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LAS VEGAS, Nev. — The NASCAR Nationwide Series continues its west coast tour and invades Sin City this weekend for 200 laps of racing in the Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The race will be the seventeenth running of the event and will be the hometown race for entrants such as Dylan Kwasniewski, Brendan Gaughan, and Kyle Busch.
Busch, who is fresh off the heels of a victory in Phoenix, has never won at his home track before in the Nationwide Series; the circuit is one of three on the 2014 schedule that Busch has not earned one of his 64 series victories at.
It’s not just Busch who has a glaring goose egg in the win column at the one-and-a-half mile D-shaped oval, manufacturer Toyota has yet to win at the track in the Nationwide Series as well.
Joe Gibbs Racing is bringing a roster to Vegas that just might be able to turn that zero into a one. Apart from series regular Elliott Sadler and Busch, JGR will enter Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 Camry for this Saturday. While Kenseth has not competed in Las Vegas in a Nationwide Series car in seven years, he brings an impressive Sprint Cup record to the track that includes three wins, six top-fives, and seven top-tens in 14 races.
Sadler himself has been a consistent performer at the circuit, finishing in the top-ten three times in his seven career NNS races here all the while having an average finish of 12.1.
The entire field of Nationwide Series regulars should be feeling very excited for this weekend’s race as the past two races here have been won by series regulars. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the event in 2012 and Sam Hornish Jr. took the checkered flag in last year’s event.
A variable to those two wins that should have Trevor Bayne ecstatic for Saturday is that both Stenhouse and Hornish drove Ford Mustangs to victory lane. Bayne enters his fifth Boyd Gaming 300 with an absolutely stunning record, in each of his four starts here he has finished no lower than sixth. His average finish at the track is the lowest average out of every competitor entered for the event, a fantastic 4.8.
Fellow Nationwide title contender and current points leader, Regan Smith, might have his work cut out for him tomorrow. In four NNS races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Smith has only one top-ten to his name with an average finish of 25.6. While his past history at the track doesn’t provide a winning outlook for Saturday, his best finish here came last year when he finished seventh; which would be a solid points day for the No. 7 team should he repeat the result.
Smith’s team-owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., will make his second Nationwide Series start of the season when he straps in to the No. 88 TaxSlayer.com Camaro for Saturday’s race. Earnhardt, who is riding high on momentum after his Daytona 500 victory and a second place finish in the Phoenix cup race, boasts an impressive record in Sin City. Earnhardt has four career starts at Vegas in the Nationwide Series with his lowest finish ever at the track coming last year when he finished 14th. Prior to that start he had finished no lower than sixth.
The owner of JR Motorsports knows his way around the track in a Sprint Cup car as well; while he has never won a Sprint Cup race in Vegas, he has finished second on two occasions and, like Kenseth, has seven top-ten finishes in 14 starts.
Richard Childress Racing will bring a trio of drivers to the track who have had a history of strong performances in the Camping World Truck Series here in the past.
Ty Dillon will make his second ever start at Las Vegas in a Nationwide Series car this Saturday, he finished eleventh in the No. 33 car here last year and has finished in the top-ten in both of his truck races here.
The driver of the No. 33 Camaro for this year’s event is defending Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton. Crafton has a great record at Las Vegas; in 13 career races in the trucks he has finished in the top-ten on six occasions and has an average finish here of 12.8.
Las Vegas native Gaughan rolls into his home track with strong performances in both the Nationwide and Truck Series here. In the Nationwide Series, Gaughan has finished in the top-ten twice and in the top-five once in three career starts; in the trucks, Gaughan has five-top ten finishes with a victory in 13 career races.
Qualifying position could very well be a deciding factor in who comes home with the trophy tomorrow, in the past five events the winner of the race has started from no lower than seventh position. The pole-sitter of the race has won the event on three occasions, in 1997, 1999, and 2002.
While the preferred place to start the race appears to be up front, Joe Nemechek was able to drive his way into victory lane from a 29th place starting position in 2003’s event. A start from the back shouldn’t automatically rule anybody out of contention.
The race has never had a caution-free running, the fewest amount of cautions to have ever been thrown in this event was three in the 2000 race. Over the past five years, the average number of cautions in this race has been 8.2. Keeping one’s nose clean will be imperative for taking the checkered flag here.
Pit strategy may also pay dividends for those who play their cards right on Saturday. Will four-tire stops be the norm throughout the race or will we see two right-side tires being able to hang around at the top of the leader board? Will a crew chief’s call to keep a driver on-track during a caution period to gain track position be the winning move late in the race? It seems rather fitting for crew chiefs to make such huge strategy gambles with their drivers at a race track located in Las Vegas, the gambling capital of the world.
Who will hit it big and go home a winner? Whose luck will come up short? Who will cash out of Vegas with the championship lead? The answer to these questions and much more will be revealed at the conclusion of this weekend’s Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The Boyd Gaming 300 will air live on ESPN2 this Saturday with coverage starting at 4:00p.m EST.