Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is 267 laps around the 1.5-mile oval. That’s good for 400.5 miles in total.
Surely that’s enough time for drivers who start in the middle or back to make their way up to the front come checkered flag.
Yes, but in six of the last eight events, the Las Vegas winner fired off 10th or better.
Keselowski’s run from 13th to first is still oh-so-close to qualifying for this statistical category. Even without him, the notion that six out of eight did — specifically the last two — is worth pondering for this weekend.
The starting lineup was determined by a performance-metrics formula — as NASCAR continues to limit at-track time due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, therefore eliminating qualifying at the majority of venues. Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, ended up with the pole position. He has two career wins at Las Vegas in 23 starts. Harvick took the green flag from 18th for his first win in 2015 but was on the front row in second for the 2018 win that fits the trend.
Here’s a Las Vegas-focused look at the starting top 10 for Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
The overall favorite to win, according to BetMGM, is Martin Truex Jr. with 6-1 odds. The No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota wheelman has the second-best average finish (11.0) among Sunday’s front 10, falling short only to Kyle Larson (10.8), who is now piloting Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 Chevrolet rather than his old No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. Larson has never won at Las Vegas. Truex has — a second-best two times, tied with Harvick. Brad Keselowski, in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford, holds the high mark at three victories.
Keselowski’s win total actually tops the entire 38-entry field. Truex and Harvick still follow, and then so does Joey Logano, whose No. 22 Team Penske Ford will line up 15th Sunday. Kurt Busch — a part of the top-10 starters — then has his one win, matched by his own brother, Kyle Busch, who will be one ahead of Logano in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in 14th.
No other active contender has visited Las Vegas’ Victory Lane, including six of the 10 starters.
Circling back to the average finish comparison, Larson may have the strongest stat line out of the 10 charted, but he’s third among all options. Logano and Team Penske teammate Ryan Blaney have actually averaged the best results at Las Vegas. Logano boasts an 8.4 average, while Blaney holds a 9.7 mark. Blaney’s No. 12 Ford will have to overcome a deep 26th starting position Sunday.
So, it’s clearly split. There are strong cars starting within the top 10, and there are strong cars starting outside the top 10. Recent history does show, though, a driver who starts toward the front tends to end out front.