Going into this weekend, everyone knew clean air would be king. Surely, that didn’t disappoint.
While all three national touring races were lackluster this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, there was some thrilling action throughout the races… when it wasn’t strung out. If you’ve read this column this season, you’ve seen me vent tirelessly about the 550 horsepower package, but this weekend, you can’t necessarily account for that as being the issue.
Over the years, LVMS has had some real good racing, with some snoozers along the way. The restarts were fast and furious this weekend; the action, mediocre.
Regardless of how I feel, let’s dive into this week’s Stat Sheet.
Kurt Busch has seen it all in Las Vegas, hell, he grew up there. But when it comes to running at his home racetrack, his numbers aren’t that appealing.
Entering Sunday night’s South Point 400, Busch had an average finish of 22.5 in 21 career starts in Sin City with just two top-five finishes.
But sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
Sunday’s race looked very similar to past performances at LVMS for Busch, running between 10th and 15th for the majority of the night. But during a cycle of green flag pit stops, crew chief Matt McCall kept the No. 1 Chevrolet out late, along with eight other cars. Then a caution flew with 30 laps to go. Busch inherited the lead.
Over the final 25 laps, Busch had to hold off a hungry Matt DiBenedetto and Alex Bowman, while Denny Hamlin came from mid-pack on fresh tires. But come the checkered flag it was the No. 1 team sitting on top, scoring its first victory since Kentucky Speedway last summer. In the process, he moved his average finishing position up a full spot to 21.5.
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) September 28, 2020
With the victory, Busch is a lock for the Round of 8, upsetting many people’s brackets. On a post-race Zoom call with media members, he said the No. 1 team would need a perfect three races just to be in contention for the next round come the checkered flag at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL in two weeks.
Scratch that, Busch stole a spot from one of the favorites. Now the pressure is on his younger brother Kyle Busch, sitting ninth in points, nine points below the cutline. Clint Bowyer ranks 10th, -20, with Aric Almirola 27 points back and Austin Dillon 32 behind.
Prior to the NASCAR Xfinity Series season beginning, Chase Briscoe made a bold statement with the belief he needed eight wins in 2020 to prove he belonged in Cup. And just 27 races later, he’s accomplished that feat.
— Chase Briscoe (@ChaseBriscoe_14) September 27, 2020
Briscoe started off the season with a top-five finish at Daytona International Speedway, then followed that up with his first victory of the season at Las Vegas. After a 10-week shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the No. 98 team won the series’ first race back at Darlington Raceway. In June he picked up victories at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Pocono Raceway. On July 4 weekend, he won the inaugural race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course: that’s five wins in the opening 13 races of the season.
Then the No. 98 team went on a bit of a dry spell, in terms of capturing the checkered flag. Toward the end of August, Briscoe visited victory lane at Dover International Speedway, in dominating fashion. Last week at Bristol Motor Speedway, he scored his seventh victory in the regular season, with a winning percentage of 26.9.
On Saturday evening (Sept. 26), the postseason began, and a statement was made: Briscoe is not to be overshadowed in the playoffs. Prior to the race, he was tied with Austin Cindric for the top spot with 50 playoff points. Exiting Sin City, the No. 98 team has 57 playoff points after leading 164 of 200 laps en route to his eighth victory of the season.
Clearly, Briscoe is ready for Cup. But as we’ve seen in recent memory, drivers rushed to Cup haven’t done too well in the premier series early in their careers. The odds are very high the Indiana native will be competing for a championship in six weeks, but maybe it’s best to spend one additional year after this season and keep picking up victories.
An 18th-place finish is nothing to brag about, but for Conor Daly‘s first Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series start, it was pretty impressive.
For years, Daly has been one of INDYCAR’s biggest personalities. So when it was announced last week he’d be competing with Niece Motorsports in Sin City, you knew the driver was going to have some fun with it.
Daly and 17-time Moto X medalist Travis Pastrana teamed up with Niece for the race at Vegas. And while the No. 42 truck spent the majority of the night outside the top 20, Daly crossed the finish line in 18th, on fire nonetheless.
Look, Daly is used to competing in IndyCars, which weigh much less than a stock car. Prior to Friday night (Sept. 25), the Indiana native had just one NASCAR start, finishing 31st for Roush Fenway Racing at Road America in the 2018 event. But for the driver, it was about turning laps and making a start in another form of racing, adding to his resume.
Yes, Niece Motorsports is a competitive race team. Hell, Ross Chastain made the Championship 4 last season, but an 18th-place finish is hard to do for someone who admitted they were terrified for the majority of the race.
What an experience! So much fun. Massive respect to these @NASCAR_Trucks drivers. P18 crossing the line on fire 😂 seems about right! This @NieceMotorsport team is fantastic. Let’s line up another one @TravisPastrana ! @iRacing @Fatheadz @ElliottsTrailer @wienerschnitzel pic.twitter.com/QTj3gLF26J
— Conor Daly (@ConorDaly22) September 26, 2020
It was a learning experience for Daly, plus it brought new eyes to the series. That’s a win-win.