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Dustin Off the Next Race: Pennzoil 400

It’s time to give the folks on the west coast some love in 2019 as it’s once again the part of the season where “NASCAR Goes West” for three consecutive weeks, at three completely different tracks.

This is certainly the time where this new aerodynamic package will get a workout, and this weekend it is coming with it’s full allotment of changes.  Just watching highlights of testing last year, and then both practice and qualifying from this weekend already has shown some big potential for these new rules.  It’s clear adding in the duct work in front of the front tires has changed how this track is run.

It has a reminder in a sense of what the All-Star Race was like last year, as cars were sucking up to the rear bumpers and were running in packs for majority of the practices, and even the qualifying session.

To a point, it’s almost like running at Daytona and Talladega with their previous rules package.

Timing is extremely critical with these changes because being able to suck up is one thing, but the draft is becoming an even more important factor at Las Vegas than it has in years prior.  That being said, qualifying and practice were a great indicator of how this race could end up being, with being able to time passes just right.  I’m expecting a few slingshot passes at this track, something we’ve not seen at places of 1.5 miles in length for a long time.  I also expect to see the teams that have done their homework during the off season to show how strong they are.

And surprisingly so far, that has not been Hendrick.  All four cars last week in Atlanta struggled mightily, which for this team is uncommon.  To have these early season struggles is not uncommon, as we saw it last year, but to be struggling this much out of the gate is a bit worrying.

Is it time to hit the panic button, no, but it’s something needing addressed quickly.

Truth be told, the Ford camp all across the board has been the manufacturer that has begun strong.  That is huge considering it’s not only new rules for them, but a completely new car.  Sure, the biggest change to the car between the Fusion and the Mustang is the more square nose and a different tail configuration, but the teams like Stewart-Haas, and even Roush, started the season strong.

I’m not surprised at this at all, just like I wasn’t surprised that the Fords were strong right away last season.

What I am most interested to see is if the Chevrolet teams can get it together, because as it stands, the Chip Ganassi teams are leading the charge for the bowtie brand.  Kyle Larson has been strong already this season with his strong showing in Atlanta, and having Kurt Busch as a teammate this year has given the entire organization some veteran leadership.  That’s not to say they didn’t have it with Jamie McMurray, because he did extremely well with both his stints with the group.  But there’s something about having a driver coming from the most dominant group last season to their two-car operation that makes such a big difference.

It’s clear that Kurt is on the last leg of his career, as he’s already running his own throwback look on the No. 1 Camaro long before we see some of the schemes for Darlington.

If I were to wager a bet on who could win at Vegas, my chips are going on the 42, 18, and the 4.

So I guess it’s time to get to the tables and roll some dice, then hit the slots in hopes of hitting the jackpot.  Oh come on, you know I couldn’t finish out a piece about Las Vegas without a few gambling references.  But then again, at this track, there’s no bluffing, and the hope is no one rolls snake eyes straight away.

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