The Frontstretch: Race Trax-UAW Daimler-Chrysler 400 by Amy Henderson -- Thursday March 9, 2006

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Race Trax-UAW Daimler-Chrysler 400

Amy Henderson · Thursday March 9, 2006

 

On Track
The UAW Daimler-Chrysler 400 is the third race on the 36-race NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Schedule. The Nextel Cup Series will visit the 1.5-mile Las Vegas motor Speedway just once in 2006. LVMS has hosted a Busch Series race each year since 1997. It is a flat tri-oval track with twelve degrees of banking in the corners, 9 degrees through the tri-oval, and just three on the backstretch. The field will include 2005 polesitter Ryan Newman and defending winner Jimmie Johnson.

51 teams will compete for 43 starting spots for Sunday, with the top 35 in car owner points guaranteed a starting position. Qualifying runs consist of two laps, with the fastest lap setting a team’s time. The Nextel Cup Series Qualifying record at LVMS is 174.904 mph, set by Kasey Kahne in 2004.

The Nextel Cup Series points race is in its early stages in 2006. Jimmie Johnson is the current leader, with no change at the top of the leaderboard since Daytona. Casey Mears is second on the strength of his two top-ten finishes this year, and Matt Kenseth moved into third following his California win. Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. fill out the top five heading to LVMS.

What To Expect
Las Vegas Motor Speedway generally produces strung-out racing up front, with much of the passing action occurring midfield. As few as ten and as many as 20 cars have finished on the lead lap, an indication of the type of lead a good-handling car in clean air can build up. Look for long green flag runs and green flag pit stops for a good portion of the day, as a Cup race at LVMS has never had more than six caution flags.

Qualifying up front is not necessarily the indicator of success that it has been in the Busch Series. LVMS has produced a winner starting inside the top ten only once, so a good starting spot is key as it gets hard to pass as the track surface heats up in the desert sun. The track has improved over the last couple of seasons as and outside groove has worked into the turns, so an exciting finish is not out of the realm of possibility. Once a car gets out front at LVMS, it tends to stay there. The fewest laps a winner has led at the track is 33.

Who to Watch
Only once has a car not entered by Roush Racing or Hendrick Motorsports won at LVMS. Look for Roushkateer Greg Biffle to come out swinging after a blown engine cost him a dominating win at California. Biffle’s teammates Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth have Vegas wins, Kenseth two of them, and they should figure in the day’s outcome. Defending race winner Jimmie Johnson isn’t the point leader for nothing, having finished no worse than second this season, and his young teammates Brian Vickers and hometown hero Kyle Busch would love to wear the unusual LVMS trophy belt too. And once again, don’t count out Casey Mears-a Ganassi Dodge is the only car to taint Roush and Hendrick’s near-perfect LVMS record.

Did You Know:

  • That the only driver to win at LVMS in a Dodge is Sterling Marlin? Marlin won this race in 2002, embarking on a season-long points domination until his championship bid was cut short by a neck injury.
  • At 44 years, 8 months and 1 day, Marlin is also the oldest driver to grace Victory Lane at LVMS?
  • That there will be two Las Vegas natives in the field on Sunday? Kurt and Kyle Busch hail from the city known for casinos and glitter.

You Don’t Say"¦
“Anyone who gets on a plane headed to Vegas wants to win. Race car drivers are no different. It’s an exciting place to visit and a great place to race and an even better place to win. We did that last year and would certainly like to do it again this weekend.”- Nextel Cup point leader Jimmie Johnson on Las Vegas

“You could say that I have a race win scale that’s based on what I feel is the level of prestige associated with a particular victory. It’s a given that the Daytona 500 is our biggest race – it’s NASCAR’s ‘Super Bowl,’ that’s for sure. You’d have to put Indy and the Brickyard (400) as second on that list, just because of the incredible history the facility hosting the race has. In my mind and on my personal scale, I have to put a Vegas win as next – as the third most prestigious on the list. There are a lot of big races out there. You can’t deny that the Coke 600 is big"¦really big. A win at Darlington is certainly special from an historical angle. And, man, what about the August night race at Bristol? I know that I’m pretty biased when it comes to racing in Vegas and I think most people can understand that. They may not agree with it or appreciate it that much, but they can understand how I feel.”-Las Vegas native Kurt Busch on the prestige of the LVMS race

I’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill. I just hope they don’t end up being cement shoes when the race is over.” – Clint Bowyer on LVMS and his Sopranos (a television series based on the mafia) paint scheme for LVMS

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