The NASCAR Nextel Cup Series has the week off before their big Las Vegas weekend.
During that two-week stretch, many of the drivers like to bring their families and/or girlfriends for a little rest and relaxation. While it seems like the drivers should be well rested on paper with just two races complete, the reality is that these guys have been going at it nonstop since the beginning of January when the first Daytona testing started.
It’s hard to have sympathy for the drivers considering how they jet set across the country week after week in luxury. However, luxury or not, traveling constantly can be a real pain. Then you have to consider the time frame we’re looking at for these drivers and how they’ll run consistently week after week until late November. There isn’t much rest available, since they have to do all sorts of sponsorship-obligated appearances. Whether it’s a meet-and-greet dinner or being the featured attraction on a company cruise, the activities all but eliminate any type of real relaxation time.
So this week while in Las Vegas, don’t be surprised to see several Nextel Cup drivers hanging around town long before their March 12 date at the Speedway.
The few drivers that won’t be in Las Vegas will be in Mexico City driving in the Busch Series race Sunday. Over 300,000 fans are expected to roll into Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez for their second NASCAR race in as many years. Last season, NASCAR officials were expecting maybe 40 to 50,000 fans for the main event and were overwhelmed by the 150,000 that showed up just for qualifying. Chances are most of the Cup regulars that participate in the Busch Series part time will not be there. There are a few Cup regulars entered that also go full time in the Busch series, most notably Carl Edwards.
There will be plenty of "hired assassins" driving this weekend, led by local Mexican hero Jorge Goeters who won the pole last season. The driver I’ll be most interested in seeing is Las Vegas’ adopted Canadian son Paul Tracy, who signed with the Biagi Brothers No. 4 Dodge for a limited schedule. Tracy was meant to be a stock car driver, but got steered the other way from the outset. His bare knuckles mentality and knack for rubbing paint was meant for NASCAR. It was his destiny and now he’s finally realizing it. The hard nose no nonsense attitude will be well received by the NASCAR nation of fans.
As for Mexico City this week, Tracy definitely is fired up for it.
"I’m looking forward to going to Mexico City in a stock car," Tracy said. "I have won there in the past and I feel like I know the track really well. I thank Fred Biagi for giving me this opportunity. I am looking forward to representing GEICO and BryMak and giving them a great finish."
Tracy also noted that his chances this week are increased because of the car’s past success on road courses.
"This is the same car that Scott (Pruett) drove at Watkins Glen last year and he was in the top five most of the day," he said. "So I am looking forward to jumping in it and taking GEICO and BryMak to the front. The people of Mexico have always supported me and treated me well. I am looking forward to returning for the race."
Good Luck Paul, we’ll all be rooting for you here in Las Vegas.
Early Vegas Odds
Station Casinos released their odds for the Las Vegas Nextel Cup race on Monday placing three drivers as the co-favorites at 10-1. Last week’s winner and two time Las Vegas winner, Matt Kenseth leads the group, followed by another former Vegas winner Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle.
Next week we’ll dissect the Vegas race and what props are out there that will give the players the best advantage of cashing some tickets. We’ll also talk with some of the Las Vegas bookmakers and get their thoughts and selections for the greatest annual weekend in Las Vegas.
When looking at the standings right now, you can see a few drivers sticking out like sore thumbs at first glance.
Casey Mears and Kasey Kahne both drive Dodges and were given little chance coming into this season. After two races Mears finds himself second, trailing Jimmie Johnson by 39 points. Kahne is fourth, 60 back.
Matt Kenseth may present the best value of all drivers right now. He can be found anywhere from 10-1 or higher. Last year he struggled out of the gate, but he’s already in prime form. We also know he’s got a strong restrictor plate car so that should have him in good shape for the three remaining plate races.
The only thing that will give him trouble this season is the road courses —and that’s only two races. They shouldn’t be a big concern for Kenseth, currently in third place.