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March 1, 2024

NASCAR Classics: Races to watch before Las Vegas


2010 Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Stephen Dunn
Getty Images

Throughout the 2024 NASCAR season, Ken Martin, director of historical content for the sanctioning body, will offer his suggestions on which historical races fans should watch from the NASCAR Classics library in preparation for each upcoming race weekend.

Martin has worked for NASCAR exclusively since 2008 but has been involved with the sport since 1982, overseeing various projects. He worked in the broadcast booth for hundreds of races, assisting the broadcast team with different tasks. This includes calculating the “points as they run” for the historic 1992 finale — the Hooters 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The following suggestions are Ken’s picks to watch before the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

1998 Las Vegas 400

The inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 1, 1998, the third race of NASCAR’s 50th Anniversary season.

The celebrations stemming from NASCAR’s storied history combined with the bright lights of Las Vegas created an edge-of-your-seat excitement before the green flag even waved.

Rusty Wallace’s usual No. 2 Ford for Roger Penske was running a special scheme for the event, as Elvis Presley graced the hood of his car, which also included a special design on the door.

Ford was the story of the weekend, as Dale Jarrett put his Robert Yates Racing powered car on the pole, with another Ford of Geoff Bodine starting alongside of him. Altogether, Ford qualified in 16 of the first 24 positions.

That theme continued in the race, headlined by Mark Martin and the rest of his Jack Roush-led teammates. Martin led a race-high 82 laps en route to etching his name in the history books as the first Cup Series driver to win at the track.

All four of his teammates also finished in the top 10. Jeff Burton came home behind Martin in second, while Johnny Benson Jr. was fourth, Ted Musgrave was sixth and Chad Little came home 10th.

Dale Earnhardt, who finished eighth, was the only driver not piloting a Ford to finish in the top 14.

Mark Martin poses in Victory Lane
Getty Images

2010 Shelby American 400

Amid all of his NASCAR Cup Series dominance, Jimmie Johnson captured his record fourth victory at Las Vegas. Johnson, who was coming off four of an eventual five straight championships, led the final 17 laps en route to Victory Lane.

The race featured 18 lead changes among nine drivers.

Johnson held off a legendary contingent of drivers to the checkered flag, as 11 of the first 12 finishers were named to NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers List in 2023. Altogether, 19 of those 75 drivers started the race.

Jeff Gordon (third), Mark Martin (fourth), Matt Kenseth (fifth) and Tony Stewart (seventh) have already been enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Johnson had won at the track in 2005, 2006 and 2007, which at the time made him the only driver with three victories at the track. Jeff Burton (1999 and 2000) and Matt Kenseth (2003 and 2004) were the only other two drivers at the time, who had multiple victories at Las Vegas.

To this date, Johnson is still the only driver with four victories at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson does a burnout
Geoff Burke | Getty Images

2017 Kobalt 400

Martin Truex Jr. passed Brad Keselowski with two laps remaining to pick up his first victory at the track.

He started second and dominated the event, leading 150 of 267 laps. Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Keselowski rounded out the top five.

The excitement didn’t stop when the checkered flag waved, as chaos ensued on pit-road following a late race battle between Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. The two made contact on the track, which saw Busch spin around en route to a 22nd place finish.

Busch walked over to make his displeasure with Logano known following the race before a scuffle broke out between crew members and the drivers.

You can watch these three races and hundreds more by visiting NASCAR Classics.

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