Nothing beats Vegas 400 for excitement

Mar 15, 2005 7:56 AM

Even more exciting than seeing Jimmie Johnson shred the competition last week at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway was watching Las Vegan rookie Kyle Busch almost catch his teammate in the final few laps.

Kyle Busch settled for second place, one position ahead of his brother and reigning Nextel Cup champion Kurt.

Though the Vegas boys didn’t win, there was a sense of pride for all I talked with, who live in Las Vegas regarding the Busch Brothers. Las Vegas is a transient city with so many of its population coming from elsewhere. Ties in the sports world generally stay with the home teams. UNLV athletics don’t excite most of the city because it’s not truly their team.

Look around your office over the next few days and you’ll be sure to see some familiar people, who have red faces, necks, and ears. That’s from sitting four hours at the NASCAR race. They might only have one side burnt, which is not unusual.

NASCAR weekend was perfect weather once again with the sun shining and gentle breezes. That’s paybacks for the fans by Mother Nature for giving us torrential rain storms in a few Vegas NASCAR weekends. Thank you!

”¡ If Dale Earnhardt Jr doesn’t have a good run this weekend in Atlanta, expect the NASCAR marketing machine to get involved in the rule changing process. The new spoiler is killing the DEI teams and Junior is getting the worst of it. If Junior isn’t doing well, or at least competitive, NASCAR suffers. They will seriously look at changing things.

Word at the track last weekend was the Junior and teammate Michael Waltrip would suffer the worst of all drivers because they can’t drive a loose car. That’s what happens to these cars with less down force. Junior traditionally runs well in Atlanta, winning this race last year.

”¡ Kyle Busch, following his second place finish in regards to his 60-1 odds. "I had a bunch of friends who were going to make some serious bank on me, which would have been nice for them. Probably not so nice for the sports books, though."

There is no way that car Kyle Busch has was ever driven by Terry Labonte last year. I refuse to believe it. If it’s true, than the younger Busch may be even more special than anticipated.

”¡ Traffic moved smoother than ever. In fact, I have never been to a major sporting event anywhere where the traffic went so smoothly, let alone one with 165,000 people. The crew at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the Nevada Highway Patrol should all be commended for their fine efforts.

The road to Atlanta

Bobby Labonte (14-1): Though things haven’t being going well for Labonte, we can’t discuss the candidates to win an Atlanta Cup race without mentioning Mr. Hotlanta himself. Since winning his Cup championship in 2000, it’s been a steady downward spiral. Last season was Labonte’s first winless campaign since 1994, his second year on the circuit.

However, when BL rolls into Atlanta, he must be respected because of all his past accomplishments. In 24 career Atlanta Cup races, Labonte has 12 top 5 finishes, six of which are victories — both tops for active Cup drivers.

Last season we all kind of got the picture of how things would be the 2004 season when he was very mediocre in the spring race, then followed that up with a poor run in the fall.

As much as the writing is on the wall regarding Labonte, we’d like to believe that he’s got something left for the track that has been so good to him.

Jimmie Johnson (7-1): Has four top four finishes in seven starts in Atlanta, which includes a win the last time the tour rolled in. When throwing in Charlotte for good measure, the sister track of Atlanta that is almost identical, there really can be no other choice than Johnson as the favorite to win this week. In Charlotte, Johnson has won three of the last four races there.

Following his Las Vegas win, Johnson just appears to be on another plateau than everyone else.

Unless he’s involved in an accident or has engine trouble, it’s hard to see him not winning this race.