Leaving Las Vegas – What I Think I Know After Two Races

Penske Crew Chief Swap Already Paying Dividends

I think Joey Logano is the biggest beneficiary of the Team Penske crew chief swap, and it’s not close. Paul Wolfe is the ultimate contrarian, helping Brad Keselowski snatch multiple wins from the jaws of defeat. He is willing to take chances other crew chiefs won’t. Couple that with Logano’s aggressive driving style, it makes for what could be a lethal combination.

Sure, Logano’s win was aided more by Joey not hearing the call to pit than Wolfe making a brilliant strategic decision, but I don’t really care.

Ryan Blaney is the current points leader and may have won Sunday if not for the late caution. Todd Gordon is a championship-winning crew chief. Anytime you can bring that type of experience to a young driver like Blaney, there’s bound to be a positive impact.

As for Keselowski, there was nothing flashy about his day at Las Vegas. But all three cars finished in the top eleven. Perhaps this Roger Penske guy knows what he’s doing.

 

Watch Out for Hendrick Motorsports

If first impressions mean anything, the new Chevy is a success. And if Chevy is back, Hendrick Motorsports is back. All four Hendrick cars ran in the top ten most of the day before it all fell apart. Chase Elliott had the dominant car but was doomed by a tire issue late in the race. Alex Bowman was mowing down Ryan Blaney for the win before Ross Chastain’s spin brought out a late caution. Bowman pitted for four tires and finished 13th. William Byron was caught up in the last lap accident and settled for 22nd. Jimmie Johnson avoided it all and earned a top five.

All that is to say this. Chevy looks very sporty through the first two races. Even with Hendrick’s late-race mishaps, Chevy took six of the top ten spots. If this trend continues, Hendrick is right back in the fold.

 

Buescher/Stenhouse Trade Mutually Beneficial

Rarely in sports do teams pull off a trade, and there not be a clear winner. While James Buescher (Roush-Fenway) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (JTG-Daugherty) were technically not traded, they swapped rides in the offseason. And I think the results will be good for both parties.

Let’s start with Stenhouse. The man is out to prove something. He won the pole for the Daytona 500, ran near the front all day, and finished third at Las Vegas. Granted, pit strategy had a lot to do with his excellent run on Sunday, but there is no asterisk for that. I think Stenhouse will raise the bar at JTG. You could argue he already has.

On the flip side, change was needed at Roush-Fenway. For whatever reason, it just wasn’t working with Stenhouse. The team made a smart move and brought Buescher back into the fold, one of the most consistent drivers in the series. And let’s not forget he won the Xfinity title in 2015 and a Cup race with Front Row Motorsports. Through two races, Buescher has finishes of third and 14th and sits eighth in the points standings.

While there were some hard feelings on how things ended on each side, I think this is a case where both drivers and teams are better off in the long run.

 

Bonus Topic: Same-Day Doubleheaders

Back in 2017, the Xfinity race at Kentucky Speedway was postponed to the following day because of rain. That meant both the Xfinity and Cup races were run on the same day. Anyone with a ticket for the Cup race could come early and watch the Xfinity event for free. It was a nice perk for those who wanted more racing.

A similar scenario played out last weekend when Saturday’s Xfinity race was pushed back to Sunday night after the Cup race. It got me thinking. What if NASCAR scheduled a same-day doubleheader, putting two of the big three series races on the same day, on the same track?

Logistically, it could prove difficult as it makes for an incredibly long day for TV, and inclement weather could wreak havoc on the weekend schedule. Additionally, tracks may not like combining one ticket for two races.

On the flip side, fans get more bang for their buck, and the weekend schedule is condensed.

This is more thinking out loud than anything. What do you think? Would you be more likely to buy a ticket if it meant a second race on the same day?

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