The full new Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rule package made its debut in the Pennzoil 400 on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Opinions on social media were decidedly mixed, but one thing was for sure: the cars are much slower.
That, combined with the cookie-cutter racing of a 1.5-mile track (even though Las Vegas is pretty good when it comes to the racing there), made a certain element of the telecast stand out: refusing to say the actual name of the race, which is very problematic.
When coming back from commercials, they would say “You’re watching Monster Energy Cup Series racing from Las Vegas, presented by Jiffy Lube.” That’s technically correct, but it’s not the name of the actual race. I don’t think they ever actually said the name of the race once. It would have been a little redundant at the end, with Joey Logano‘s Pennzoil car celebrating winning the Pennzoil 400 on the Pennzoil logo in the infield, but still.
Corporate sponsorship is overdone in many areas, but getting attributions accurate is a basic tenet of journalism. For a national broadcaster like FOX to either forget or ignore this detail felt very unprofessional.
Jiffy Lube ran commercials about once per ad break, thus why they would mention the company on air. They pay the bills, that makes sense, but it’s still not cool.
Kurt Busch is doing well after his move to Chip Ganassi Racing. He used pit strategy to vault his way into the lead and stayed up front until the end, finishing fifth. He finished third last week at Atlanta Motor Speedway after running 25th in the Daytona 500 and getting caught in one of the late crashes. Last year at Stewart-Haas Racing, Busch finished eighth at Atlanta and 35th after a Vegas crash. Over the same period, driving the CGR No. 1, fellow veteran Jamie McMurray was 16th in the 2018 Daytona 500, 19th at Atlanta and 32nd in Vegas after a crash.
Front Row Motorsports expanded to three cars this season, bringing rookie Matt Tifft up from the Xfinity Series. It’s been a rough transition thus far. In the Daytona 500 he matched his car number in 36th after a crash. In Atlanta, he was running at the end, but finished 28th, and then in Vegas he was 34th. The qualifying efforts haven’t gone so great, either — 33rd in Daytona, 31st in Atlanta and 35th in Vegas.
Brad Keselowski finished second after battling with his Team Penske teammate Joey Logano at the end, after capturing the first Mustang victory in Cup last week in Atlanta. He was 12th in the Daytona 500, which makes his three-race average so far this season 5.3, second-best in Cup right now. Also, he’s already locked into the playoffs.
The good news for Ty Dillon: he finished a Daytona 500 this year after failing to accomplish that the past several years, with a career-best finish of sixth. Unfortunately, his No. 13 Germain Racing team only managed 25th at Atlanta and then 29th in Las Vegas. On the bright side, his qualifying efforts have improved each week — 22nd, 21st and 14th. His brother Austin Dillon is doing about the same. He’s qualified pretty well, 20th at Daytona, 10th at Atlanta and fourth at Vegas, but his finishes aren’t backing those up, coming in at 16th, 21st and 20, off the lead lap every race.
Erik Jones is starting out pretty hot this season, his third full time in the top series. After coming home third in the Daytona 500 he was seventh in Atlanta and followed it with a decent 13th in Las Vegas. That makes his average finish 7.6, third-best in Cup after his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch (3.6) and Keselowski.
The No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports car has seen better days. Bubba Wallace was 38th in a full 40-car field after getting caught in a wreck during the Daytona 500, and then was 27th at Atlanta and 26th in Las Vegas. While not quite underdog status, that’s solidly in the Invisible Territory of “They were racing?” He did pull in new sponsorship from Aftershokz headphones for Daytona and local McDonald’s franchisees for Atlanta, plus a renewal with Transportation Impact, but they seem to all be one-race deals.
Paint Scheme of the Week
At his (literal) home track, Kurt Busch‘s No. 1 Camaro was a serious throwback, sporting Star Nursery colors and logos as a tribute to Busch’s Southwest Series championship-winning No. 70 Chevrolet from 1999, where he won six races and scored 12 top-10s in 18 starts. According to my Frontstretch colleague Davey Segal, Star Nursery didn’t pay a cent for the sponsorship, as Busch paid for all the costs himself.
My favorite (and probably everyone else’s) paint scheme of the week. 🔥😍 but there’s more to the story…
— Davey Segal (@DaveyCenter) March 3, 2019
For both of those reasons, Busch wins this spot this week. And the plainness of the sky blue, mustard yellow and orange trim worked really well just from a design standpoint, too.
Xfinity Series driver Noah Gragson, pilot of the No. 9 for JR Motorsports, is in favor of changing up the Cup schedule, apparently.
I think the common denominator is a cookie cutter, not the package.
— Noah Gragson (@NoahGragson) March 3, 2019
And a parody account got serious for a minute.
If you tune in each week expecting to see the greatest race in history, you’re the problem, not #NASCAR. Reevaluate your expectations
— Drunken Brian France (@DrunkBrianF) March 4, 2019
The Cup Series and Xfinity Series go from one desert to another, as they take on the newly-reconfigured ISM Raceway in the Phoenix area.
Kevin Harvick is fantastic at the track, but as the past two weeks have shown, his team isn’t hitting quite as much on all cylinders as they used to. But he should still be a threat, as should Chase Elliott.
The TicketGuardian 500K will go green around 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 10 on Fox.