Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Preview

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

After an emotional rollercoaster of a ride to kick off the 2020 season in Daytona last weekend, the driver and teams in the NASCAR Cup Series will look to buckle down as they head into the West Coast swing and Sunday’s running of the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

As the first intermediate track of the season, the 1.5-mile track just north of Sin City will give us the first signs of which teams to look out for as the season progresses, especially with Chevrolet rolling out a redesigned nose and hood on their Camaros and Las Vegas kicking off the second round of the Playoffs in September.

By the Numbers

What: Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube, NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 2 of 36

Where: Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Las Vegas, Nevada (Opened: 1998; Reconfigured: 2007)

When: Sunday, February 23, 2020

TV/Radio: FOX, 3:30 pm ET / PRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90

Track Size: 1.5-mile D-shaped oval

Banking: 20 degrees in turns; 9 degrees on straightaways

Race Length: 267 laps, 400.5 miles

Stage Lengths: First two stages – 80 laps each, Final stage – 107 laps

Pit Road Speed: 45 mph

Pace Car Speed: 55 mph

2019 Spring Winner: Joey Logano – No. 22 Ford (Started 10th, 86 laps led)

2019 Fall Winner: Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 19 Toyota (Started 24th, 32 laps led)

Track Qualifying Record: Kurt Busch (196.328 mph, 27.505 seconds – 03/04/2016)

Top-10 Driver Ratings at Las Vegas:

  1. Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 104.0
  2. Joey Logano – No. 22 Ford – 103.3
  3. Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 102.9
  4. Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota – 101.8
  5. Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 19 Toyota – 97.6
  6. Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford – 95.5
  7. Chase Elliott – No. 9 Chevrolet – 95.5
  8. Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chevrolet – 93.7
  9. Ryan Blaney – No. 12 Ford – 92.0
  10. Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota – 83.0

From the Driver’s Seat

“It’s tough to know,” Kevin Harvick said of jumping right into the West Coast Swing and knowing how his team will stack up. “I mean, you know what you need to work on after you get done with the West Coast Swing, for the most part. But it’s tough to adapt to what you need to do because of the fact that your cars are already built. Because of the fact that the logistics of everything that happens is so difficult for the teams, it’s really hard to make any adjustments.

So you’ve kind of got what you’ve got, going through the West Coast Swing. You might be able to make some adjustments for Atlanta and Homestead but, really, you’re going to need that Easter break in order to get your stuff together and make the changes. And even then, it’s going to be hard to put things into play because everything is done so far in advance. I think, as you look at it, it just depends on where you are and how hard you need to push things in order to make a change.”

Last Time at Las Vegas

While some of the Cup Series Playoff contenders, namely eventual champion Kyle Busch, didn’t have things go their way at Las Vegas last fall, Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex, Jr. was celebrating his first win in more than three months and a ticket to the next round.

Truex held off Kevin Harvick for the win, with the remainder of the top-10 being Playoff contenders. Brad Keselowski finished third, followed by Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, and Ryan Newman.

“We took a gamble this weekend,” Truex said. “Thanks to everybody back at the shop that makes this happen: Toyota, TRD, all the guys, Todd (Berrier, Director of Fabrication) and all the guys back there that build these cars. We took a gamble, qualified 24th.

“For a while, it wasn’t looking too smart with the 4 (Kevin Harvick) out front. Got the right adjustments in the end. Had a great car all day long. Thanks to Toyota, TRD, Auto Owners, everyone who makes this happen for us. Hell of a way to make a championship run. Get some good bonus points, move on to the next round, see what we can do there.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Friday, February 21

  • NASCAR Cup Series Practice (4:05 pm to 4:55 pm – FOX Sports 1)
  • NASCAR Cup Series Final Practice (7:30 pm to 8:20 pm – FOX Sports 1)

Saturday, February 22

  • NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying (2:35 pm – FOX Sports 1)

Sunday, February 23

  • Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube (3:30 pm – 267 laps, 400.5 miles – FOX)

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.