Cup Teams Take It To Vegas

from a NASCAR Fan’s View

The Cup teams take it to Las Vegas this weekend. The most asked question for this weekend appears to be, “Will there be another NASCAR first time winner at the Vegas track?” I believe it is a valid question, especially with the way this 2021 season has started. In the first two races there were two unexpected and first-time winners and in the third, a driver getting his second career win. This isn’t news to you NASCAR fans out there but, it is interesting to consider as the Cup teams take to the Vegas track on Sunday afternoon.

Since the drivers that have been around the Cup Series for a while haven’t been winning in this early part of the season, most of the talk has centered around the “young guns” or Michael McDowell, a fourteen-year veteran, winning his first Cup race, the Daytona 500. That is all well and good but, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Circumstances have played a large part in the final results of the first three races but that doesn’t take away from the effort and talent of the winners. This fan wonders if this trend will continue or whether things will begin to round out a bit.

Now, listen. I’m not saying I expect things to change. I am saying it has been an interesting start to the season and it adds an unexpected dimension to what will take place at playoff time. Three drivers have already qualified themselves into the playoffs by winning and that means only thirteen spots remain. It does appear there is going to be some intense racing ahead as drivers try to get into victory lane to qualify themselves into the top sixteen rather than try to point their way in. With that in mind, it does add a whole new take on the twenty-three remaining points races of the season.

The Vegas track is home to the Bush brothers and some expect them to be strong choices for winning this one. I suppose they could but, I’m not so sure it’s going to be that easy to choose a winner from either of them. Both of them have proven they can run well at this track and both of them can win. In fact, they’ve both won at the track but, for a hometown track, it hasn’t been one they get easy wins. Each of them has only won once so neither of them is a shew in for this weekend.
From this fan’s view, it appears there is more of a focus on those stronger teams that are struggling to get good performances. You know, someone like Matt DiBenedetto and the Woods Brothers. Just for a moment, I’d like to theoretically compare Matt to last week’s winner, William Byron. Byron’s start to the year was very lackluster even though it really wasn’t all his fault. In the 500, he go caught up in accidents and, at the road course, he just didn’t perform all that well. There was nothing pointing to his winning at Homestead but win he did. From this fan’s view, the same could happen for Matt even though I still think he is a longshot for this weekend. (And, by the way, if I am wrong, I can live with that…)
Some others on the possible win list (other than those “young guns”) would be past good performers like Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. Any one of these three could be in Victory Lane when the day is done. Kevin Harvick starts on the pole (well, as long as they pass inspection) and it could prove to be very good for him. Of course, I can’t rule out what has happened to front row starters this season. Being qualified by the metrics on the front row and starting on the front row are two different things this year. It’s just not a given come race day.
Just look at that starting lineup for Sunday. The top ten is full of proven performers and possible winners. Byron, last week’s winner, on the front row, Larson, Truex, McDowell, Hamlin, Kurt Bush and Chase Elliott in the rows behind. I won’t mention the rest of them by name but the top twenty or twenty-five spots are filled with ones many look at as possible winners on Sunday afternoon.

What I expect for the race at Vegas on Sunday is an intense race for stage points and the same for the final laps. There is just too much at stake these days for the drivers to not be aggressive and emotional. I also expect there might be more than a little pushing and shoving going on and we all know what that can lead to. Yep, you got it. Carnage and possibly at the worst time for those that need a really good finish and chance to turn their season around.

When it comes right down to it, Vegas is a tough track and a track that can bring out high emotions, depending on how things go. I don’t know there will be fisticuffs but there have been in the past. I don’t know if there will be another first-time winner in 2021 but, there could be. I won’t even chance a guess at which of them might win because it’s all going to depend on no mistakes, pit performance and strategy.

Well… maybe I will chance a guess of which of them will win but I don’t think it will be what you expect. I think the one that wins will be the one that crosses the finish line ahead of the rest.

Gee… that sounds like a pretty safe bet… doesn’t it? After all, it is Vegas…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 6, 2021 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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