Didn’t take long for 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion and Hendrick Motorsport’s driver, Kyle Larson, to get back to Victory Lane since he won the Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway last November – two races to be exact. The 29-year-old from Elk Grove, California capitalized late at Auto Club Speedway last Sunday to get his first win of the 2022 season, his second at the 2-mile track and the 17th of his series career.
Now the series defending champ is headed to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube this Sunday, March 6 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Larson’s win has him joining DAYTONA 500 victor Austin Cindric as the first two drivers to lock themselves into the Playoffs this season. A good step in his endeavor to become the first driver to win back-to-back titles since Jimmie Johnson won five straight from 2006-2010.
It was not lost on Larson what a quick start like this means for him. The defending winner of this weekend’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was already thinking about the future in his post-race frontstretch interview at Auto Club Speedway.
“Definitely wild but cool to get a win here in California, and hopefully we get on a little streak,” said Larson.
Win streaks were a big part of Larsons 10-win season last year that led to his first series title. He became the fourth different driver in NASCAR Cup Series history to win three or more consecutive races multiple times in a single season; joining NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt (1987) and Richard Petty (1967, 1971) and David Pearson (1968).
Larson has made 11 series starts at Las Vegas posting one win (2021), four top fives and eight top 10s. He has also led 224 laps at the 1.5-mile track.
NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube
The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The Date: Sunday, March 6
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
The Purse: $8,483,997
TV: FOX, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400 miles (267 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 80),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 165), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 267)
2021 Race Winner: Kyle Larson
Team Penske’s Cindric becomes first rookie to hold Cup points lead more than one race
Records are meant to be broken and Team Penske’s Austin Cindric is well on his way to etching his name into the record books.
With his out-of-the-box win in the season-opening DAYTONA 500 and then his 12th-place finish last weekend at Auto Club Speedway, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate has become the first rookie in series history to hold the points standings lead for more than one race (Daytona, Auto Club). Prior to this season, seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson was the only rookie to hold the NASCAR Cup Series driver points standings lead during their rookie season but did so following just the Kansas Speedway race in 2002. Cindric currently holds an eight point lead over second place Joey Logano in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings.
Cindric also leads the 2022 Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings over second place Todd Gilliland (-55) and third place Harrison Burton (-72).
Cindric now turns his attention to Las Vegas Motor Speedway where he will be making his NASCAR Cup Series track debut this weekend. He has made eight NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Las Vegas putting up three top fives and five top 10s.
Hot start to 2022 season
Action-packed racing was the goal for the NASCAR Cup Series Next Gen car and through the first two races of 2022 season, it has passed the eye test. But what’s even more encouraging, is that the statistics are backing up the great on-track competition that the fans have come to expect at a NASCAR event.
The 2022 DAYTONA 500 produced 104 green flag passes for the lead, becoming just the fifth DAYTONA 500 to eclipse 100 GFPL mark since the inception of the Loop Data statistic in 2007; joining the 2014 (177), 2010 (170), 2017 (137) and 2019 (110). The event was also won by a Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate for the first time in the race’s history.
Auto Club Speedway also had some great action on-track this season. The Wise Power 300 produced the third-most lead changes (32) in the NASCAR Cup Series at Auto Club Speedway all-time; behind 2014 (35) and 2008 (33). The race also tied the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series race for the sixth most green flag passes for the lead at Auto Club Speedway with 33 GFPL.
“I think the playing field has definitely been leveled,” said Austin Dillon in his media availabilities leading up to Las Vegas this weekend.
23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace off to best season start of Cup career
Mobile, Alabama’s Bubba Wallace is off to the best start to a season in his NASCAR Cup Series career. The 23XI Racing driver rallied to his second career runner-up finish in the DAYTONA 500 to start the 2022 season, and then followed it up with a 19th-place finish after a wild Auto Club Speedway to find himself ninth in NASCAR Cup Series driver standings heading to Las Vegas this weekend.
Now the 28-year-old, Wallace, is a mere 20 points back from the series standings lead and is looking to roll the dice at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to keep his good luck this season alive.
Wallace has made eight starts at Las Vegas in the NASCAR Cup Series amassing one top-10 finish.
NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.
NASCAR Cup Series Featured Matchups: 2022 Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Below is a close look at the featured matchups fans can bet on heading into this weekend’s event.
- 9 – Chase Elliott VS. 5 – Kyle Larson
o The two young Hendrick Motorsports superstars make up an ultra-compelling lead Featured Matchup this week coming on the heels of their dust-up this past Sunday in Fontana.
o Elliott and Larson each had race-winning speed at various points of the race on Sunday – with Larson ultimately prevailing after throwing an errant block for the win on Elliott that sent Elliott into the wall, effectively ending his day.
o Both drivers have showed significant strength at Las Vegas in recent races at the track – Larson won the spring race at Las Vegas in March of 2021; Elliott finished second in the Fall 2021 event at the track after a late battle for the win with Denny Hamlin.
- 18 – Kyle Busch VS. 22 – Joey Logano
o Busch and Logano infamously tangled late in the race in the 2017 spring race at Las Vegas – an incident that ultimately drove both drivers to fisticuffs after the event.
o Busch – a native of Las Vegas, Nevada, and a hometown crowd favorite, has historically had bad luck at his home track (outside of a lone Vegas victory in 2009) despite running well nearly every time the series visits the facility. However, Busch has been strong at the track in recent races – he has the fifth highest average finish (8.17) at Las Vegas since February 2019
o In Logano’s case, Vegas is one of his strongest race tracks – he owns the highest driver rating at the track since February 2019 among all drivers (109.2) – and has collected 2 wins in that span (2019 and 2020, both in the Spring)
- 8 – Tyler Reddick VS. 24 – William Byron
o Reddick and Byron had two of the best cars in the field in Fontana on Sunday before a late-race accident between the two drivers (due to a cut tire on Reddick’s car) ended each of their days. Reddick led a race-high 90 laps in the event and appeared to have the dominant car before the incident.
o Reddick and Byron have notably battled fiercely for wins late in numerous races over the past year prior to Sunday – the two drivers battled hard at Playoff races in Charlotte and Texas last season and have seemingly run near each other each week since. Both drivers are on the cusp of a breakout – Reddick is still seeking his first Cup win, while Byron (a two-time Cup winner) is looking to convert his weekly race-winning speed into more frequent wins.
- 3 – Austin Dillon VS. 45 – Kurt Busch
o Las Vegas native and local favorite Kurt Busch squares off in the final matchup on this week’s slate against last week’s surprise runner-up at Fontana – Austin Dillon.
o Dillon and Busch have very similar recent numbers at intermediate tracks – Busch has a slightly higher average finish on intermediate tracks since 2019 (13.05 to Dillon’s 13.66), and also has a recent win at Las Vegas (Fall 2020).
o However, despite Kurt’s breakthrough win at the track in 2020, Dillon has posted better numbers at Las Vegas in recent races. Since 2019, Dillon has averaged a 15.50 finish at the facility vs. Busch’s 16.17.
Grammy-Nominated Country Trio Midland to headline Pennzoil 400 pre-race – Country music group Midland will headline pre-race festivities for the Pennzoil 400 Presented by Jiffy Lube on Sunday, March 6 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Known for such hits as “Drinkin’ Problem” and “Burn Out”, Midland will make its first appearance ever at Las Vegas Motor Speedway prior to the annual NASCAR Cup Series race.
“We’re thrilled to have one of country’s hottest acts kick off the Pennzoil 400,” said LVMS President Chris Powell. “Midland is incredibly popular with our race fans and we know the guys will put on a great show to get everyone’s motor running for the green flag.”
The band is expected to take the stage at the speedway at approximately 11 a.m. (local time).
Tiera Kennedy to perform national anthem at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Alabama-native and rising singer/songwriter Tiera Kennedy will make her first appearance ever at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as she performs the national anthem prior to the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube on Sunday, March 6.
Kennedy, The Valory Music Co. recording artist known for her standout tracks “Found It In You” and “Shut It Down,” was inducted into CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2020 as well as its Listen Up Class of 2022. Named as an Artist to Watch by Teen Vogue, Nashville Lifestyles, Pandora Country, Spotify’s Hot Country, Country Now, MusicRow and Sounds Like Nashville, Kennedy is the host of Apple Music Country’s The Tiera Show.
Hall of Famer and former Raider Marcus Allen named Grand Marshal at Las Vegas – NFL Hall of Famer and former Raider Marcus Allen will serve as Grand Marshal for the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube on Sunday, March 6 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. As part of Allen’s duties, he will bring the roar of the NASCAR Cup Series engines to life with the most famous words in motorsports.
One of football’s greatest running backs, Allen played 16 seasons with the now-Las Vegas Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs. During that time, he gained 12,243 yards rushing, 5,412 yards receiving and scored 145 touchdowns. To this day, Marcus Allen is the only NFL player to win a Heisman Trophy, NFL MVP, Super Bowl Championship and Super Bowl MVP.
“I am honored to be the grand marshal” Allen said. “I am a fan of the sport and look forward to meeting the drivers”.
Allen joins a list of luminaries to deliver the command at Las Vegas Motor Speedway including Mark Wahlberg, Tim Allen, Cole Hauser, Derek Carr, Kim Kardashian, Carroll Shelby, Rascal Flatts and Dana White.