Speeds are up at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend. Way up. Entire miles per hour up. Speeds in qualifying and speeds in practice.
Those searching for an answer as to why, are generally hearing a five-letter word – tires.
Kurt Busch won the pole for Sunday’s Shelby American on Friday with a lap at 188.725 mph. That was almost 3 mph faster than the old record of 185.995 mph which was set by Busch’s brother Kyle last year.
In all, 18 drivers went faster in Friday’s qualifier than did Kyle Busch the year before.
Same deal in Nationwide.
On Saturday, Brad Keselowski won the pole with a lap that was about 3 mph faster than the record which was set by Scott Speed in February of 2009.
Talk of fast travels fast in the garages and a lot of people at Vegas were talking about it this weekend.
“Tires,” Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, said of the higher speeds. “There’s a new tire Goodyear brought. I don’t know all the differences. But it’s definitely the tires. The teams do a great job. We bring a little bit more power this year over the off-season and make a little bit more power. We find ways to make the cars a little bit faster, but the majority of what happened today was tires.”
Matt Kenseth of Roush Fenway Racing agreed. Tires, he said, but he added that teams and drivers may be encountering a perfect storm of favorable conditions for increased speed as well.
“I would think the tire is most of it because there really hasn’t been any rules changes, but you’d also like to think that everybody has gotten a little smarter on their cars from last year to this year,” Kenseth said. “So probably a combination of the tires, and the cloudy and cool conditions, and everybody getting their cars a little bit better are the reasons.”
New attitude: Kenseth is still getting to know new crew chief Todd Parrott. But in their brief time together, Kenseth says changes have been evident.
“I can see a difference and it’s interesting because Todd has been around for a long time and he’s obviously won a lot of races and a championship,” Kenseth said. “I know the last couple of programs probably didn’t go the way he hoped, and I’m pleasantly surprised by his excitement level and his enthusiasm, and how excited he is to come back and have another shot at being in a competitive program and winning races and trying to run for a championship.
“Yesterday was a perfect example. He was on the radio yelling and came in the trailer giving us high-fives after our qualifying run because we improved it so much from practice. The other thing is that I can tell everybody on the team, including myself, really respects Todd and his experience and leadership abilities. It’s been fun. It’s only been a week, but he’s got a lot of enthusiasm and he’s really fired up about doing it again.”
Name that Edwards: Carl Edwards is at a race track for the first time as a father. He and Wife Kate had a baby girl on Wednesday.
They named it Anne.
Why, you ask?
“First of all, the name was simple,” Edwards said. “That’s what Kate wanted to call her, so that was it. I started to protest a little bit just because. I didn’t really have a better name, and she made it clear that’s what she really wanted. So it’s Anne. We’re gonna call her Annie.”
In true racing fashion, Edwards got some help from a Roush Fenway Racing teammate when it came to fatherly pit stops.
“Yes, I changed a diaper,” he said. “Matt and Katie Kenseth let me do a little training the other week and that actually helped me out a lot. I think Matt had a good laugh about it, but it prepared me for what was to come. So Kate, she was laying in bed so I changed the first four or five diapers and it went pretty well.”
RCR and Padres hook up: Richard Childress Racing has entered into a partnership agreement with a group led by San Diego Padres executives Jeff Moorad and Tom Garfinkel.
Moorad, the Padres’ vice chairman and chief executive officer, and Garfinkel, the team’s president and chief operating officer, will assist RCR in its business development and growth opportunities, and cooperate on other strategic initiatives. They will also participate on RCR’s internal advisory group.
“Over the past three years, Richard has become a trusted friend,” said Jeff Moorad. “We believe in NASCAR and this opportunity allows us to be a contributing part of a winning organization, led by someone who we respect and trust.”
In 2007, Moorad, Garfinkel, and their ownership group purchased Hall of Fame Racing from NFL legends Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach. The team suspended operations after the 2009 NASCAR season.
“I’ve gotten to know Jeff and Tom and feel that they can add a lot to what we’re doing,” said Richard Childress, president and chief executive officer of RCR. “This allows us to bring our individual strengths together and benefit all involved. I have learned over the last 40 years that you have to keep innovating and improving to be successful. This new partnership will complement our already strong organization.”
Where’s the respect?: “There are some that may not give us the credit. But deep down inside it doesn’t matter if it’s a fan or a competitor; they know this No. 48 team is the real deal. It’s way too early in the season for me to be too excited and say we’re unbeatable and we’re going to win a fifth (title). From my standpoint it’s unfair to say that and from the viewing audience. It’s early in the year. This is only the second race. We’ve felt like we’re a little bit off from the second half of the race on and the RCR cars really impressed everyone. Credit needs to be passed out where it’s due and we’ll see how things go this weekend and take it from there.”
Jim Pedley is a veteran, award-winning sports journalist who has worked at, among other places, the Boston Globe, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Kansas City Star. Pedley spent more than 10 years covering auto racing for the Kansas City Star. Pedley can be reached at