I’m a little gun shy with Kasey Kahne after taking a beating in backing him last week in Phoenix. It’s almost the exact same circumstances this week as Kahne comes in with the most impressive practice sessions. He’ll be starting from the pole and should contend for the win, but he’ll have to be careful carrying all that speed around turn four. Several drivers have found themselves in trouble there this weekend.
Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick haven’t been talked about much during the week, but they both have the look of a winner this week. A win at Las Vegas would be a first for each and also a first for Richard Childress Racing.
Dale Earnhardt Jr is an interesting look at 30-to-1 because he was so solid in all of the practices. It’s been quite a while since we saw Junior look so good during a practice on these kind of tracks, but he’s on par with all the other Hendrick drivers that should fare well Sunday.
Matt Kenseth -110 vs. Carl Edwards: Based on what I saw in practice, Edwards looks to be a driver that will be 20th or worse all race. Kenseth should have a top-5 car and could contend for the win.
Logano fastest, JJ Wrecks
Joey Logano set the tone early with the fastest lap (182.970 mph) in the Kobalt Tools 400 final practice session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The top speeds didn’t change following the first 15 minutes of the hour session.
Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, Marcos Ambrose and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top-five. Harvick led all drivers with the fastest average speeds. Ambrose spun off of turn 4 in the middle of practice, but was able to save the car with no damage.
Kurt Busch showed his No. 51 has found some speed with the sixth fastest lap. Matt Kenseth was able to improve upon the days first practice by finishing with the seventh fast single lap and Kasey Kahne continued his strong weekend with the eighth best lap. Kahne also had the second fastest average speeds while running 35 laps.
The big news of the day was Jimmie Johnson wrecking his awesome primary car at the beginning of the session forcing him into a back-up car. It may not all be bad news, though. Of course he would have loved to take the fast car into the race, but the back-up car actually has a better past history than the primary.
In four 2011 starts with Chassis No. 669, Johnson never finished worse than seventh. He was runner-up at Dover and Michigan, third at Kentucky and seventh at Kansas. The big question is how quickly they can transfer over all their great set-up notes from the wrecked car into the back-up.
Johnson got about 20 minutes of practice with the back-up and finished with the 24th fastest lap. Chances are he’ll be just fine.
Other drivers that looked good were Aric Almirola, 11th fastest, and Regan Smith, 10th fastest. A.J. Allmendinger continued to look sharp as he ran 49 laps for an average speed of 178.769. Tony Stewart said his car was “good” after running a session high 52 laps and finishing with the 13th fastest lap.
The mystery on the day continues to be Carl Edwards showing no speed in either of Saturday’s practices. Edwards was 29th fastest on the day in what looks very similar to what we saw last week at Phoenix.
Overall, the most impressive on the day looks to be Kahne. He is doing just about anything he wants on the track and is fast running high or low. He was in a similar situation last week at Phoenix, but that race didn’t turn out so well.
Top-5 Saturday Practice Speeds
1. Joey Logano 182.970 mph (38 laps for 173.855 average)
2. Mark Martin 182.698 mph (41 laps for 178.976 average)
3. Kevin Harvick 182.698 mph (39 laps for 179.724 average – fastest overall)
4. Marcos Ambrose 182.618 mph (29 laps for 169.337 average)
5. Martin Truex Jr 182.618 mph (40 laps for 175.480 average
Notes: Johnson wrecked primary car, Kyle Busch ran practice in a back-up car and Greg Biffle’s team was working on an engine problem that occurred at the end of practice that might force them into an engine change. Juan Pablo Montoya will also join Busch and Johnson starting in the back of the field because they made an engine change on the No. 42.
Hendrick Cars Strong
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., with a lap speed of 184.957 mph, posted the fastest lap Saturday afternoon during the second Kobalt Tools 400 practice session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Sunday’s pole-sitter, Kasey Kahne, was second fastest with a lap speed of 184.754 mph, followed by AJ Allmendinger (184.666 mph), Jimmie Johnson (184.489) and Kyle Busch (184.187). Allmendinger and Kahne had the fastest average speeds among all drivers and Johnson finished with the best 10 consecutive lap average.
Rounding out the top-ten fastest during practice was Aric Almirola (184.099), Greg Biffle (184.049), Brad Keselowski (184.030), Jeff Gordon (183.886) and Tony Stewart (183.817).
Some surprises from the session was seeing Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards not finish with better speeds. We’ll see if they can make the necessary changes needed in the final practice scheduled to go off at 12:20 pm (PDT). One thing is for sure, the Hendrick cars are dialed in.
Top 5 Practice Speeds (early session):
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr 184.957 mph (27 laps for 181.656 mph average)
2. Kasey Kahne 184.754 mph (27 laps for 182.224 average)
3. A.J. Allmendinger 184.666 mph (25 laps for 182.266 average – fastest overall)
4. Jimmie Johnson 184.489 mph (31 laps for 181.503 average)
5. Kyle Busch 184.187 mph (45 laps for 181.892 average)
Note: Kyle Busch will have to use a back-up car this week due to banging his car hard against the wall in turn 4 during practice.
Jimmie Johnson had the fastest 10 consecutive lap average during the session followed by Kevin Harvick.