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Heat for Las Vegas playoff opener to test cars to ‘new limits than ever before’

LAS VEGAS — The heat is about to ramp up as the NASCAR Playoffs kick off for the first time at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – both figuratively and literally.

The temperature for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is forecasted to reach 101 degrees, a 43-degree difference compared to the Las Vegas race in March when the temperature was 58 degrees.

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The toasty weather in the desert is poised to present a new set of challenges for drivers and teams than they are used to seeing in Las Vegas — which adds another element for the 16 playoff drivers to worry about as the postseason begins.

Brad Keselowski, currently on a two-race winning streak following victories in the Southern 500 and the Brickyard 400, is the fourth seed to start the playoffs. The Team Penske driver has a couple concerns on his radar.

“Physically, I feel pretty good,” Keselowski told NASCAR.com in between a pair of Saturday practice sessions. “I like the heat. I’m more concerned about the car, just the systems being tested to new limits than ever before.

“And the tires,” he added. “Really concerned about the tires. We’ve already seen some issues in practice.”

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Alex Bowman, the 16th seed in the playoffs, said the saving grace for drivers and the cars is the lack of humidity, but given that there’s no previous data from a Las Vegas race in September, anything can happen.

“The longest we’ve run is like 15 laps (in practice), so we don’t really know yet,” Bowman told NASCAR.com. “It’s kind of a wild card. Nobody has a notebook for it.”

“It’s definitely a little slick, but it’s not terrible,” he added. “I feel like the falloff (in the tires) is a little bigger, but it’s probably not as big of a difference than I thought there would be. I think we’ll be all right. It will just be another challenge for us.”