NASCAR Las Vegas Preview
This weekend, NASCAR began its traditional West Coast stretch to launch the 2022 season. With defending series champion Kyle Larson walking away with a win in the first cup series trip to Fontana since the pandemic began, this week’s race is far from short of storylines.
Teammates To Rivals?
One of the biggest storylines coming out of Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway occurred with just under 20 laps to go.
As a battle for the lead ensued between Chase Elliot, Joey Logano and Larson, Larson moved up to block Elliot, thus sending him into the wall. It was a move that both Larson and his spotter deemed to be a mistake with unintended consequences during an intense race.
Regardless, Elliot and the rest of the No. 9 team were understandably upset, tossing expletives consistently on the radio. Larson, though, was adamant about his mistake and that he intended on figuring it out with Elliot. saying, "It happened, and I hate that it did. I know they’re upset. But we’ll talk, and hopefully we’ll get on the same page. I would never run into my teammate or block him that aggressively and that late on purpose."
The battle figures to be over, at least for Larson, but it will still be something to watch heading into Vegas.
Surprisingly Strong Performances
This weekend was marked by many as the true first test of the Next Gen cars, as people figured this race would give a greater indication of who would thrive and who would falter, rather than the 500 or the Clash at the Colosseum.
If early indications persist, some surprising names could become legitimate contenders this season. Early on in the race Tyler Reddick seemed to be one of the drivers to beat, controlling a bulk of the race before getting into a late-stage crash with William Byron and finishing 24th.
Regardless, Reddick was someone pegged by many to be a dark horse this season in the new cars and he came to play on Sunday despite the outcome.
Erik Jones is another driver who came out strong on Sunday, leading laps and competing up front for a bulk of the day.
The 25 year old began his second season with Petty GMS Motorsports, and with a third-place finish on Sunday, and opened his season with momentum.
Daniel Suarez, another former JGR driver, placed fourth in the race and a late-race lane choice could be the reason he wasn’t the victor. A fourth-place finish should still be a big moral victory for the recently expanded Trackhouse Racing team and allow the team to grow as they head into Vegas.
Who To Watch
Kyle Larson won one of the two trips to Las Vegas last year, and with another win to begin this season, he remains the hottest driver in NASCAR. Larson will figure to be competitive for a bulk of Sunday’s contest.
The winner of the latter of the two trips the Cup Series took to Vegas last season was Denny Hamlin, and despite a relatively quiet week last week, he and JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr. are ones to watch come Sunday with Truex winning there in 2017 and 2019.
This race is going to be controlled by Joey Logano. He’s won at Vegas in two of the last three seasons, was up front a bulk of Sunday and has the veteran experience at the track.
At a location known for taking gambles, his experience could prove to vault him above the rest.
Dylan Price is a first-year majoring in journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.