THE LEFT TURN
NASCAR: Penzoil 400 preview, picks
This week, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Penzoil 400. This is one of the more challenging mile and a half tracks because of how slick the surface gets. This is something that could come up Sunday. After last week's debacle, NASCAR will shorten practice as well to give the teams a chance to prepare their backup cars for qualifying in case of any accidents.
Last week, defending champion Kyle Larson went on to capture his first victory at Auto Club Speedway. The finish was not without controversy as Larson was involved in a dust-up with his teammate Chase Elliott. Entering turn one, Larson moved up into Elliott’s lane, forcing him into the wall and effectively ending any chance at a victory. In the closing laps, Elliott spun out causing a caution, erasing Larson’s lead. As this happened, many people (myself included) threw out the idea that Elliott spun out on purpose to make things more difficult for his teammate. While it made sense at first look, Elliot’s damage from the contact made the car difficult to drive, thus causing him to spin out. Overall, I think you can chalk this up as just a racing deal, and these teammates will be able to continue on with relatively no issue.
Another big storyline last weekend was the tires. After a driver spun out, driving the car with a flat tire was impossible, and the cars had to be towed back to pit lane. It was frustrating to watch considering this has never been too big a problem over the years. You can bet that NASCAR and Goodyear are working hard to rectify this issue. Hopefully, they can come up with a solution.
One positive story this week was how fast Erik Jones and the Richard Petty-GMS Motorsports team were, as they qualified on the front row and were able to lead 18 laps, the second-most among the field. His teammate Ty Dillon also had a respectable run as well, as he finished 17th. This could be a team to watch during the coming weeks, it’s clear that the alliance with GMS racing and Mike Beam has helped this team immensely. I wouldn’t rule out Jones getting a win this season if he can keep up this pace.
Another team to watch out for is Trackhouse racing. In the last two laps, it appeared that their driver Daniel Suarez was on his way to his first career victory, but just couldn’t hold off the charge from Kyle Larson. The move by team owners Justin Marks and rapper Pitbull to purchase Chip Ganassi Racing sent shockwaves throughout the garage, and now it's looking like the investment is paying off immensely. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if either Ross Chastain or Daniel Suarez or maybe even both win a race this season.
The driver that I have winning this weekend is Kyle Busch. Though the hometown hero only has one victory here, he has been knocking on the door. In the last three races here, he has finished third twice and sixth once. This track is modeled after the bull-ring he cut his teeth on in his early days. There aren’t many active drivers that know how to get around this track better than Rowdy, as he has the second-highest average finish among all active drivers. Look for Rowdy to rebound nicely and score the win.