Raceday: Your guide to the Kobalt Tools 400

jutter@charlotteobserver.comMarch 9, 2013 

Tony Stewart won this race a year ago and he could certainly use a repeat victory to help jumpstart his 2013 season.

Raceday

Your guide to the Kobalt Tools 400

Three things to watch

1 . Tony Stewart won this race a year ago and he could certainly use a repeat victory to help jumpstart his 2013 season.

2. So far this season, Jimmie Johnson has finished first and second. If he rolls into Victory Lane at Las Vegas again and it might be time to start polishing up Sprint Cup trophy No. 6.

3 . Kyle Busch has been fast to start the 2013 season but saddled with bad luck. If he can keep his car and engine together for the entire race, perhaps he could rebound with a hometown win.

Observations

Far too much importance has been placed on Sunday’s race in terms of the development of the new Cup series car. Yes, it’s its first appearance on a 1.5-mile track – the most common type of track in the series. And yes, the car was designed in hopes of improving its on-track performance. With the limited about of testing – and virtually none done in race conditions – it was foolish to think a definitive answer could be found of the car’s performance in one race. And even if the car’s debut is considered a rousing success, it would be unwise to think the same outcome would necessarily be duplicated next month in Texas. Unfortunately, patience in the car’s development has not been promoted by NASCAR or many in the media.

Remember all the hype about NASCAR’s new track drying apparatus that would cut dramatically cut the time to get wet tracks ready for competition? It sure would have been helpful to have at Las Vegas on Thursday, when cold temperatures made drying the track take exceedingly. Unfortunately, what was sort of glossed over when NASCAR unveiled its “Air Titan” is that – for the time being at least – it’s only available for use at Daytona International Speedway. Unless something dramatically changes, the next time it could get used is Daytona in July.

Jeff Gordon is closing in on a major competitive milestone: 300 top-five finishes (he currently has 298). With three more top-fives, Gordon will tie David Pearson for third all-time.

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy team from Jim Utter:

Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch

Notes

One fan remains hospitalized: One fan still remains hospitalized at Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., recovering from injuries sustained at the Feb. 23 Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway, a hospital spokesman confirmed.

More than two dozen fans were injured when Kyle Larson’s car smashed into the frontstretch catchfence and pieces of his car – including a tire – pierced the fence and fell into the grandstands.

NASCAR continues to investigate the crash, its cause and how the fence responded.

NASCAR honors troops: NASCAR will honor a group of Airmen from Nellis Air Force Base on Sunday at Las Vegas its Troops to the Track initiative that invites active duty, wounded warriors, veterans and military families to races throughout the year.

The airmen were nominated by their command to participate in the program as an award for their outstanding achievements in 2012. Troops to the Track will honor servicemen and women at 26 races during the 2013 season.

Practice update: With no practice and qualifying on Friday, Saturday’s practice sessions became even more important for Cup series teams. Martin Truex Jr. was fastest in the final session, with an average lap speed of 188.383 mph. Carl Edwards was second-fastest, Kyle Busch was third, Jimmie Johnson fourth and Mark Martin was fifth. Kasey Kahne led the way in the morning session.

Race facts

Where: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, Nev.

Track type: 1.5-mile paved, banked quad-oval

Race distance: 267 laps, 400.5 miles

Weather: Sunny and high around 65.

TV: Coverage begins at 2 p.m. on Fox. Green flag is 3:16 p.m.

Radio: Performance Racing Network

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