2020 Cup Series Preview: Las Vegas(Pennzoil 400)

The first mile and a half race of the year begins with the Pennzoil 400. This will be the first Cup race after last week’s Daytona 500, which saw a rain delay that pushed the race to the next day, several big wrecks and a wreck on the final lap that saw Ryan Newman get flipped upside down and was hit by another car going at 200 mph. He, luckily, not only survived, but was released from the hospital less than 48 hours after the wreck. According to a statement from Newman this morning that was read by Roush Fenway Racing president Steve Newmark, Newman is recovering from a head injury suffered in the wreck but did not suffer any broken bones or internal injuries. Ross Chastain will fill in to race in the #6 car in place of Newman. After an emotional week in the sport, we return for the next race six days later in Las Vegas.

The 2019 Pennzoil 400 saw a thrilling finish between Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. They changed leads during the final lap and Logano passed Keselowski to pick up the win. Then at the South Point 400 last September, Logano won Stage 1 and was looking like he was going to win yet again. However, due to some poor starts and getting tangled with Daniel Suarez, Logano fell from the top and finished 9th. Kevin Harvick was in the top three almost the entire race, but it was Martin Truex Jr. who won after passing Harvick with 20 laps to go and held the lead from there.

Denny Hamlin won the Daytona 500 for the second consecutive year and said on Friday that his goal this year is to win double digit races. Today, he will get a chance to win back-to-back races with a victory at Las Vegas Motor speedway, a track where Hamlin hasn’t won at yet but has been in the top five twice in 16 races.

Kyle Busch, who has already won this weekend as he won the truck series race Friday Night, will race on his home track, a track where he has won once and been in the top five seven times. Winning this race will be a challenge for both Busch and Hamlin as they, along with Garrett Smithley and Christopher Bell, will start at the rear due to penalties during inspections.

Cup qualifying was canceled due to heavy yesterday that pushed the Xfinity Series to after the Pennzoil 400. However, we did get practices on Friday and we saw some fun action between the drivers. The top five drivers in terms of speed were Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Kevin Harvick and Matt DiBenedetto. However, for best 10 consecutive lap averages, that belonged to Harvick.

Since qualifying is canceled, the order was determined by owner points from last season and Kyle Busch initially started on the pole but since he was pushed back to the rear, Martin Truex Jr. will start on the pole with Harvick on the front-line. It is only fitting that the two that battled for the win in the last race on this track get to be the two leaders to start this one.

I am predicting Joey Logano to win this race. Among all active drivers racing this weekend, Logano has the best average finish with 8.5 and was great at this track a year ago. Since he will start third, I expect him to get the edge early and hold the lead from there on for an emphatic victory.

The stages will be 80-80-107 and there will be a competition caution on the 25th lap. The race will be televised on FOX at 12:30 PST.

Starting lineup: https://www.jayski.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2020/02/22/2020-02cup-lineup.pdf

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