NASCAR & Auto Racing

NASCAR: Kobalt Tools 400 preview

Everything you need to know about Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400, in three minutes.

Three things to watch

1. Jeff Gordon was to start from the pole for the second time in three races this season but was forced into a backup car after getting caught up in Danica Patrick’s wreck in the final minute of the final practice.

2. Jimmie Johnson, coming off his first win of the season, holds the record for most Sprint Cup Series wins at Vegas with four.

3. Brian Vickers makes his first start of the season after missing the first two races while recovering from his second heart surgery.

Observations

▪  NASCAR competitors’ worst nightmare? Perhaps a No. 48 team that has 24 races to perfect its product in time for the 2015 championship Chase. One week after Johnson’s first win of the season, he looks even better.

▪  If most drivers and crew chiefs seem to have plausible explanations as to why the new rules package is actually producing faster speeds on the track, why was so much made in the offseason that slower speeds would somehow produce better racing?

▪  Two one-car teams – Germain Racing (Casey Mears) and Furniture Row Racing (Martin Truex Jr.) – are off to strong starts this season, showing the speed to compete with organizations with far more resources. That’s an impressive feat.

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy team:

Joey Logano: Won the Daytona 500, starting second at Las Vegas, where teammate Brad Keselowski won a year ago.

Jimmie Johnson: Johnson owns four wins at Vegas and has been fast all weekend in practice and qualifying. Oh, and he won last week, too.

Ryan Newman: Newman has been consistently fast this weekend as have the Richard Childress Racing teams in general.

He said it

“What a turnaround from last week. I’m just so proud of this team and keeping their heads up. Last week was a tough one, and this is a great, great way to start out weekend. – Jeff Gordon, who won the pole but now must start in the rear of the field in a backup

Notes

Still going faster: For the second week in a row, teams have posted faster speeds in practice and qualifying than they did at the same tracks a year ago despite a new aerodynamic rules package that included a reduction in horsepower and less downforce on the car.

“I think a lot of us would like to have seen a little bit more downforce taken out of (the car),” said Gordon, who set a track qualifying record. “But yet, I understand it happens in steps. And so, they took a step. But the teams are just so good at getting some of that back.”

Much of the issue was attributed to the abnormally cold temperatures last weekend in Atlanta, but that certainly is not the case this week, with highs each day in the mid-70s.

Practice update: Johnson dominated both practice sessions Saturday. The only thing he didn’t win was fastest 10-lap average, which belonged to Kyle Larson.

David Ragan hit the wall in practice and will have to use a backup car. Also, in the final minute of final practice, Danica Patrick spun in front of Gordon, doing damage to his car and forcing him to a backup as well.

N@SCAR

Getting there

Kobalt Tools 400

Where: Las Vegas Motor Speedway

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

Race distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps)

Green flag: 3:46 p.m. ET

Weather: Sunny with high near 75.

TV: Fox.

Radio: Performance Racing Network.

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