. “What we got to work on.”

Good news, bad news for NASCAR Cup teams heading to Las Vegas

This weekend will start to answer some questions, such as which organizations have work to do and which ones are the leaders. Last year, Hendrick Motorsports, led by Byron, finished 1-2-3 in the spring Las Vegas race.

This weekend also is important for another reason: Las Vegas is a 1.5-mile track and those tracks will play a key role in the season.

Four of the next 12 points races are at 1.5-mile tracks: Las Vegas (Sunday), Texas (April 14), Kansas (May 5) and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (May 26).

With those races spaced nearly a month apart, it gives teams time to apply lessons from the previous event.

The 1.5-mile tracks also have a significant role in the playoffs. Three of the last seven playoff races are at such tracks. Both Las Vegas and Homestead are in the third round. A victory there for a driver still in title contention will move them to the championship finale at Phoenix.


Teams will get answers soon. But more questions remain.

Las Vegas is the second of a four-race stretch of tracks that will host playoff races later this year. The stretch began last week at Atlanta and goes to Las Vegas, Phoenix (which debuts a new package for short tracks and road courses) and Bristol.

Atlanta will host the opening playoff race, Sept. 8. Bristol is the cutoff race in the first round on Sept. 21. Las Vegas is the opening race in the third round on Oct. 20. Phoenix will determine the championship Nov. 10.

“The next three tracks are all important playoff tracks,” Rudy Fugle, crew chief for Byron, told NBC Sports. “You’re really looking to see where everybody stacks up, to see what improvements we’ve made as a company over the offseason.”