Saturday, March 5, 2011

Vegas will show who major players will be this season

In past years, by the time the Sprint Cup Series stopped by Las Vegas, everyone had a pretty good idea of which teams would be serious contenders for the rest of the season, but that has changed this year.

With the move to Phoenix as the second race of the season instead of California, the first three weeks of the season each test a different skill set for the drivers and teams.

Daytona is the monstrous restrictor-plate track that is all about speed and how a driver can work the draft, Phoenix drives like a short track because it is flat and the drivers have a lot of control over their outcome, as compared to Las Vegas where aerodynamics are more of a factor in how well the car performs.

When the second race was at California, a track with similarities to Las Vegas in that aerodynamics are important, the cars that did well in the first race would do well in the second, as well, and from then on everyone knew drivers such as Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards would be the ones to beat for the championship.

This year has been different, however. As is often the case, the Daytona 500 winner came out of nowhere, and that race can’t be used as a barometer for the rest of the season. But, just because Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Johnson were good at Phoenix doesn’t mean they will be as strong at tracks such as Las Vegas.

We already saw in qualifying Friday the Fords showed up to Sin City ready to roll, as four of the top five qualifiers drove a Ford Fusion, yet last week only two Fords qualified in the top 10.

Also, last season Johnson won both California and Las Vegas, while Carl Edwards did the same thing in 2008. Now, Jeff Gordon could certainly win the race this weekend, but he will have to do it with a much different setup in the car than he did last week.

So while the points and contenders will all likely even out as the season moves on and the series visits places such as California and Kansas, it is still a more intriguing start to the season to have three different types of race tracks in the first three weeks. Plus, we know Phoenix will be the wrench in things at the end of the season, as well, unless the repave makes it more of a generic track.

Let’s hope that’s not the case.

1 comment:

  1. So I guess our answer is Cuz Carl, Smoke, maybe Kenseth and EGR?