Kevin Harvick won the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in dominating fashion. Here are four things we learned following the third race of the NASCAR season.
The Fords are formidable
The Fords are for real so far this season. In the two races on the 1.5-mile speedways, 11 of the possible 20 top-ten positions have been Fords. Fords have combined to lead 523 of the possible 592 laps. That’s 88% of laps run at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
What’s causing the dominance so far this season? It could start with something new in 2018, the new “OSS” inspection process.
“I haven’t heard as much grumbling with inspection as we’ve heard in the past and things that — last year there were so many things that you’d go through tech and you’d go through with the same car that you didn’t change and the numbers were different,”said Tony Stewart, car owner for Stewart-Haas Racing, after the race. “It’s like, we didn’t change anything on the race cars, and numbers were drastically different.”
The bottom line with the new inspection process is consistency. Now with a more uniform process, all teams and manufacturers are under the same set of circumstances as they try to figure out the new procedure three races into a 36-race season.
Will the dominance slow down?
“Sky’s the limit on where it can go,” said Harvick. “I think that’s probably one of the biggest reasons that Tony (Stewart) and Gene (Haas) and all of us thought that the resources and things that came with Ford were — the light at the end of the tunnel could be a lot bigger than it was.”
Veteran drivers are thriving
Seven drivers with six or more years of experience finished inside the top-ten at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, while eight finished inside the top-ten at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The youth movement during Speedweeks and in the Daytona 500 seems to hit a road block: the veterans.
Jimmie Johnson took to Twitter after the race to make an observation about a veteran driver finding victory lane.
How about those young guys! Oh wait… a 42 year old won. And won for the 2nd time this year… man I’m happy to be 42. 😎
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) March 5, 2018
Veteran drivers rising to the top at Atlanta Motor Speedway made sense, given the style and characteristics of the speedway. However, with many younger drivers taking part in preseason testing at Las Vegas in January, that additional seat team was thought to give them a little bit of a head start.
We will know for certain after the West Coast swing of races, ISM Raceway (Phoenix) and Auto Club Speedway (California), are complete whether or not the veterans are here to stick around.
Pit gun troubles continue
Daniel Suarez was the latest driver to have pit gun troubles this past weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, one week after multiple teams had trouble with the new NASCAR mandated pit guns.
Suarez took to Twitter to talk about his frustration.
It’s hard to explain the amount of people that work so hard to get sponsors, go to the race track, make race cars go fast, perform well in the race, then at the end of the day have an issue with something out of your control…. that’s frustrating. https://t.co/lWdT33RNus
— Daniel Suárez (@Daniel_SuarezG) March 5, 2018
During “The Morning Drive” Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, talked about the pit gun issues.
“Air gun issues have been part of the sport forever. Let me dispel the myth that there never has been a failure,” O’Donnell said. “I believe that we had one that we’re looking into on the Cup side with the 19 car that we’re looking at. We don’t view an air gun issue like on the 4 car where the gun actually works on the pit stop and then has an issue.”
Whether or not the recent pit gun troubles have been failures isn’t a conversation NASCAR wants to be having three races into the season. If teams and drivers continue to voice their concerns and frustrations though, it will be hard for fans to ignore.
Matt DiBenedetto and GoFas Racing overachieve…again
With DiBenedetto’s 22nd place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he earned the eighth best finish for GoFas Racing in their 137-race history. Of GoFas Racing’s ten best finishes, DiBenedetto holds eight of them, and he has only been driving for them since last season.
This performance was impressive because of the teams DiBenedetto finished ahead of. Those teams included Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports.
After the race, DiBenedetto posted a video on Twitter to talk about their impressive day.
Finished 22nd today…solid day for us! Beat a lot of cars on multiple times our budget and we take pride in overachieving like that as a small team! Proud of my guys 👍 pic.twitter.com/2XTvxKYx1E
— Matt DiBenedetto (@mattdracing) March 5, 2018
Follow Matt on Twitter @mattlovisa.