Photo: Chris Owens/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: South Point 400 at Las Vegas Preview

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

Viva Las Vegas…again?

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in the track’s history, Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be hosting a second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race this season as they kick off the 10-race Playoff stretch with Sunday’s running of the South Point 400.

Las Vegas began its life on the NASCAR circuit as a 1.5-mile oval with 12 degrees of banking in 1998, but following the 2006 running of the race, the track underwent a massive reconfiguration that saw progressive banking put in place with the new banking ranging from 18 to 20 degrees.

The inaugural fall race will also have vastly different track conditions from the series’ first race at the track back in March, with the track having baked in the Nevada sun all summer long and forecasted temperatures at or above 100 degrees all weekend long. A big departure from the 58-degree afternoon they enjoyed earlier this year.

In true Las Vegas fashion, the first race of the Playoffs will be the culmination of a tripleheader weekend, with fan events, concerts, and the drivers doing burnouts down the Las Vegas Strip leading into the racing action on track.

By the Numbers

What: South Point 400, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 27 of 36

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

When: Sunday, September 16, 2018

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network, 3:00 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

2018 Spring Winner: Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford (Started second, 214 laps led)

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

Top-10 Driver Ratings at Las Vegas:

  1. Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 109.9
  2. Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota – 103.4
  3. Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 100.6
  4. Joey Logano – No. 22 Ford – 97.3
  5. Matt Kenseth – No. 6 Ford – 96.3
  6. Ryan Blaney – No. 12 Ford – 95.3
  7. Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 78 Toyota – 92.6
  8. Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chevrolet – 92.5
  9. Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford – 92.4
  10. Chase Elliott – No. 9 Chevrolet – 91.7

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings:

  1. Kyle Busch – 2050 points
  2. Kevin Harvick – 2050 Points
  3. Martin Truex, Jr. (-15)
  4. Brad Keselowski (-31)
  5. Clint Bowyer (-35)
  6. Joey Logano (-36)
  7. Kurt Busch (-36)
  8. Chase Elliott (-42)
  9. Ryan Blaney (-43)
  10. Erik Jones (-45)
  11. Austin Dillon (-45)
  12. Kyle Larson (-45)
  13. Denny Hamlin (-47)
  14. Aric Almirola (-49)
  15. Jimmie Johnson (-50)
  16. Alex Bowman (-50)

From the Driver’s Seat

“It’s definitely going to be hot out there,” said Chris Buescher. “When we go to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March, the weather is usually decent. It’s usually somewhat cool, even a shower or windstorm but with the summer months, it’s a whole different ballgame. We’ll see how the summer treats the racetrack and we’ll see how it’s been affected sitting in the desert heat all summer.

“Las Vegas is an extremely fast racetrack. It has a lot of grip and is fun to race at, so it’s cool to be able to give them a second opportunity for us to come out and race there twice. The car should be a lot different. We do so much to our racecars throughout the season and it’s almost hard to use the notes from the spring because of how different the track will be from the temperatures in March to the temperatures in September.”

Last Time at Las Vegas

To say that Kevin Harvick was dominant when the Cup Series last visited Las Vegas back in March would be a vast understatement. After winning the week prior in Atlanta, Harvick rolled into Sin City and picked up right where he left off.

Harvick won both of the first two stages and passed Kyle Busch with 37 laps to go en route to the victory, leading 214 of 267 laps on the day.

Though it was a win for Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing, he did not get to keep any of the accolades that came along with it as NASCAR penalized his No. 4 team for issues with the rear window brace and the right-side rocker panel.

“As you look at the last two weeks and our 1.5-mile program in general it has been really good since I started here at SHR,” said Harvick. “They put a lot of effort into everything we do from every standpoint to get these cars going like they are.

“I have to thank everyone from Stewart-Haas Racing, Gene and Tony, it is fun to have them here when we win. Everybody who helps put this thing on the race track, we couldn’t do it without them. And the fans for coming out to the racetrack today. We really appreciate you all coming out.

“It is always fun for me to win on the west coast and I didn’t have a lot of luck here until I came to SHR. It is great to win on the west coast for me.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Friday, September 14

  • MENCS Practice (2:05 pm to 2:55 pm – NBC Sports Network)
  • MENCS Qualifying (7:30 pm – NBC Sports Network)

Saturday, September 15

  • MENCS Practice (1:00 pm to 1:50 pm – NBC Sports Network)
  • MENCS Final Practice (3:30 pm to 4:20 pm – NBC Sports Network)

Sunday, September 16

  • MENCS South Point 400 at Las Vegas (3:00 pm – 267 laps, 400.5 miles – NBC Sports Network)

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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.