Ford has a very good record at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400. And that makes for good timing.
Blue Oval drivers are coming off a sour weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Greg Biffle was the only Ford driver with a solid day, finishing third.
Ford drivers led only three laps – one each by Matt Kenseth, Mike Bliss and David Ragan, and two of those were under caution. Marcos Ambrose drove a strong race in the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 9 Ford but ultimately finished 32nd with a coughing engine.
If the “real” season starts at Phoenix, as many in the garage claim, Ford got a slow start.
That could turn around Sunday, however, and few will be surprised if it does.
Ford has won seven of the 14 Sprint Cup races held at LVMS. Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton (then with Jack Roush’s team) own two wins each, and Mark Martin won one, also when he was with Roush.
Martin won the first Cup race at Vegas in 1998, and it was the kind of Blue Oval Show Ford would be thrilled to repeat Sunday. Ford drivers took the first seven positions and nine of the top 10.
Edwards won last year’s race at LVMS after a pit-road penalty interrupted what appeared to be a runaway win for Tony Stewart, who finished second.
“Last year was a huge weekend for us, and I’m excited to go back,” Edwards said. “I love racing at Vegas, and it’s a fun place to go for the fans. This will be our first opportunity of the year to run on a 1.5-mile track and to try the things Bob Osborne and everyone at RFR have been working on over the winter. It’s a huge event for us strategically on the schedule to build our intermediate program, which is obviously very important in our quest for the championship.”
Although every 1.5-mile track on the circuit has its own idiosyncrasies and no setup is perfect for every one, success at one tends to put a team on the path toward success at most – if not all. And the circuit has eight.
Since it was repaved and its banking reconstructed, LVMS has been one of the tour’s fastest tracks. Kenseth set a track qualifying record there last year at 188.884 miles per hour.
“Last year, we earned the pole which was just a testament to the fact that Jimmy (crew chief Jimmy Fennig) and the guys have been doing such a great job setting up our cars each and every week,” Kenseth said. “Las Vegas is a bumpier race track, so we will spend time making sure that our balance and shock packages are exactly where we need them to be. Handling is a priority at Las Vegas because if we can get our car into the corners faster, we can run down the straightaway faster.”
The track is so fast that the corners have a sort of “whip” effect, “throwing” the cars down the straightaway if, as Kenseth says, the setup is good.
Sprint Cup practice is scheduled at Vegas from 3 to 4:30 p.m. ET Friday. Qualifying is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. SPEED will broadcast both sessions.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.