The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season continues this weekend with a trip to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 will the first in a three-race West Coast swing, but more importantly, it will be the first race that uses the tapered spacer to reduce horsepower, the taller spoiler and the aero ducts.
NASCAR rolled out the reduced-horsepower package and taller spoiler last weekend at Atlanta, but the aero ducts were not used. The racing at Atlanta wasn’t drastically different than in years past, but the track’s abrasive surface may have played a role in that. The tire wear isn’t going to be as severe this weekend at Vegas, and drivers are expecting to be able to run wide open for longer stretches. They are also expecting the draft to come into play.
From a fantasy standpoint, this will be by far the most important race of the season to date. NASCAR is using this weekend’s rules package at most of the mile-and-a-half tracks this year. No one knows exactly what to expect, but there is a good chance that Sunday’s race will be a decent predictor of what to expect from this combination going forward.
I’m certainly not going to discount what I saw last weekend at Atlanta or what has happened at Las Vegas in the past, but until I see cars on the track at Vegas, I plan on sticking to the bigger names in most fantasy formats to try to ensure that I at least post solid scores while trying to get a better idea of which drivers and teams will thrive under the 2019 rules.
1. Martin Truex, Jr., #19 Bass Pro Shops, Joe Gibbs Racing
He looks just fine in the No. 19, and Truex nearly came away with the win at Atlanta after running in the Top 5 almost all afternoon. Even with the new rules, I expect more of the same Sunday at Las Vegas. Truex has three straight Top 5s here, leading 150 laps in a win in 2017 and 96 laps in the fall race last year.
2. Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite/Discount Tires, Team Penske
Fresh off his win at Atlanta, Keselowski heads to arguably his best track on the schedule. He is the defending winner of the fall race here, and he has finished seventh or better in seventh straight starts here, picking up three wins and five Top 5s in that stretch.
3. Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske
A loose wheel cost him a possible win at Atlanta, but Logano should be back in the hunt Sunday. He has finished 12th or better in all seven starts at Vegas with Team Penske, finishing fourth or better four times. Logano has also led at least 25 laps in five of his last six starts here, leading more than 40 laps four times.
4. Kevin Harvick, #4 Jimmy Johns/Busch Beer, Stewart-Haas Racing
Whether his illegal rear windshield had anything to do with it or not, Harvick dominated this race a year ago, leading 214 laps on his way to the win. That victory is sandwiched between two wrecks, but he also owns two wins in the last five races at Vegas. Harvick is still on the short list of guys who could lead the most laps and head to victory lane Sunday.
5. Kyle Larson, #42 CreditOne, Chip Ganassi Racing
Larson likely gave away a win at Atlanta with a speeding penalty late in the race, but he should have a great shot of making amends this weekend. He has finished second, third and second in the last three races at Las Vegas, so at the very least, Larson should be considered a Top 5 threat.
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