The NASCAR Cup Series returns to the “Entertainment Capital of the World” for the Round of 12 opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET (NCBSN/NBC Sports App, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Before this weekend’s Sin City showcase, check out a few important things to know.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a 1.5-mile oval located in Las Vegas Valley, Nevada. First opened in 1996, the track is relatively new compared to many on the current circuit, but it still has its share of electric history. Adopted by NASCAR’s premier series in 1998, Mark Martin powered his way to the first ever victory at the track — and in its 25-race history, no one has more wins than Jimmie Johnson (four).
Las Vegas boasts an asphalt racing surface with 20-degree banking in the turns and 9- to 12-degree baking in the straights.
Stage 1 will end at Lap 80, Stage 2 at Lap 160 and the Final Stage at Lap 267.
Playoff points leader Kevin Harvick will wheel the No. 4 Steward-Haas Ford out in front of the field Sunday, earning his fifth Busch Pole Award of the season and second of the playoffs. Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Aric Almirola and Joey Logano complete the top five.
The lineup was determined by four performance metrics from the Cup Series’ previous race: 15% based on fastest lap time position, 25% of the driver’s final race finish position, 25% of the owner’s final race position and 35% of the owner points position.
Cup Series cars will feature the same 1.5-mile racing package used in 2019 and the 2020 spring Vegas race, with aero ducts and a tapered-spacer engine generating a targeted 550 horsepower.
Each Cup team will have nine sets of Goodyear Eagle Speedway Radials for the race.
With limited on-track practice time and testing, Goodyear Racing has relied even more heavily on feedback from the drivers and their teams to develop an effective compound at each track. After receiving this feedback at the conclusion of the first half of the season, changes were made to the right-side compound for a series of tracks, starting this weekend at Las Vegas. Increased grip at tracks with lower tire wear will be an increased focus with the new compound to allow optimum performance.
“Key to making the optimum tire recommendation is the review of all the data that is generated, whether it be from practices throughout a weekend, testing, or as is the only opportunity right now, from the actual races,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “What we’ve seen and heard at several of the low-wear tracks, is the Cup cars could stand to have a little more grip, so we have made a step in that direction for Las Vegas, as well as Kansas and Texas. Vegas and Texas shared the same tire set-up at their earlier races, and we brought that same right-side to Kansas as well, so they have been basically aligned all season. They remain so with this new right side as we enhance the grip level at all three.”
PLAYOFF STATS TO KNOW
— Kevin Harvick holds the longest active streak of NASCAR Playoffs victories with nine consecutive seasons featuring at least one trip to Victory Lane. Jimmie Johnson is the all-time record holder at 13 in a row.
— Ford dominated the Round of 16, winning each of the three races: Kevin Harvick winning twice (Darlington Raceway and Bristol Motor Speedway) and Brad Keselowski once (Richmond Raceway).
— Only two of the 163 NASCAR Playoffs races were won by drivers getting their first win: Clint Bowyer in 2007 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Brian Vickers in 2006 at Talladega Superspeedway.
— Nine of the remaining playoff drivers have wins at tracks in the Round of 12, but only six of them have ever made it to the Championship 4.
Source: Racing Insights
For a more interactive experience, head over to NASCAR.com or the NASCAR app to check out an enhanced Race Center, live Lap-by-Lap coverage, the customizable live leaderboard with Scanner (which is FREE for both races) and the return of Drive (featuring in-car cameras).
2019 RACE WINNER
Martin Truex Jr. sped away from Kevin Harvick in last year’s playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Truex and the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing team put forth an exceptional effort all afternoon, charging forward from a 24th starting position and leading 32 laps to secure their fifth checkered flag of the season.
RELATED: Vegas odds, lines
ACTIVE LAS VEGAS WINNERS
Jimmie Johnson (four wins); Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski (three each); Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano (two each); Kyle Busch (one).