Just because Kyle Larson leads the most laps in a NASCAR event, doesn’t mean he is going to win. Actually odds are good he won’t find his way to the winner’s circle. He hopes to change that this weekend at the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Larson is winless in the last six events where he has led the most laps, dating back to Homestead-Miami Speedway in November 2017. He ranks second on the all-time list for most laps led (725) on 1.5-mile tracks without a victory behind Bobby Isaac’s 727-lap mark.
That includes last week at Atlanta Motor Speedway at the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. He lead a race-high 142 of 325 laps at the 1.54-mile oval. He finished 12th after a speeding penalty on his final stop.
“We felt we had decent speed and handled OK,” Larson said. “I’ve just got to do a better job of cleaning up mistakes. I think I only had one speeding penalty last year, so I guess I got to go the rest of the year without one.”
Trying to Change Fortunes in Vegas
Larson doesn’t think he is going to stay the perennial bridesmaid on 1.5-mile tracks. Now he is on the West Coast for the next three races, and believes a win is near.
“I think looking at Vegas and other tracks with a lot of grip, I don’t know if dirty air will be as bad,” Larson said. “I know when I got to the back (at Atlanta), it was a lot harder to get to the front.”
Along with Brad Keselowski he is the 6/1 pick to win this Sunday. Last year’s Big Three of Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., and Kyle Busch are the favorites at 5/1.
Larson has success at all three of the next West Coast venues, with a win at Fontana, and runner-up finishes at Las Vegas and Phoenix.
“I love the West Coast swing,” Larson said. “The weather is always good, there’s lot of fans to race in front of with sprint cars, all those races. All three of those tracks rank up there with my favorites.”
New Rules Package Success?
Larson and the other drivers will have to adjust to the new rules package, which dropped the speeds at Atlanta, and bunched up the drivers. It was exactly what officials at NASCAR were looking for when they implemented the new tapered spacer package to lower the horsepower.
Clint Bowyer, however, said you can’t judge the effectiveness of the new rules package after one race.
“It’s still early,” Bowyer said. “Trying to figure out the right scenario for this is going to be interesting. You have to remember, Atlanta is a one-off race. There is no track that we go to anymore that is as slick and is as hard on tires as Atlanta. It will be interesting to see what Las Vegas brings.”
Another driver looking forward to Las Vegas is Ryan Newman. He is listed at 50/1, but said earlier tests at the speedway were productive.
“We’re excited to get to Vegas this weekend to kick off the West Coast swing,” Newman said. “We showed some good speed last weekend in Atlanta and I’m ready to see how that carries over to another 1.5-mile track with the full aero package this weekend. We tested there back in January and learned a lot.”