Roger Diez: Fernley 95A Speedway looking for volunteers
Before I get into the NASCAR Atlanta results and prognostications for Las Vegas, I have some local racing news. Fernley 95A Speedway is looking for volunteers for the 2019 season, and is holding a meeting at the track at 2 p.m. Sunday for anyone who’s interested. Help is needed in a variety of areas, from tech inspection to security to snack bar. If you’re interested in getting into racing on the inside, be sure to attend. Call track manager Matt Sherman at 775-530-8105 for information.
Congratulations to Brad Keselowski, whose win at Atlanta last Sunday made him the winningest Penske driver of all time. Brad’s win eclipsed the total of the legendary Mark Donohue, who raced for Penske in NASCAR, IndyCar, Trans-Am, Can-Am, and Formula One, posting wins and/or championships in all but the latter. Brad will wear a special helmet at Las Vegas this weekend in honor of Donohue, who died following a Formula One practice crash in Austria in 1975.
Keselowski’s win wasn’t an easy one, overcoming a malfunctioning jack on a pit stop and barely holding off a charging Martin Truex Jr. in the closing laps, winning by less than a second. Kurt Busch was third in the Ganassi No. 1 Chevy, while Stewart-Haas teammates Harvick and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top five. There were five Fords, three Toyotas, and two Chevrolets in the top 10, and 17 drivers finished on the lead lap.
This weekend is the 23rd Cup race at Las Vegas. Last season NASCAR added a fall race at the track, which Keselowski won. He has won three of the last six Las Vegas Cup events, and Kevin Harvick has won two. Martin Truex Jr. split the pair’s winning ways with the 2017 victory. Jimmie Johnson has won four Las Vegas races, but his last trip to victory circle was in 2010. The only other active driver to post a Las Vegas win is Kyle Busch in 2009. So what’s in store on Sunday? According to the Las Vegas oddsmakers, Kevin Harvick is the favorite at 5/1 odds, with Kyle Busch a close second at 11/2. Atlanta winner Keselowski opened at 7/1, with runner-up Truex at the same odds. Kyle Larson is the highest-ranked Chevy pick at 8/1, with the same odds for Ford pilot Joey Logano… If you’re interested in a dark horse bet, Matt Dibenedetto’s Gibbs-supported Toyota is 60/1, and he’s performed well above expectations so far this season. Two other long-odds bets that might pay off are Daniel Suarez in the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Ford and Austin Dillon in the No. 3 Camaro, both at 50/1.
Based on the Atlanta results, the Fords once again look strong with the new rule package. The fact Keselowski was able to come from mid-pack and chase down the leader without the help of cautions indicates the package will improve passing opportunities, which makes for better racing. There will be one additional change this weekend. The air ducts to channel air away from the front tires and to the side of the car will be used for Las Vegas, so it will be the first look at how the complete package will work for the various teams at most intermediate tracks. The ducts weren’t used at Atlanta, nor will they be used at Pocono, Darlington, and Homestead, short tracks, and road courses. The smaller 0.922” tapered spacer to restrict horsepower will also be used at most tracks, with the exception of short ovals and road courses, which will use the larger 1.17” tapered spacer. So far NASCAR is happy with the results, as are both Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing. Time will tell if other organizations are as delighted.