Las Vegas, NV (SportsNetwork.com) - This weekend's Sprint Cup Series race at
Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be the first of 11 events contested on 1.5-mile
racetracks this season.
NASCAR has a new rules package for the intermediate tracks on the Sprint Cup
schedule. Forty-eight teams participated in a four-hour test session on
Thursday at Las Vegas, familiarizing themselves with the 2014 package.
Rule changes for the intermediate tracks this season include statically
setting the race car ride height and eliminating the pre-and-post-race front-
height rules and inspections. The package also contains a square leading edge
on the splitter, side-skirt and rear-fascia adjustments and an eight-inch rear
spoiler. A 43-inch by 13-inch radiator pan are among the changes as well.
NASCAR implemented chassis and aerodynamic adjustments into the setup
specifications, with the hopes of creating more green-flag passing and side-
by-side racing. The sanctioning body gathered information from lengthy test
sessions held at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 1.5-mile track, in October and
"For the most part, I think it looks like there's speed in the cars, and I
think as the weekend unfolds [at Las Vegas], they'll probably be a little bit
quicker," NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said. "I think
the important day will be Saturday [final Sprint Cup practice] where we have
more cars working on race trim and around each other. It will be about
learning the aero part of the car, how they drive around each other. That will
probably change significantly from multi-car runs to single-car runs."
Fresh off of his win last Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, Kevin
Harvick topped the speed charts in testing at Las Vegas. Harvick, in his first
season as driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, made a total
of 42 laps. His best lap was clocked at 190.140 mph. He was the only driver
who surpassed the 190 mph mark.
"I thought it went really well," Harvick said of his test session. "We
struggled in the beginning just to get the feel. It took us a couple of hours
to kind of get everything situated and get the balance of the car right. Then
we felt pretty good about it after that. Changed a lot of stuff and did a lot
of different things to the car. I felt like we made good head way in the end,
and hopefully, we can progress on that and make it even better."
Harvick drove for Richard Childress Racing during his first 13 seasons in the
Cup Series before moving over to SHR. He has yet to win a Cup race at Las
Vegas but finished second there in 2010.
Rookie Austin Dillon had the second quickest lap during the Las Vegas test.
Trevor Bayne was third, followed by Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick, who is
Harvick's teammate at SHR. Dale Earnhardt Jr., the current points leader and
winner of the season-opening Daytona 500, placed 19th on the speed charts.
"Whatever we use here will traditionally translate to a lot of racetracks
throughout the year," Earnhardt said. "We may be able to see trends. We have a
lot more spoiler on the car with the new package, on the ride height, that
changes the downforce quite a bit. So you're going to start to see trends
whether it be rear-spring split, different things that will be a little bit
different from last year that will help you shortcut understanding how to take
it to another racetrack."
Both Earnhardt and Harvick will make it into this year's Chase for the Sprint
Cup championship unless there are more than 15 different winners in the first
26 races (regular season). That's only happened twice in the 65-year history
of NASCAR's premier series.
During the offseason, NASCAR made sweeping changes to the Chase format by
expanding the field of drivers/teams from 12 to 16. The top-15 drivers with
the most wins over the first 26 races will become eligible for the playoffs,
provided they have finished in the top-30 in points. The 16th and final
position will go to the driver who is the highest in points without a victory.
Could there be a third different race winner this season on Sunday at Las
One year ago at this track, Matt Kenseth gambled on tires late in the race and
then held off Kasey Kahne in the closing laps for the win. It came in just his
third start as driver of the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Kenseth also
celebrated his 41st birthday on the day of his Las Vegas win.
Forty-eight teams are on the entry list for the Kobalt 400.
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, March 9. Race: Kobalt 400. Site: Las
Vegas Motor Speedway. Track: 1.5-mile oval. Start time: 3 p.m. ET. Laps: 267.
Miles: 400.5 2013 Winner: Matt Kenseth. Television: FOX. Radio: Performance
Racing Network (PRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.
The Sports Network