NASCAR Picks for Las Vegas
Length: 1.500 miles
Shape: D-Shaped Oval
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Additional article: Kobalt Tools 400 Practice Recap: 5 Drivers to Watch
Last weekend's race at Phoenix was a reminder that while some things stay the same after the offseason, there are plenty of changes, as well. For example, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski are still the cream of the fantasy crop, and both have opened the year with back-to-back top-five finishes. On the other hand, 2012 fantasy bust Carl Edwards already has more wins than he did all of last season, and veteran Jeff Burton popped up inside the top 10 for just the third time since last July. Granted, it is still very early in the 2012 season, and while Edwards and Burton may not sustain their success, it is a safe bet that a few drivers that struggled last year will be serious fantasy contributors this season and vice versa.
With that in mind, this weekend's trip to Las Vegas Motor Speedway becomes just a bit more important. After all, the track's 1.5-mile layout is the most common on the schedule, and while the "cookie-cutter" label often applied to these intermediate ovals is a bit misleading, there is no denying the fact that the best drivers in the series all run well at a majority of the 1.5-mile tracks. Heck, the two drivers with the best average finish at the intermediate ovals during the past five seasons are Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart, and they have combined to win seven of the last eight championships. Fantasy owners should pay close attention to the action on the track this weekend because it could be the best early-season indicator of what to expect the rest of the way.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Normally a slow starter, Stewart has been bucking the trend at Las Vegas in recent years. Not only is he the defending winner of this weekend's race, but he has actually led the most laps at the track in each of the past two years. Stewart's average finish at the track since the start of the 2010 season is an impressive 3.3, and he has eight finishes of seventh or better in 15 career Vegas starts.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
His scorching hot start to the 2013 season should continue at Vegas. Johnson is a four-time winner at the track, and his 9.8 average finish is the best in the series. He finished second at the track last season, and he should be right back in the mix for a win Sunday.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Fresh off his first win in nearly two years, Edwards could keep the momentum going this weekend. After all, his 10.3 average finish at Las Vegas is the second best in the series. Edwards is also a two-time winner at the track with his most recent victory coming in 2011, and he even managed a fifth-place finish last year when he had a down season by his standards.
Greg Biffle, #16 3M/Bondo, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Biffle has been rock solid at Las Vegas for a while now, and he seems to be getting better. He has finished in the top 10 in six of his last eight starts at the track, and he tied his career-best finish last year with a third-place run. Biffle has always been able to do some damage at the 1.5-mile tracks, and he deserves plenty of consideration from fantasy owners this weekend.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
In seven starts at Las Vegas, Hamlin has cracked the top 10 four times, finishing as high as third. Overall, his 12.9 average finish at the track ranks sixth in the series. He also looked pretty stout last weekend at Phoenix, driving from last to third during a race when passing was difficult.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Penske Racing [Yahoo Class A]
His numbers at Las Vegas are actually horrible. In four starts at the track, Keselowski has never cracked the top 25, and he has amassed an abysmal 30.5 average finish. That being said, he has finished in the top 20 in 33 of the 35 races since the series visited Vegas last year, and he has opened up 2013 with back-to-back fourth-place finishes. I think he is ready to bust out of his Vegas slump.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Although he had an off day at Vegas last year, Kenseth has been one of the most consistent options at the track for years. His 12.5 average finish is the fourth best in the series, and he has finished outside the top 20 just three times in 13 starts. Kenseth has been particularly strong over the last 10 races, winning twice and logging seven top-10s.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class B]
Junior is off to a hot start, notching top-five finishes in the first two races of 2013. Now, he gets to head to a track where he has finished 11th or better in five of his last six starts. Fantasy owners should expect a top-10 effort from Junior this weekend at Las Vegas, and he should make a solid addition to lineups.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Several bad finishes bog down his average finish at Las Vegas, but Gordon has had plenty of strong efforts, as well. In fact, he is a former winner at the track, and he has finished sixth or better five times in his last eight starts. His inconsistency hurts his value a bit, but Gordon definitely has top-five potential this weekend.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He is in the middle of his best stretch at Las Vegas, and Bowyer has reeled off four straight top-15s at the track. During the stretch, he has compiled a 7.8 average finish and cracked the top 10 three times. Bowyer might not deliver a top-five finish this weekend, but he should provide solid results for fantasy owners.
Kevin Harvick, #29 Budweiser/Rheem, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class A]
His results at Vegas have been drastically different over the years, but for the most part, Harvick has been solid at the track. He has finished in the top 20 in his last five races at Las Vegas, finishing in the top five twice and outside the top 10 three times during the stretch. Owners should definitely expect a top-15 from Harvick this weekend, but anything more than that isn't a guarantee.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Although 1.5-mile tracks tend to be his best, Kahne has never dominated at Las Vegas. He does have five straight top-20s at the track, but he has just two top-10s and zero top-five finishes during the stretch. Kahne is more than capable of turning things around at any point, but given his numbers thus far, owners shouldn't get their hopes too high for Kahne this weekend.