Race: Kobalt Tools 400
Date: Sunday, March 10, 2013
Track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Time: 3pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
After nearly 2 years without a win, Carl Edwards found his way back to victory lane on Sunday with a dominating performance putting him back into victory lane. Jimmie Johnson ran a strong race as well, spending the majority of the day in the top 2 spots, but he just couldn't catch Cousin Carl. Denny Hamlin made a very risky move on the last lap, diving onto the apron in an effort to pass Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson for the win. It did not work out that way, but Hamlin still picked up a few spots with the move.
This weekend, we are headed to the fast track of Las Vegas. This 1.5 mile track is a personal favorite, having had the opportunity to take a stock car around it a few years back. The speed is incredible along with the banking, which is a big difference between Vegas and Phoenix. While Phoenix is a much flatter track, Vegas has a lot of banking to work with creating a different dynamic and momentum for the drivers.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway, located in Clark County, Nevada, is a 1.5 mile asphalt tri-oval with 20 degree banking in the turns. This is very much a speed track. Much like Phoenix, track position is important here simply because of the length of the track, but unlike Phoenix, it is much easier to pass here. The gradient banking into the turns aids in that increased side by side action that we typically see here.
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When we look at the history of the drivers here, it pains me to have to name Jimmie Johnson first yet again. Although he came in second last weekend, Johnson nonetheless has the most impressive record at both Phoenix and here at Las Vegas. His average finish is 10.6, and he also holds the most wins at 4 rounds in victory lane. Other successful drivers here include teammate Kasey Kahne, who holds the qualifying record here, and who I think will be a force to reckon with this year. Teammate Jeff Gordon, along with Mark Martin, also have impressive figures with both tied with the most top 5 finishes. Mark Martin has the sole record for most top 10s. That being said, let's take a look at the potential winners for this weekend:
My Pick to Win: Carl Edwards
Middle of the Road Pick: Clint Bowyer
Dark Horse: Mark Martin
You may think I'm crazy for denying Johnson the win, but I think that we are going to see a lot more of Edwards this year. Although Johnson has the best record, Edwards comes in next with 2 wins, 3 top 5 finishes, and 4 top 10s. Coming off a win from Phoenix and going into another fast track, Edwards is going to be one to watch. Honestly, I think we may see a repeat of those 2 up front much like we did last Sunday. Clint Bowyer is just feisty. He closes in when you least expect it. Look for him to be on the prowl. Mark Martin had such a strong run at Daytona and really ran a good race at Phoenix. Pending any outlandish circumstances, look for Martin to be a contender based on his first 2 races this year along with his record here at Vegas.
Here's a look at your current top 12 in the points after Phoenix:
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
3. Brad Keselowski
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Clint Bowyer
6. Greg Biffle
7. Mark Martin
8. Jeff Gordon
9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
10. Aric Almirola
11. Carl Edwards
12. Marcos Ambrose
You can see just how quickly points can change after 1 race this early in the season. Despite Carl Edwards' dismal performance at Daytona, he's back in the cat bird seat after his win at Phoenix. Look for similar things to happen after Vegas. We should see a little more moving throughout that top 12. Stay tuned this weekend for a wild and crazy weekend, only in Vegas! May all your Kobalt Tools 400 picks be winners!
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