articlelasvegasMatt Kenseth will try his hand at making history this weekend going for win number 3 in a row.

Drew Blickensderfer and the crew have been flawless so far, getting Kenseth out in a hurry and in the right place at the right time.

Kenseth is no stranger to great finishes at Las Vegas either. He won back to back races during the 2003 and 2004 seasons. He finished runner up in 2006.

Matt has the fourth best driver rating here of 107.8 with a high of 135.8 (2nd best). He has 5 top 10’s out of the last 6 races here.

Kenseth will have his hands full, because there are other drivers that are just as strong here. So sit back, and let’s crunch the numbers at Las Vegas. In my free family contest, I picked 7 of the top 10 drivers, let’s see how I do this week.

About the track:
Track Size – 1.5 mile oval
Front stright – 2,275 feet
Back straight – 1,572 feet
Race Length – 285 laps or 427.5 miles
Banking in the corners – 20 degrees
Banking on the frontstretch – 9 degrees
Banking on ther backstretch – 9 degrees
Grandstand seating – 142,000
Pace car speeds – pit road 45mph, track 55mph
Track opened – 1996 First race – 1998

Other Data / Notes:
Pit Window – Every 50-55 laps based on fuel mileage
The first cup race here was won by Mark Martin (1998)
Seven different drivers have won here.
Only 4 races have been won from a top 10 starting position
None have been won from the pole
Worst starting position to win, 25th, Matt Kenseth (2004)
Matt Kenseth has led 438 laps at Las Vegas, 179 more than any other driver
Most Wins – Jimmie Johnson (3)
Most Poles – Kasey Kahne, Bobby Labonte & Dale Jarrett (2)
Most Top 5’s – Mark Martin & Jeff Gordon (5)
Most Top 10’s – Mark Martin (9)
Most Cautions – 11 (2008)
Most Caution Laps – 46 (2005)
Most remaining on the lead lap – 30 (2006)
Least remaining on the lead lap – 10 (twice, most recent 1999)
Most running at the finish – 42 (2000)
Fewest running at the finish – 33 (2004)
Most leaders – 16 (2007)
Fewest leaders – 7 (2000)
Most laps led by a race winner – Matt Kenseth 123 (2004)
Fewest laps led by a winner – Jimmie Johnson 1 (2006)
Most wins by manufacturer – Ford 6
Closest margin of victory – 0.045 second – Jimmie Johnson over Matt Kenseth (2006)
Greatest margin of victory – 9.104 seconds – Matt Kenseth over Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2003)
Races won from top 5 – 2 of 11
Races won from top 10 – 4 of 11

Best Career At Las Vegas By Average (Top 15):
1-Denny Hamlin – 7.3
2-Matt Kenseth – 9.0
3-Jimmie Johnson – 9.3
4-Jeff Burton – 10.5
5-Mark Martin – 11.1
6-Carl Edwards – 11.8
7-Kyle Busch – 13.2
8-Kevin Harvick – 14.3
9-Tony Stewart – 14.4
10-Greg Biffle – 14.6
11-Jeff Gordon – 14.9
12-Casey Mears – 15.2
13-Martin Truex Jr. – 15.7
14-Bobby Labonte – 16.6
15-Kasey Kahne – 17.0
***Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 18.7

Las Vegas is classified as a speedway. Below we will see how the top drivers fair.

Best Speedway Average (Top 15):
1-Jimmie Johnson – 10.8
2-Carl Edwards – 11.2
3-Jeff Gordon – 11.7
4-Tony Stewart – 12.5
5-Mark Martin – 12.8
6-Jeff Burton – 13.7
7-Denny Hamlin – 13.8
8-Matt Kenseth – 14.0
9-Greg Biffle – 15.9
10-Bobby Labonte – 15.9
11-Kevin Harvick – 16.1
12-Clint Bowyer – 16.7
13-Kyle Busch – 16.9
14-Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 17.2
15-Martin Truex Jr. – 17.4

Most Laps Led (Top 10):
1-Matt Kenseth – 438
2-Mark Martin – 259
3-Jeff Burton – 219
4-Jeff Gordon – 217
5-Jimmie Johnson – 210
6-Tony Stewart – 185
7-Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 162
8-Ryan Newman – 98
9-Carl Edwards – 89
10-Kyle Busch – 61

Driver ratings is a formula combining the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish. Maximum: 150 points per race.

Las Vegas Average Driver Ratings (Top 15):
1-Jimmie Johnson – 112.0
2-Jeff Gordon – 111.4
3-Kyle Busch – 109.8
4-Matt Kenseth – 107.8
5-Greg Biffle – 100.2
6-Mark Martin – 96.8
7-Jeff Burton – 95.4
8-Tony Stewart – 92.9
9-Carl Edwards – 92.3
10-Kurt Busch – 89.9
11-Kevin Harvick – 88.8
12- Denny Hamlin – 88.4
13- Kasey Kahne – 82.5
14-Ryan Newman – 81.5
15-Elliot Sadler – 77.9
***Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 77.2

The Picks:
1-Matt Kenseth – I am gonna ride the wave and pick Matt as the winner. I will have to say the odds (history) is against him, but his back to back wins in 2003, 2004 and near miss in 2nd behind Johnson have me convinced. He has also lead the most laps here and is coming into this race with a ton of momentum. If not your winner, put him in your top 10. His season driver rating average is 122.7

2-Jeff Gordon – As far as loop data goes, Jeff is about as strong as Kenseth. He barely trails Kenseth in the season-to-date loop data. Gordon’s average “running” position is in the top 15. Pretty impressive. Out of 11 starts, he has one win and five top 5 finishes. I really think last year he had a ton on his mind with the new baby and all. Like last week, look for him to be focussed and bringing home a top 10 finish. His season driver rating average 122.3

3-Kyle Busch – is just talented. What can you say about this kid? Some like him and some don’t. Maybe he’s a little rowdy at times, but you have to agree, the kid can drive a car! He came just 2 positions shy of winning all three of Nascar’s top events. Busch is only 18th in points due to the disappointing 41st place finish at Daytona after being involved in the multi-car crash. He has made 5 starts at Las Vegas, before his 11th place finish last year, he has 3 finishes in the top 10. Put “Rowdy Kyle” on your list.His season average rating is 112.2

4-Carl Edwards – He is the third fastest driver early in the run and fourth fastest late in the run. He has also been on every lap on the lead lap. He is the fourth fastest under green flag conditions. During last year’s victory here, he led 86 laps. He did however, suffer a huge penalty for illegal modifications on his car. His season to date average is 102.9

5-Jimmie Johnson – Johnson had a tough season opener, but he bounced back with last week’s 9th place finish. This season, Johnson has the third fastest lap average. He has also led 74 laps this season, the fourth most of all drivers. Johnson is a three-time consecutive winner from 2005-2007. He has a 9.3 average finish out of seven starts. Put him on your list.

6-Tony Stewart – Stewart does pretty well here. Last year was rough with 43rd, but other than that, he has done rather well besides his ’98 run. Besides 43rd and 36th, he has placed 2nd, 12th, 5th, 5th, 3rd, 10th, 21st and 7th. He has spent 92.5% of his total laps run in the top 15. That’s pretty impressive alone. People doubted Stewart with his new ownership and changes, but with two 8th place finishes to start the season, we can see he is not distracted a bit.

7-Denny Hamlin – He had a tough hit after being involved in the multi-car crash, placing 26th at Daytona. He finished 6th at Fontana. His average running position is 6th best so far for this season. He is tied for fourth for laps in the top 15. In his three starts, he has finished all in the top 10. Those finishes were 10th, 3rd and 9th. His season to date driver rating is 99.8 but is 15th in points.

8-Mark Martin – Has not started off as well as I thought he would in a Hendrick ride, but who could have predicted the problems that came up. Martin has raced in 11 races here and has 1 win, 5 top 5’s and 9 top 10’s. Out of 2,644 laps run, he has led 259 which is 2nd best of all drivers. His average start is 14.2, but 11.1 is his career average finish. I really look for Martin to have a good run (if they threw out all of those bad engine parts). His last three races here were 6th, 5th and 10th.

9-Greg Biffle – Out of five races, Biffle has recorded 1 top 5, 1 pole and 3 top 10’s. He has led 58 of 1,093 laps. His average start is 7.4 and 14.6 is his average finish. That finishing average is hurt mostly by his ’04 finish of 40th. But since then, 6th, 8th, 16th and last year’s 3rd. He is coming into this race with momentum and a 5th place in the point standings.

10-This was a hard one. I was caught between Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick. Burton’s numbers gets the vote this week. His average finish is 10.5 while Harvick’s is 14.3. Burton has only finished worse than 17th once, while Harvick has 3 times. Harvick’s last three races were 11th, 24th and 7th. That’s an average of 14th. Burton’s lastv three races here were 7th, 15th and 5th. That’s an average finish of 9th. So statistically speaking, I lean towards Burton.

***For the Dale Jr. fans, we won’t count him out, but he is just not the strongest contender as far as numbers are concerned. His last two races were really good with a 11th and 2nd place finish. His average finish is 18.7 and 23.6 is his average start. Out of 9 races he has 2 top 5’s and 3 top 10’s. He has also led 162 of 1,959 laps. If not for him shooting himself in the foot with the bad judgement lately and bad luck with engine problems, I really think he would be in better shape right now.

Other drivers to watch:
Casey Mears – I know, before you say it, he has one bad finish of 40th, but the others were 15th, 7th, 7th, 9th and last year’s 13th.
Martin Truex Jr. – Not too shabby in only three starts, placing 20th, 12th and 15th.
Ryan Newman – Out of the last 4 races, he has a 43rd, but the others were 9th, 8th and last year’s 14th.

There you have it, enough to give you food for thought. I would say choose from the top ten as I layed out, but that’s only half the battle. The toughest job will be selecting a winner. Johnson looks good from past history. Jeff Gordon looks good from his past runs and last week’s momentum. Kenseth is not a bad pick to win, he will be hungry to make history.

There are many choices, and remember, the unknowns (bad pits, penalties or wrecks) can ruin any driver’s day, no matter what the stats look like. Enjoy the race.