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Fantasy NASCAR Race Preview: KOBALT 400
By Eric McClung
Las Vegas Motor Speedway is labeled as a cookie-cutter track due to the 1.5-mile length. However, the site features a slightly different set of banking characteristics than most other intermediate courses, particularly the steeper corner banking. The racing surface at LVMS was redesigned in time for the 2007 season, offering a total of seven Cup races in which to analyze as the track hosts just one event per year.
Since Vegas marks the first test on an intermediate track, teams will learn quite a bit about the state of their 1.5-mile programs this week. In all, eight 1.5-mile tracks will host a total of 11 races this season. Owners will want to monitor the driver trends that develop across these sites. Success on these intermediates is pivotal, both in reality and fantasy.
A testing session will take place on Thursday as the teams work continue to work on the new aerodynamic rules package.
Test session: Thursday, March 6, at 3 p.m. EST
Over the last four years, Biffle is tied the best average starting position at Las Vegas with a 6.2. The results, however, have been mixed. The Biff scored a top-10 in 2010 and matched a career-best third in 2012. Back in 2011, Biffle ran well and even paced 11 circuits, but a fueling issue caused him to run out of gas near the midway point. The team missed the setup last year but used successful pit strategies to scrap together a 17th-place finish.
McMurray is coming off an impressive run at Phoenix International Raceway, where he qualified third and finished 10th. In his last two LVMS starts, Jamie Mac placed eighth and 13th, respectively. His average running positions in those races were also solid, 12th and 13th. Last year, McMurray scored three top-10s in the first eight races but only managed two more over the next 17 races. McMurray is a very streaky driver, so the windows to consider starting him can close quickly.
Menard had a great run at the Daytona 500 ruined in a multi-car wreck but was non-factor last week at PIR. He's one of only four drivers coming into Vegas with top-10 finishes each of the last two years. Menard has placed inside the top 20 in four straight LVMS races, with an average running position of 13th or better in three straight.
Before officially retiring, Burton is suiting up for six to eight races for MWR this season. He won two early races at LVMS back in 1999 and 2000 prior to recording five top-15s in the seven races held since the 2007 redesign. Burton is an appealing low-tier option in most formats and should be monitored throughout practice.
LVMS is considered the home track for Busch, but the results haven't exactly reflected it. Since 2007, he has scored only a single top-10 while recording an average running position outside the top 20 three of the last four years. Busch was knocked around in the Daytona 500, and a blown engine spoiled a solid run last week at PIR. Things will get better for the Outlaw and his new team. However, the odds of it happening this week aren't good.
After starting his career off with three consecutive top-10s at Vegas, Hamlin has landed only one more in the last five years. He ranks just 16th in career driver rating at LVMS among active racers. Hamlin was stout throughout Speedweeks at Daytona and finished as the runner-up. However, despite a fairly impressive resume at Phoenix, Hamlin never challenged the leaders and finished 19th.
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