Las Vegas – What Can We Expect?

Everyone is still breathless over Daniel Suarez’s win at Atlanta last weekend.  The SuperSpeedway-lite track produced pack racing like its big brothers, but without endless laps at 50% throttle to produce fuel savings for passing in the pits, like we saw at Daytona.  Somehow the drivers were able to race four-wide on the reconfigured, narrowed-down track and produced a dramatic three car photo finish to boot.  

Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Freeway Insurance Chevrolet, crosses the finish line ahead of Kyle Busch, driver of the #8 Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet, and Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 BodyArmor Zero Sugar Ford, to win the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

So, what’s Las Vegas going to do? Will it look anything like this?   Let’s look at last year and see if we get any hints.

Last year’s race won by William Byron ran a total of 271 laps, 4 beyond the scheduled 267.  The race had four cautions for a total of 26 laps.  The 245 green flag laps consisted of 15 Start/Restart laps and 230 Racing Green Flag Laps   

The race had a total of 13 lead changes.  3 of those took place under Caution.  The remaining 10 had 7 Lead Changes occurring when the Leader relinquished the lead when pitting under Green.  Another Lead Change occurred during one of the five Start/Restart.  There were 2 Racing Lead Changes (one car passed the Leader under green.  Overtake)-one by Kyle Larson and one by race winner, William Byron

William Byron, driver of the #24 Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 05, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

This equates to 1 Racing Lead Change for every 115 Green Flag Racing Lap.  This is the lowest number of RLC’s at Las Vegas in the GEN7 era.

The 2023 version of this race saw 3648 Green Flag Passes with 1249 being Quality Passes (P1-P15).  With P1-P15 making up 42% of the 36-car field the front only produced 34% of the green flag passes.  This means green flag passing was mainly made up by mid-pack and back of the field, rather than at the front.  

Of the 1249 Quality Passes (P1-P15), 22 were for the P1 as scored at the scoring loops, meaning that 1227 Quality Passes took place for P2-P15.  This gives an overall passing breakdown as follows:

1 LC – Restart

2 LC – Racing

7 LC – Leader pits from Lead

12 Green Flag Passes for the Lead (at scoring loops not Start Finish)

1227– P2-P15

2399 – P16-P36 

These numbers are comparable to those in the other GEN7 era races here, with the highest number of Racing Lead Changes being 5 in the Fall 2022 race.

Expect Hendrick Motorsports to be strong as they have taken three of the four GEN7 races here, with Byron, Larson and Alex Bowman taking one win each.  Joey Logano broke the HMS lock here with his Playoff win here on his way to his 2022 Championship.

If these trend holds true, fans will see a markedly difference race from what they saw last week at Atlanta, which not only produced the third closest finish in NASCAR Cup history but had over 15 times more Racing Lead Changes than we saw here last year and almost three times the number of Green Flag Passes.  It would take an unprecedented jump in competition from Las Vegas races past to register Atlanta types of numbers…  but so far this has been an unprecedented season.

So hang on!  We’re going to find out.  

The West Coast Swing is about to begin!

Thunder On… and Stay Safe!

David Nance

Photo Credit (cover): Chris Graythen Getty Images.

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