Up to Speed: Harvick goes back to back at Phoenix

Hello readers,

After having the dominant car of the day and having to endure several late-race restarts, Kevin Harvick held off Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Logano, and Brad Keselowski to pick up his second straight win at Phoenix, and his fifth win at Phoenix overall in just his second start for his new team, Stewart-Haas Racing. It was the first win for the entire Stewart-Haas Racing organization of the year. Now the teams will stay on the west coast and head for Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Las Vegas is the first 1.5-mile track on the circuit and this will give teams an idea of what kind of season they will have because 1.5-mile tracks make up the bulk of the schedule. Having a good outing at Las Vegas doesnt mean a driver will perform well on all the 1.5-mile tracks, but it does give the teams a good foundation to build on for the year. Las Vegas is one of a handful of tracks that the Cup Series visits only once a year, meaning drivers dont get many chances to check it off their bucket list of tracks they havent won at yet.

Las Vegas became a part of the Cup schedule in 1998. The Nationwide Series made its debut at LVMS in 1997, a year before the Cup Series arrived. Mark Martin took the inaugural Cup race there and teammate Jeff Burton took the next two to make it three in a row for car owner Jack Roush. Overall, Roush teams have won seven times at the desert track since its inception.

While Las Vegas is a mile-and-a-half track, for a few years, it was the only mile-and-a-half track with that particular design. Charlotte, Texas, and Atlanta were designed as quad-ovals, while Las Vegas was designed as a D-shaped oval. When NASCAR overhauled the schedule in 2001, there were two new tracks on the schedule: Kansas and Chicagoland. Both were 1.5-mile tracks and both were designed similar to Las Vegas, as D-shaped ovals.

Most wins among active drivers: Jimmie Johnson (4)

Defending Winner: Matt Kenseth held off Kasey Kahne to pick up the first of seven wins in 2013 in his third start with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Prediction: Las Vegas is home to the Busch brothers, and Kyle Busch has already had the pleasure of winning on his home track, back in March of 2009. Brother Kurt has not done well there, averaging a finishing position of 21.8. Kurt has had a rough start to the 2014 campaign as he finished 21st in the Daytona 500 and he blew an engine at Phoenix. Seeing his new teammate, Harvick win so soon for Stewart-Haas has to motivate Busch to step up his game and coming back to his home track has to give him even more motivation. After two dismal weeks to start the season, I think Kurt Busch will make the hometown crowd happy and make it two in a row for Stewart-Haas Racing.