Las Vegas: In the Loop

In The Loop' At Las Vegas Motor Speedway Loop Data Provides Insight To Scouting Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 7, 2007) -- How must Jimmie Johnson be feeling right now? Or Matt Kenseth, for that matter? Their ...

In The Loop' At Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Loop Data Provides Insight To Scouting Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 7, 2007) -- How must Jimmie Johnson be feeling right now? Or Matt Kenseth, for that matter?

Their bread-and-butter track -- as winners of the last four races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway -- has vanished. Was it one of those Las Vegas desert mirages?

In its stead is a higher-banked, speedster's dream. The Las Vegas track that NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers once knew is no more.

Here are the particulars:
* Banking in the corners jumped from 12 degrees to 20 degrees.
* Banking on the backstretch went from three degrees to nine degrees.
* Pit road has been moved 275 feet closer to the grandstands.
* A new Neon Garage has been built.
* A new media center has been built.

What all that adds up to is anyone's guess. There is some data to work from when statistically analyzing this race. And the data says this track will be much, much faster than the "old" version.

Step one: compare last year's final practice times with this past January's testing times. The results are startling. The speeds jumped considerably.

During testing's slowest day, the speeds were still more than 13 mph higher than last year's final practice on the lower-banked track.

For the record, on testing's fastest day -- the afternoon (drafting) session on Day 2 -- Elliott Sadler topped the speed charts with a mark of 188.772 mph. That's an 18 mph jump from 2006's final practice.

Of course, testing won't tell the whole story. It fails to take into account race conditions, pit stops and natural competitiveness. A good testing speed is almost like going undefeated in the preseason. It's nice, but the regular season is where it counts.

NASCAR does have some of those stats to look at as well, albeit not on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup side. Last September, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series raced on the new LVMS surface and the speeds were vastly different.

Both Musgrave and Skinner have repeated success at both versions of the track, making it safe to theorize that if a driver excelled on the old surface, he might fare well on the new one.

Below are the top five NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers in Driver Rating and Green Flag Speed over the last two years at Las Vegas.

Driver Rating
1. Jimmie Johnson (131.4)
2. Kyle Busch (115.2)
3. Matt Kenseth (114.9)
4. Greg Biffle (113.4)
5. Jeff Gordon (106.1)

Green Flag Speed
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Kyle Busch
3. Greg Biffle
4. Tony Stewart
5. Matt Kenseth

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Greg Biffle , Jimmie Johnson , Elliott Sadler , Kyle Busch