Pennzoil 400 preview

NASCAR heads for the desert in Vegas for the third race of 2019

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The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series ventures into the unknown this week as they head for Vegas for the Pennzoil 400. This week, NASCAR will unveil the new "aero ducts" that will tighten up the field come Sunday. All throughout the offseason, the field has been testing at this one and a half mile oval and overall we saw almost exactly what we would expect. Everyone was bunched up and the field was extremely close together.

While there were plenty of positives that came with these rule changes, not everyone was a fan. One of the drivers that was critical of the new package was Kyle Busch. He was quoted as saying the package has "taken the skill away from the drivers." NASCAR officials were none too happy with his comments, NASCAR's VP of Development John Probst responded by saying drivers should "be careful" with their criticism of the rule changes and threatened to give them fines. I personally find this abohorent. NASCAR continues to show their thin skin when it comes to criticism, weather it be by drivers, the media or team owners. While it is common practice for certain sports to fine their athletes for being critical, I personally think it's stupid to punish their drivers for speaking their mind. Here is a sport that tries to pride themselves on letting these drivers be who they are but yet they turn around and threaten to fine everyone. With this new leadership in Jim France, I hope they can find a way to stop being such snowflakes all the time and let the drivers think and say what they want.

Last week, Brad Keselowski was able to pull out all the stops and take the victory at Atlanta. At the beginning of the race, Keselowski started all the way back in 19th place. While he was quiet at the beginning he made his presence known in the final 32 laps. The heartbreak of the day came after Kyle Larson got a speeding penalty costing him a shot at winning his first race at Atlanta. All throughout the day, Larson dominated the race by leading 142 laps and winning the first stage. Over his career, Larson has had an issue with finishing races and Atlanta was a prime example. He looks to avenge his loss this week at Vegas.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr is back in the news again. In the closing laps, Stenhouse was multiple laps down and according to Martin Truex Jr, Stenhouse did not give way to Truex in his efforts to catch Brad. Overall, this has been a common complaint among the drivers. Truex was quoted as saying "We had the best car but the 17 [Stenhouse] was slowing me down." In a response Stenhouse fired back at the 2017 Champion, he stated "If I had a car faster than someone, I would drive around them." While I can see the reason for Martin's frustration, he has to realize that he isn't the only driver on the track. At the end of the day, there were 36 other cars on the track that are all racing for different things. With everything that can happen on the track, who knows maybe a caution could come out and Stenhouse can get the free pass back on to the lead lap and get back into contention for a better finish. While there has been legitimate reasons for drivers to be upset with Stenhouse this is not one of them.

The driver that I have winning this week is Kurt Busch. For many, most would pick Kyle Busch to win here but I am going with his older brother Kurt. After last week's fantastic third place showing in Atlanta, Kurt comes to his home-track with a great finish under his belt and a better understanding of his new team at Ganassi Racing. While his results here in the past in Vegas haven't been what he might have wanted, they don't really tell how well he has run here. Last year Busch had a great car in this race until he was involved in an incident with Chase Elliott. I think this year, he will put it all together and claim his second victory at his home track and clinch a spot in the playoffs.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

NASCAR heads for Martinsville for the first short track race of 2019.

NASCAR STP 400 preview

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This Sunday, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for the track they call the "paperclip" in Martinsville Virginia for their annual STP 500. Overall, the track is 0.526 miles around with twelve degrees of banking in all four of its corners. It is easily the shortest and most narrow track on the circuit, this will make it extremely difficult for drivers to pass without moving someone out of the way. Not only is the racing unique on the track but off it as well as the winner is awarded with a grandfather clock as their trophy. Look for there to be lots of action all around the track.

Last week, Kyle Busch dominated the Auto Club 400 and went on to capture his 53rd NASCAR Cup series victory. There was much controversy about this victory as it was his 200th victory across all three of NASCAR's divisions. As many fans know, the only other driver to reach 200 wins was the king, Richard Petty. Unlike Kyle Busch, Richard obtained all of his victories in the Cup series leading most to believe that his body of work was superior to Busch's body of work.

While yes, what Richard Petty did was unprecedented and will never be replicated but there are multiple factors to take into account. One is the competition Petty faced. For instance, in Petty's masterful 27 win season in 1967 many of his fiercest competitors like David Pearson did not run the full 49-race schedule, as opposed to Kyle Busch and how he faces the same field we see every week. That year, Pearson ran only 22 races while Petty ran all but one.

Another factor is the money that Petty and his team had back then as opposed to everyone else. Back before there were major sponsors like we see today, many drivers had to provide the money to race for themselves and Petty and his team were one of the first drivers to gain a major sponsor in STP. For drivers like Wendell Scott and Elmo Langley, they didn't have the same opportunities and resources they did at Petty Enterprises so it was hard for those type of drivers to keep up. Overall, if you ask anyone that followed the sport back then I think they would tell you that both Wendell Scott and Elmo Langley were just as talented as Petty but just didn't have the equipment he did.

This is where it differs with Kyle Busch, as most know in today's NASCAR these cars are much more closer than they were back then. At the end of the day while these cars may not be as difficult to drive as they were back in 1967, there is still a massive amount of skill that goes into driving now and when it is all said and done there is just no comparison between what both drivers have accomplished. When it is all said and done as fans we should accept the greatness that both Richard Petty and Kyle Busch have accomplished in their careers.

One of the drivers that you should look out for this week again is Martin Truex Jr. I am staying on this bandwagon like last week because I truly believe that he is due for a victory. Surprisingly, over the course of his 16-year career Truex has yet to win at a short track like Martinsville or Bristol. He has been close so many times like last year in the second race here in October when he was rooted out of the way by Joey Logano on the final lap who went on to win the race. This week, I think that he breaks out and finally gets that elusive grandfather clock and wins it come sunday.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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