NASCAR playoffs get rolling in Vegas with South Point 400
September 16, 2018 7:10 AM
by Micah Roberts
Sunday’s South Point 400 is the second of two dates at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this season, the first time it has hosted two NASCAR Cup Series dates. It is also the first time the Cup cars will be racing on the 1.5-mile layout in September and participating in NASCAR’s Playoffs, which the green flag drops for as well Sunday.
It’s an exciting moment for the city and long overdue after racing once in the spring every season since 1998. Fans from all over the country always circle the Las Vegas NASCAR date as a vacation destination where the family can kill a couple birds with one stone.
Dad gets NASCAR racing, some blackjack, steak and lobster, and maybe some late night boozing. Mom gets pampered in the spa, goes shopping and gets to watch her NASCAR. The kids get to freely roam and explore an electric Strip atmosphere and then watch NASCAR. It’s a win-win for everyone, especially the casinos.
This will also be the first or second-most bet NASCAR race of the season. The Daytona 500 now moves to No. 3 in terms of handle, but the two Las Vegas races will be No. 1 or No. 2 within the state. The betting angle this time around is easier than the March race because we’ve seen 26 races run as opposed to just two back then. Most importantly, we’ve seen seven races already on 1.5-mile tracks as well as a few other downforce tracks.
Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick each have won three races on 1.5s this season and Martin Truex Jr. won the last one at Kentucky Speedway on July 14.
They’ve been the most consistent all season, winning 17 of the 26 races. But something has changed recently. The Big-3 are no longer the only guys with speed. Four of the past five races have been won by other drivers; the last two weeks by Brad Keselowski, his first two wins of the season.
Chevrolet is getting faster with Hendrick Motorsports and Chip Ganassi all looking improved. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones is running near the top-five in his last 11 starts and Denny Hamlin almost won the Brickyard 400 last week with his best car of the year. It hasn’t been all Kyle Busch dominating like early in the season. His brother Kurt Busch is the last Busch to win in the series – Bristol four weeks ago.
Harvick dominated the March Las Vegas race leading 214 of 267 laps. It was the second of three straight races he won. Kyle Busch would finish second followed by Kyle Larson, Truex and Ryan Blaney. Kyle Busch would later match Harvick with three straight wins beginning with a win at Texas in April.
Now we’ve got Keselowski looking to match three straight wins like Harvick and Busch. He comes charging into the playoffs with huge Southern 500 and Brickyard 400 wins. He won at Las Vegas in 2014 and 2016. The thing that stands out with Keselowski winning Sunday, besides getting wins in the last two, is how he ran at Kentucky.
He finished third, leading 38 laps and he was almost an equal to the Big-3. Busch finished fourth, Harvick fifth and Truex won, leading 174 laps. Seeing how everything has come together for him lately, getting 12-to-1 or higher on him this week offers some value.
Shop around for the best prices since most sportsbooks offer vastly different odds.
Jimmie Johnson is a four-time winner at Las Vegas and it would be nice to see him win in what is his longest drought to start a season. He’s never gone through a season without a win. Johnson is showing some speed, but he’ll probably be offered at 60-to-1 odds to win, which is his highest ever in a Las Vegas race where he was usually 4-to-1 or lower.
Hamlin has also never gone winless in a season and he’s also never won at Las Vegas. He has kicked off the playoffs with a win, doing so at Chicagoland in 2015. He’s had top-fives in three of the seven races on 1.5s this season, but the speed last week was impressive. This is a good spot for his first win/
Another driver looking for his first win of 2018 is Kyle Larson, who finished third at Las Vegas in March. Chevrolet has only two wins on the season, the first with Austin Dillon at Daytona in February and then a few weeks ago at Watkins Glen. Larson has been the best of the bunch collectively on the downforce tracks.
Have an exciting weekend, enjoy the race, and most of all, thanks for choosing to circle our city as your destination.