The Daytona 500 didn’t go off without a hitch, but it certainly didn’t disappoint racing fans, either. After a rain delay forced the race to be finished a day later, and a fiery crash that sent Ryan Newman to the hospital, Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag, followed by Ryan Blaney.
It’s now time for the second race of the season, coming up this Sunday in the Pennzoil 400. With NASCAR having embraced gambling more than almost any other sport, it’s only fitting that this race play out at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS).
This is going to the 25th race in the series’ history in Las Vegas. It has hosted two races since the 2018 season, and offers drivers 1.5 miles of asphalt with 20-degree banks on each turn and nine degrees at the front and on the backstretch. 267 laps around the track make for a thrill for both drivers and racing fans.
Last year, Joey Logano took the victory at this race, and is in the running to achieve another win. He’s getting 13-2 odds, slightly better than Denny Hamlin at 10-1, and behind Martin Truex, Jr. at 5-1 and Brad Keselowski at 6-1. Kevin Harvick, who is also familiar with the track, sits in the gambling pole position with 4-1 odds.
Harvick’s position comes from a strong history in Vegas. Across the last five starts at the track, he has led a total of 363 laps, making him the top man among active drivers by more than 100 laps. He has won two out of seven races, as well as finished in the top five twice, on the track, and took the checkered flag in 2014. He could have won the race last year if it hadn’t been for some difficulty on his final pit stop.
Truex has taken two victories, five top-five finishes and six top-ten finishes at the track. He also came close to taking the title last year, which would have been his second in three years. He made up for the loss in September, coming up from 24th position to score the win.
Logano is one of the most prolific racers at LVMS. In nine races since 2013, when he singed up with Team Penske, he has finished in the top ten eight times and, last year, had a race-high of 105 laps to take first in the winning stage and second in the second stage during his playoff run. Despite relatively long odds for this Sunday, Logano has the skills and the motivation to win the race.
The Daytona 500 still gets a lot more attention than the Pennzoil 400, but that doesn’t mean the latter isn’t worthy of a whole lot of action. To the contrary, it is usually a more exciting race. In the ten years of the Daytona 500, there have been nine different winners. However, only six drivers have won at least one race at the Pennzoil 400 across the spring and fall events. This means that drivers, at least some of them, come better equipped to manage the track and know how to fight for position better.
As proof of the fact that not everyone can drive at the LVMS, one only needs to look as far as Kyle Busch. His trophy case is full of first-place trophies from a number of tracks, but even he admits that the Las Vegas track is his archenemy. He hasn’t won there since 2009, which is a tremendous dry spell for the first driver in the history of the NASCAR Cup Series to have won at every track he has raced. That’s the main reason he’s getting 9/2 on Sunday to take the checkered flag.