Thursday 5:57pm
February 26, 2015
Currently 39°F
Posted: Thursday, March 6th 2014 at 2:28am

NASCAR Preview: Harvick win means Chase all but guaranteed

click to enlarge
Kevin Harvick looks to carry his success from last week's Sprint Cup race at Phoenix into Las Vegas on Sunday. / Photo: NASCAR Via Getty Images
LAS VEGAS - A NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory?

That’s gold, Jerry. Gold.

Actually, winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race might be better than gold.

Never in the 65-year history of the series has a win held this much importance. It means more than a trophy, and a trip to victory lane.

In all likelihood, it means a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup; a chance at a championship. It means hope.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. knows the feeling, winning the Daytona 500 and admitting he can now take bigger swings in the hopes of piling up victory after victory.

And now Kevin Harvick knows the spoils of a victory. His dominant – and with a Driver Rating of 149.9, near-perfect – win at Phoenix put the Chase directly in his cross hairs.

Both Earnhardt and Harvick will make the Chase unless there are more than 15 different winners in the first 26 races – something that’s happened only twice in the 65-year history of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. In other words, they should feel pretty good.

And after this weekend, Harvick might feel even better. Another win would leave only two hurdles left to clear to lock up a Chase spot – finishing in the top 30 and attempting to qualify for every race. A second win would mathematically guarantee that he – or anyone – would be among the top 15 winners.

Harvick has yet to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but has come close. He scored a runner-up finish in in 2010, part of an overall Vegas record that includes three top fives, five top 10s and an average finish of 12.7. He finished ninth last season, driving for Richard Childress Racing.

This, too, might play into Harvick’s hands: his crew chief, Rodney Childers. Though this weekend will be Childers’ first at Vegas with Harvick, he has plenty of experience there. In seven starts, Childers has called the shots at Vegas for four different drivers. His best finish is fourth, with David Reutimann in 2009.

Harvick’s boss – Tony Stewart – might actually run a tad better. Including a Vegas win in 2012, Stewart has scored three top 10s in the last four races at the 1.5-mile track. In 2011 and 2012, he led more than 100 laps per race. Last season, he finished 11th.

WDUN will have live MRN Radio coverage of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 from Las Vegas Motor Speedway beginning at 2 pm on 102.9 FM and 550 AM.

Nationwide Series: Nationwide Regulars Have History, What It Takes To Win In Vegas

The last two NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway have seen series regulars celebrate in victory lane: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (2012) and Sam Hornish, Jr. (2013). Saturday’s Boyd Gaming 300 could continue that streak with a handful of drivers as the most likely to pull the trifecta off.

A quick scan of Loop Data from the past nine series races at Las Vegas have a combination of Trevor Bayne, Ty Dillon, Brendan Gaughan, Elliott Sadler and Brian Scott appearing in the top five in several categories: average driver rating, quality passes, green-flag speed, fastest laps run, fastest on restarts, laps led, laps in top 15 and average running position.

In four starts at the “Diamond in the Desert,” Bayne has never finished lower than sixth. He led 21 laps in last year’s race before finishing fourth for the second consecutive season. His best finish at the 1.5-mile speedway is ninth (2012) in three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts.

Dillon has only one series start at Vegas, which came last year where he finished 11th after starting fifth. In two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events, he has finished of 10th and fourth.

Last season, Gaughan finished fifth in the NASCAR Nationwide race at Vegas, his best finish in three starts. In 2003, he won the truck series race at Vegas to go along with five top-10 finishes. In all, he has 18 national series starts in the desert.

With 19 national series starts, Sadler has the most starts in Vegas among the group, having competed at the track in only the top two series. In seven NASCAR Nationwide events, he’s only finished outside the top 15 once, including a third-place finish in 2012. In the premier series, Sadler turned in a career-best sixth-place performance during the 2004 season.

In last year’s NASCAR Nationwide race, Scott posted his best finish of ninth at the track. In his three other starts, he placed 31st, 14th and 34th. His average finishing position in three truck series races is 20.7.

One interesting note, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular Kyle Busch has never won in a NASCAR Nationwide event at his hometown track.

WDUN will have live MRN Radio coverage of Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series Boyd Gaming 300 from Las Vegas Motor Speedway beginning at 3:45 pm on 102.9 FM.

Camping World Trucks: After Daytona Win, Eric Phillips Looks To Break Record At Martinsville

Eric Phillips stands on the verge of history. One more victory, and he’ll be the all-time winningest crew chief in the 20-year history of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Phillips called the shots for Kyle Busch’s season-opening win at Daytona International Speedway to give him 28 for his career, tying Rick Ren for the most wins in series history.

Eighteen of Phillips’ 28 wins have come while working at Kyle Busch Motorsports, and his list of drivers who have won with him is quite impressive. Dennis Setzer picked up four of his 18 career wins with Phillips and former series champions Mike Skinner (3) and Travis Kvapil (2) have also scored wins with Phillips.

Current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne and Brian Scott have each scored a NCWTS win with Phillips. Phillips’ most prolific driver? Not surprisingly, it’s Kyle Busch (15).

As for the record, Phillips was even keeled when asked about it.

“I think (records) are a cool thing to achieve, but I have a lot of years left to do this so hopefully we break the record by a lot,” Phillips said. “It just says a lot that I have been fortunate to work with a lot of great drivers and organizations through the years.”

Phillips will try and have the record all by himself when he leads Erik Jones in the No. 51 Toyota at Martinsville on March 29. If Jones can pick up his second win in as many starts, he would become the ninth different driver to win a race with Phillips on the pit box.

© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

  • Click here
  • Click here
  • Click here
  • Click here
  • Click here
Gainesville, GA 30501
Scattered Clouds
Wind: WNW 7 mph
Dew point: 33°F