Sports & Culture Media

High Stakes on the High Banks of Vegas

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

A week ago, I predicted that the Ford camp would dominate the race at Fontana when it was a Chevrolet show at the front for the entire race. Tyler Reddick won both Stages and looked like a lock to win his first NASCAR Cup. A flat left rear tire derailed his day again, as Reddick finished a dismal 24th. Kyle Larson sneaked into the picture late and stole the win from Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez.

This week, the Cup regulars move over to Las Vegas for the second race of the West Coast trip. Last year’s spring winner Kyle Larson will try to repeat and get his 18th career win. With little data to predict who the favorites will be, I will pick three drivers that I think will improve from last week’s results at Fontana. We will have more data to fall back on as the season progresses and make better-educated guesses. I like that right now, the field is wide open, and the proof is in the results from last week, with Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez both having a perfect shot at winning. 

The easiest pick for improvement is Kyle Busch. At one point in time, Busch was listed six laps down. Most drivers and teams would ride around and count down the laps till the finish. A younger Kyle Busch would have had a fit and parked the car behind the fence and watched the race on television. Through all the issues, the team and driver kept racing and finished 14th and on the lead lap. This week is a home race for Kyle and brother Kurt and is another reason why picking one of the Busch brothers is an intelligent fantasy move. 

Another hanging curve is Tyler Reddick. The Richard Childress Racing organization has had an incredible start. Reddick was the dominant car at the Clash and Fontana last week. Reddick finished 24th after winning both stages and leading the most laps to the point of his blown tire. Teammate Austin Dillon came home second last week and has also quietly been solid. A win is coming soon, and Las Vegas could be the place we see it happen. 

The last driver that will make a big improvement should be Denny Hamlin. Simply put, the Toyota teams have all struggled so far this season, and with their backs against the wall is when I expect them to jump out and run the strongest. All four Joe Gibbs Toyota’s had a problem of some sort last week at Fontana, with most having an engine cooling issue. I’m sure the engineers at TRD took note of the issues and have already addressed them in the legal ways that they can. Ford won at Daytona, Chevy at Fontana, now we will see a Toyota complete the cycle, and it will be Denny Hamlin.

I hope everyone has a safe weekend and enjoys the Sin City racing.

Chris Ausburn