Roger Diez: Vegas hosts NASCAR’s Round of 8

Roger Diez

Roger Diez

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The fall of the checkered flag at the Charlotte Roval last Sunday set the field for the NASCAR Cup Round of 8. A.J. Allmendinger held off a charging William Byron in the closing laps to become the first non-playoff winner in the postseason. It was Allmendinger’s third career Cup win.

While eight drivers are still alive in the championship hunt, Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace, Ross Chastain, and Kyle Busch will go no farther. Byron is top seed in playoff standings with 4,041 points, followed by Martin Truex Jr. with 4,036, Denny Hamlin with 4,032, and Kyle Larson with 4,024.

Sam Mayer captured a “must win” victory on Saturday to advance to the next round in the Xfinity series.


Both Cup and Xfinity are in Las Vegas this weekend. It will be the first Round of 8 race for both series. NASCAR’s inaugural Las Vegas Cup race was March 1, 1998, 25 years ago. NASCAR awarded the track a second annual race in 2018 as part of the playoff schedule.

There are nine former winners in Sunday’s field with Keselowski and Joey Logano winning three times apiece. Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick have each won twice while one-time winners are Busch, Larson, Hamlin, Alex Bowman, and Byron, who won the spring race this year.

As usual, the opening odds favor Larson at 9-2 with Byron and Hamlin at 11-2. Truex and Tyler Reddick share 15-2 odds, Christopher Bell is at 11-1, while Busch and Ryan Blaney are tied at 13-1. Chase Elliott is 15-1, teammates RFK teammates Keselowski and Chris Buscher are 16-1, and Wallace is 20-1. My longshot pick this week is Daniel Suarez at 80-1.

The USA network will air all of the weekend action with Cup qualifying at 10:30 a.m. Saturday followed by the Xfinity series’ Alsco Uniforms 302 at 12:30 p.m. Sunday’s South Point 400 will air at 11:30 a.m.


As expected, Max Verstappen clinched the 2023 Formula 1 drivers’ championship in the Saturday sprint race leading up to last weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix. He went on to win Sunday’s race, his 14th victory of the season, by the relatively slim margin of 4.833 seconds over the McLarens of Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris. It was the second race in a row the McLaren team scored a double podium finish.

Perhaps the biggest story of the race was tire wear. The new surface of the Losail circuit proved to be so abrasive that Pirelli mandated a maximum of 18 laps on a set of tires. So tire strategy for all the teams was pretty much defined at the outset, and safety car periods early in the race also played a role.

Lewis Hamilton was out on lap one after an overly optimistic passing attempt on Verstappen and George Russell put him into a gravel trap minus a tire. His DNF left him only 11 points ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in the drivers’ championship battle.

With both constructors’ and drivers’ championships settled, the remainder of the season is a bit of an anti-climax. Next up is the second of three races in the U.S., at the Circuit of the Americas on Oct. 22.


In other news: Carson Hocevar, Craftsman Truck racer who is currently second in the point standings, has signed a multi-year deal to drive the No. 77 Chevy Cup car for Spire Motorsports. The move will put Ty Dillon on free agent status, just one of many pawns in NASCAR silly season. Hocevar has had 10 Cup starts already this season and will run the final four races in the Legacy Motorsports’ No. 42 Chevy.


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