NASCAR - Sprint Cup - Kobalt Tools 400 Preview

From The Sports Network

DATE: Sunday, March 11th
SITE: Las Vegas Motor Speedway (1996) -- Las Vegas, Nevada
TRACK: 1.5-mile oval - 2,275 feet (Frontstretch); 1,572 feet (Backstretch)
CAPACITY: 142,000 (Grandstand Seating)
ANNUAL: 15th
ANNOUNCERS: Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds
RADIO: Performance Racing Network (PRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio
START TIME: 3 p.m. (et)/Green Flag: 3:16 p.m. (et)
RUNNER-UP: Tony Stewart
POLE WINNER: Matt Kenseth (Finished 11th)
LAPS: 267
MILES: 400.5
QUALIFYING RECORD: Matt Kenseth, 2011 (188.884 m.p.h.)
RACE RECORD: Mark Martin, 1998 (146.554 m.p.h.)
TOTAL PURSE: $6,250,807 (2011 figures)
PAYOUTS: 1st Place - $401,541; 2nd Place - $300,308; 3rd Place - $236,908
2011 Finish
1Carl Edwards36Martin Truex Jr9
2Tony Stewart157Denny Hamlin17
3Juan Pablo Montoya138Dale Earnhardt Jr33
4Marcos Ambrose29Kurt Busch22
5Ryan Newman810Brian Vickers19
2011 Kobalt Tools 400 Facts and Figures
AVERAGE SPEED: 135.508 m.p.h.
TIME OF RACE: 2 hours, 57 minutes, 20 seconds
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 1.246 seconds
CAUTION FLAGS: 7 for 35 laps
LEAD CHANGES: 21 among 14 drivers
POLE WINNER: Matt Kenseth (188.884 m.p.h. - track record)
Past Kobalt Tools 400 Winners (Starting Position) Car -- Speed
2011 -- Carl Edwards (3rd) -- Ford -- 135.508 m.p.h.
2010 -- Jimmie Johnson (20th) -- Chevrolet -- 141.450 m.p.h.
2009 -- Kyle Busch (1st) -- Toyota -- 119.513 m.p.h.
2008 -- Carl Edwards (2nd) -- Ford -- 127.729 m.p.h.
2007 -- Jimmie Johnson (23rd) -- Chevrolet -- 128.183 m.p.h.
2006 -- Jimmie Johnson (3rd) -- Chevrolet -- 133.358 m.p.h.
2005 -- Jimmie Johnson (9th) -- Chevrolet -- 121.038 m.p.h.
2004 -- Matt Kenseth (25th) -- Ford -- 128.790 m.p.h.
2003 -- Matt Kenseth (17th) -- Ford -- 132.934 m.p.h.
2002 -- Sterling Marlin () -- Dodge -- 136.747 m.p.h.
2001 -- Jeff Gordon (24th) -- Chevrolet -- 136.377 m.p.h.
2000 -- Jeff Burton (11th) -- Ford -- 119.982 m.p.h.
1999 -- Jeff Burton (19th) -- Ford -- 137.537 m.p.h.
1998 -- Mark Martin (7th) -- Ford -- 146.554 m.p.h. (race record)
NOTE: Formerly called Las Vegas 400 (1998-1999), 400 (2000),
UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 (2001-07), UAW-Dodge 400 (2008), Shelby 427
(2009), Shelby American (2010).
Past Kobalt Tools 400 Pole Winners (Finish)
2011 -- Matt Kenseth -- 11th
2010 -- Kurt Busch -- 35th
2009 -- Kyle Busch -- 1st
2008 -- Kyle Busch -- 11th
2007 -- Kasey Kahne -- 35th
2006 -- Greg Biffle -- 8th
2005 -- Ryan Newman -- 9th
2004 -- Kasey Kahne -- 2nd
2003 -- Bobby Labonte -- 4th
2002 -- Todd Bodine -- 29th
2001 -- Dale Jarrett -- 2nd
2000 -- Ricky Rudd -- 12th
1999 -- Bobby Labonte -- 5th
1998 -- Dale Jarrett -- 40th
Last Race Results
RACE: Subway Fresh Fit 500 (March 4th)
SITE: Phoenix International Raceway -- Avondale, Arizona
MILES: 312 (500 kilometers)
LAPS: 312
WINNER: Denny Hamlin
RUNNER-UP: Kevin Harvick
THIRD: Greg Biffle
FOURTH: Jimmie Johnson
FIFTH: Brad Keselowski
POLE WINNER: Mark Martin (Finished 9th)
TIME OF RACE: 2 hours, 50 minutes, 35 seconds
AVERAGE SPEED: 110.085 m.p.h.
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 7.315 seconds
CAUTION FLAGS: 7 for 37 laps
LEAD CHANGES: 25 among 15 drivers
LAP LEADERS: M. Martin 1; T. Stewart 2-10; J. Johnson 11-16; K. Harvick 17-59;
J. Johnson 60; M. Bliss 61; D. Ragan 62; J. Johnson 63-64; Kurt
Busch 65-66; J. Johnson 67-112; Kyle Busch 113-140; K. Harvick
141-144; Kyle Busch 145-168; K. Harvick 169-183; B. Keselowski
184-186; D. Hamlin 187; J. Gordon 188; M. Kenseth 189; J. Burton
190-196; M. Truex Jr. 197-206; J. McMurray 207; K. Harvick
208-228; D. Hamlin 229; M. Truex Jr. 230-248; K. Harvick 249-253;
D. Hamlin 254-312.
Kobalt Tools 400 Entry List
CarDriver, HometownCar/Name
1Jamie McMurray (Joplin, MO)Chevrolet/McDonald's
2Brad Keselowski (Rochester Hills, MI)Dodge/Miller Lite
5Kasey Kahne (Enumclaw, WA)Chevrolet/Farmers Insurance
7Robby Gordon (Orange, CA)Dodge/Speed Energy
9Marcos Ambrose (Launceston, Australia)Ford/DeWalt
10David Reutimann (Zephyrhills, FL)Chevrolet/Tommy Baldwin Racing
11Denny Hamlin (Chesterfield, VA)Toyota/FedEx Freight
13Casey Mears (Bakersfield, CA)Ford/GEICO
14Tony Stewart (Columbus, IN)Chevrolet/Office Depot/Mobil 1
15Clint Bowyer (Emporia, KS)Toyota/5-Hour Energy
16Greg Biffle (Vancouver, WA)Ford/3M/Mequiar's
17Matt Kenseth (Cambridge, WI)Ford/Zest
18Kyle Busch (Las Vegas, NV)Toyota/M&M's
20Joey Logano (Middletown, CT)Toyota/Dollar General
21Trevor Bayne (Knoxville, TN)Ford/Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire
22A.J. Allmendinger (Los Gatos, CA)Dodge/Shell/Pennzoil
23Scott Riggs (Bahama, NC)Chevrolet/North Texas Pipe
24Jeff Gordon (Vallejo, CA)Chevrolet/DuPont 20 years
26Josh Wise (Riverside, CA)Ford/Morristown Driver's Service
27Paul Menard (Eau Claire, WI)Chevrolet/Menards/Schrock
29Kevin Harvick (Bakersfield, CA)Chevrolet/Budweiser
30David Stremme (South Bend, IN)Toyota/TBA
31Jeff Burton (South Boston, VA)Chevrolet/Wheaties
32Ken Schrader (Fenton, MO)Ford/Federated Auto Parts
33Brendan Gaughan (Las Vegas, NV)Chevrolet/South Point Casino
34David Ragan (Unadilla, GA)Ford/TBA
36Dave Blaney (Hartford, OH)Chevrolet/Tommy Baldwin Racing
37Timmy Hill (Port Tobacco, MD)Ford/
38David Gilliland (Riverside, CA)Ford/TBA
39Ryan Newman (South Bend, IN)Chevrolet/Quicken Loans
42Juan Pablo Montoya (Bogota, Colombia)Chevrolet/Clorox
43Aric Almirola (Tampa, FL)Ford/Richard Petty Fantasy Racin
47Bobby Labonte (Corpus Christi, TX)Toyota/Kingsford/Bush's Beans
48Jimmie Johnson (El Cajon, CA)Chevrolet/Lowe's/Kobalt Tools
49J.J. Yeley (Phoenix, AZ)Toyota/America Israel Racing
51Kurt Busch (Las Vegas, NV)Chevrolet/Tag Heuer Eyewear
55Mark Martin (Batesville, AR)Toyota/Aaron's
56Martin Truex Jr. (Mayetta, NJ)Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts
78Regan Smith (Cato, NY)Chevrolet/Furniture Row Racing
83Landon Cassill (Cedar Rapids, IA)Toyota/Burger King
87Joe Nemechek (Lakeland, FL)Toyota/AM FM Energy Wood Pellet
88Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Kannapolis, NC)Chevrolet/Diet Mt. Dew/Nat Guard
93Travis Kvapil (Janesville, WI)Toyota/Burger King
98Michael McDowell (Glendale, AZ)Ford/TBA
99 *Carl Edwards (Columbia, MO)Ford/Aflac
* - Defending champion
Leading Contenders (Finish the last nine years)
Carl Edwards------14th26th6thWon17th12thWon
Tony Stewart5th3rd10th21st7th43rd26th7th2nd
Juan Pablo Montoya------------22nd19th31st37th3rd
Marcos Ambrose------------------20th14th4th
Ryan Newman7th27th9th43rd8th14th25th18th5th
Martin Truex Jr------------12th15th32nd20th6th
Denny Hamlin---------10th3rd9th22nd19th7th
Dale Earnhardt Jr2nd35th42nd27th11th2nd10th16th8th
Kurt Busch38th9th3rd16th26th38th23rd35th9th
Matt KensethWonWon8th2nd4th20th43rd5th11th
Paul Menard------------32nd22nd35th17th12th
Kasey Kahne---2nd38th4th35th6th11th9th14th
Clint Bowyer---------15th36th28th2nd8th15th
Jimmie Johnson11th16thWonWonWon29th24thWon16th
Kevin Harvick13th21st5th11th27th4th12th2nd17th
Mark Martin43rd5th30th6th5th10th40th4th18th
A.J. Allmendinger------------------33rd25th19th
Jeff Burton6th13th17th7th15th5th3rd11th21st
Joey Logano------------------13th6th23rd
Brad Keselowski------------------38th26th26th
Jamie McMurray32nd4th15th23rd10th25th9th34th27th
Greg Biffle---40th6th8th16th3rd7th10th28th
Jeff Gordon37th15th4th5th2nd35th6th3rd36th
Kyle Busch---41st2nd3rd9th11thWon15th38th
Mover of the Week
Brad Keselowski - Started 28th on the grid and finished 5th
Sports Network Selections
Pick to Win - Kyle Busch
Darkhorse - Jeff Burton
Last Week's Pick to Win (Greg Biffle) - Finished 3rd
Last Week's Darkhorse (Kasey Kahne) - Finished 34th
This week's race, the Kobalt 400 is like a who's who of repeat offenders, as four drivers have combined to win 10 of the previous 14 races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Last year, Carl Edwards joined the group of Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton by capturing the 14th running of the Kobalt 400 for his 19th career Sprint Cup title.

Edwards benefited from Tony Stewart's pit-road mishap. Stewart dominated most of the race, but the two-time Sprint Cup Series champion was hit with a penalty for a piece of equipment (air wrench) that escaped his pit stall area during his stop just past the half-way point. Stewart's crew chief, Darian Grubb, gambled with a two-tire change only on the following round of stops, which put Stewart back in the lead.

But Stewart relinquished the top spot again during a round of stops in the closing laps when he had to put on four fresh tires, while most drivers, including Edwards, took two. Stewart passed Juan Pablo Montoya a few laps away from the finish to take second. Stewart led 163 of the 267 laps, but placed 1.25 second behind Edwards.

This race has a history of multiple winners, as Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton and now Edwards have repeated as champions in Las Vegas. Johnson won three consecutive races (2005-07) and added a fourth title in 2010, while Kenseth (2003-04) and Burton (1999-2000) won back-to-back titles and Edwards won last season and in 2008.

In 2010, Johnson cashed in with a late-race pit strategy to win his 49th of 55 career Sprint Cup titles. In doing so, he also set a NASCAR record for most wins on a 1.5-mile track with 15.

Jeff Gordon led a track-record 219 laps, but Gordon took on only two new tires during his final pit stop. After putting on four tires, Johnson quickly chased down his Hendrick Motorsports teammate after a restart with 34 laps to go. Johnson finally passed him for the lead with 17 laps remaining and then cruised to his second consecutive victory of the 2010 season.

In 2009, Kyle Busch edged Clint Bowyer by less than a second for his 13th career Sprint Cup title. Busch, who's win total now stands at 23, started first on the grid and became the first pole sitter to capture this race. Johnson was the race lap leader with 92 laps led, but he faded to 24th. Busch overtook Bowyer on lap 269 and held on for a 0.411 of a seconds victory.

Carl Edwards snapped Johnson's strangle-hold of this race in 2008, as he recorded his ninth career Sprint Cup title. Starting in the second position, Edwards reclaimed the lead on lap 238 and held on to edge Dale Earnhardt Jr by less than a second. Edwards led four times for a race-high 86 laps, while pole sitter Kyle Busch, who finished 11th, led three times for 56 laps. Two-time Vegas winner Matt Kenseth placed 20th after leading four times for 70 laps.

In 2007, Johnson reclaimed the lead for the last time on lap 240 and held on to defeat Jeff Gordon by almost three seconds for his third straight win in Vegas. Johnson, who started 23rd on the grid, led four times for 89 laps, while Gordon, in the 36th starting spot, led for 111 laps. Pole sitter Kasey Kahne, who led for the first 13 laps, failed to finish the race due to an accident and placed 35th.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway has the distinction of being the first completely new superspeedway to be built in the southwest region of the United States in more than 20 years. The track features a 1.5-mile superspeedway, a 2.5-mile FIA- approved road course, a 4,000-foot drag strip, paved and dirt short tracks, motocross circuits, stadium truck racing facilities, go-kart and Legends cars layouts as well as a Junior Drag racing strip. The track was originally built as the Las Vegas Jockey Club horse track. Only three motorsports events were held at the mile-long dirt track before it was razed to make way for the Las Vegas Hilton: An IndyCar championship race in 1954, a USAC stock car race in 1959 and the NASCAR event of 1955. The Las Vegas Motor Speedway recently went under a complete renovation, as added banking and a major facelift to the infield were concluded.

When Johnson won in 2006, he crossed the finish line .045 of a second ahead of Kenseth for his 20th career Sprint Cup title. Johnson led for only one lap in the race, but it was the last, as he won the second of his five 2006 titles. Pole sitter Greg Biffle finished eighth leading only six laps, while Kenseth was the lap leader with 146 laps led.

Back in 2005, Johnson recorded his first win of that season, as he edged Kyle Busch by 1.661 seconds for his 15th Sprint Cup title. Johnson, who started in the ninth position, led for 107 of the 267 laps, including the final 55.

In contrast to Johnson, Tony Stewart has not fared well in Sin City, posting an 0-13 Sprint Cup mark. Although he has eight top-10s, his best finish was second in 2000 and 2011.

Only six of the previous 14 races at LVMS have been won from a top-10 starting position, with the pole sitter winning just once (2009).

Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte and Jeff Gordon have raced in all 14 previous Las Vegas races. Labonte is the only driver of the four that is winless.

The Sprint Cup Series runs its first short-track race of the season with the March 18 Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Kyle Busch won last year's race there.

03/06 17:24:04 ET

As of March 6, 2012, at 05:24 PM ET
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