Race: SouthPoint 400
Track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Track Length: 1.5 miles (Asphalt)
Distance: 267 laps (400.5 miles)
Defending Champion: N/A
Hello race fans! Welcome to the 2018 Chase! That’s right, the NASCAR playoffs are officially here with 16 drivers battling for the championship. This is the first year that Las Vegas will have a fall race as the second on the schedule, as they have traditionally been a spring race only. Chicagoland previously served as the opener for the playoffs. That is why there is no defending champion listed above. However, Kevin Harvick won the race in spring and has actually won 2 of the L4.
I expect some fireworks coming out of the gate in the playoffs. There are drivers that know they need a big boost (or a win) to advance to the next round if everyone runs the way they should. Look for those drivers in the Chase to gamble or take a shot when given the opportunity to put themselves in position to win to lock in a chance at the next round.
The rain drowned out Indy last week, giving everyone a quick turnaround. Don’t expect any of that this weekend as there isn’t any rain in the forecast and temperatures will be in the triple digits all weekend. I think NASCAR did a good thing heading out west in the early fall for the beginning of the Chase. Let’s hope the action on the track is just as hot!
Drivers to Watch
Brad Keselowski $9,800: Winner of the last two races this season, he’s making his presence known heading into the Chase. And they weren’t just two ‘normal’ races he won – he’s now a Southern 500 and a Brickyard 400 winner. The schedule is also opening up at a place that Kes loves and has great success at. In his L6 races at Vegas, he has 2 poles, 2 wins, and hasn’t finished outside of 7th in any of those races. This is Brad’s bread and butter track. And there is no one more confident heading into the Chase than Keselowski.
Ryan Blaney $9,200: I’m going to stick with the Penske team for now and mention another Chase driver. Blaney has only races here 4 times, only once with Penske. In his 3 races with the Wood Brothers, he had finishes of 6th and 7th. In March, he came to Las Vegas in his Penske Ford for the first time and won the pole, eventually finishing 5th. YRB figures to have a fast Penske car this weekend and he’ll be on my list of drivers to watch during practice and qualifying to evaluate value.
Regan Smith $5,500: Taking over Kasey Kahne who is having health issues and continuing to sit out after missing last week’s race at Indy. Smith has only races here 7 times and has an average finish of 24th. It’s nothing great but he’s priced at $5,500. Smith finished 20th last week but was unable to accumulate DK points because of the late add. Kahne has consistently been priced ~$1,000 more than this all year and I don’t see a huge drop off in talent. It’ll be interesting to see how Smith settles in and where he qualifies. That will truly define value.
The guys get on the track Friday for practice and qualifying, but also get two practice sessions Saturday. Plenty of action this weekend to analyze this week’s Made, Fade, & Trade, which I anticipate to be posted Saturday.