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Ross Chastain has the best chance of his career for his first Cup Series win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, even if Kyle Bush is the favorite after winning at Auto Club Speedway last week.
In 2022, Trackhouse Racing surprised everyone with three wins in their first year as a two-car team. Chastain won at Circuit of the Americas and Talladega, while teammate Daniel Suarez won at Sonoma.
Winning two road tracks and a super speedway is a good start, but true championship teams must compete on all types of tracks. I think Chastain is showing his true potential this year, starting at 1.5 miles. intermediate ways.
Chastain’s record in other series
Chastain’s first win in any of NASCAR’s top three series was the 2018 Xfinity race in Las Vegas. After three races in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing car that season, Chastain qualified on pole in first place and won second.
In 2019, Chastain took his first truck win at the 1.5-mile Kansas Oval. Chastain also won the 2022 Craftsman Truck Series at Charlotte Intermediate.
In the 2022 Cup Series – the only year we have Next Gen data for – Chastain is ranked first among active full-time drivers in average finishes at intermediate courses. His average finishing position of 7.0 includes:
- Five out of seven finish in the top 10
- Three out of seven finish in the top three
- No top 15 finishes
His worst finish, 15th at Charlotte, was affected by a crash late in the race.
As you can see from the graph below, Chastain’s average score on the 1.5-mile track is 1.7 positions better than Denny Hamlinwho has the next best finish.
Note: Bush and Martin Truex Jr. had the fourth and fifth best intermediate track averages despite both drivers having disappointing 2022 seasons.
Chastain after a strong 2022 Next Gen season
Chastain is one of the riders who performed much better on the Next Gen machine than on the sixth generation. The graph below shows the average driver finishes in 2022 on intermediate courses in yellow. Average finishing positions from 2017 to 2021 are highlighted in blue. (I started with 2017 because it’s recent and covers the stage race era.)
Drivers who have improved their performance in a Next Gen vehicle have a larger blue stripe than a yellow one. The greater the difference in bar sizes, the greater the change. Chastain was in less equipment before signing with Chip Ganassi Racing full-time in 2021; however, a comparison between 2021 and 2022 shows the same level of improvement. No rider has improved more than Chastain, and not just on intermediate tracks.
This improvement led to strong results in last year’s playoffs. Trackhouse co-owner Justin Marks had 235 feet curb leads to the turquoise-painted Phoenix Raceway racing shop. This is the distance Chastain finished behind the champion. Joey Logano in the last race of the 2022 season.
Despite five DNFs and overly aggressive driving that made him a top payback target, Chastain finished 2022 with an average finishing position of 13.3. He was second Chase Elliott, finishing the season with an average of 12.5. Chastain was also fourth in laps and finished in the top 10 with 21 totals.
On the 1.5-mile circuits, Chastain earned the most points of any rider in 2022 with 296. Runner-up. Kyle Larson scored 261 points. Chastain also led the most laps of any driver in Las Vegas in 2022.
Both of Chastain’s wins in 2022 came in the first 10 races of the season. It’s tempting to speculate that his wins may be due to other racers’ problems with the Next Gen car. But Chastain has finished fourth or better in the last four races of 2022, including second places at Las Vegas and Homestead.
Chastain 2023 season has started successfully
Chastain finished ninth at Daytona, where only 18 cars finished the lead lap and 17 cars failed to finish at all. Chastain and teammate Suarez finished in the top five at Fontana. Including the last four races of 2022, Chastain has finished in the top 10 six times in the last six races, a career high.
But Chastain doesn’t just finish well. He also runs well. Chastain placed first at Auto Club Speedway in:
- Average running position (2.95)
- green flag speed
- Speed at the start of the run
- Speed at the end of the run
- Circles led
In addition, he had the second-most fastest laps and fourth-best restarts.
Comparing Bush and Chastain in 2022 data is difficult because Bush has a new team. They are both helped by Chevrolet. Chevy has won three of the last five races in Las Vegas with Kurt BushLarson and Alex Bowman.
But based on 2023 data alone, here’s the biggest advantage over Bush that Chastain may have won in Las Vegas: Chastain has won three out of four points races this year.
Of the 11 Las Vegas stage races, the stage 1 winner won the race three times (27.3%). Stage 2 winner won the race seven times (63.6%).
Kyle Bushthe latest NASCAR Cup Series winner is set to build on that momentum on a very busy weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Busch, who won Sunday’s Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway, is racing in all three of NASCAR’s Cup, Xfinity and Craftsman Truck races this weekend in Las Vegas. For some pilots, this would have been a tough schedule, but Bush proved he could handle the challenge. He has won all three races in the series twice in the same weekend, both times (2010 and 2017) at Bristol Motor Speedway.
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Busch will be one of the favorites for Sunday’s 400-mile Cup race. He won at his home track in 2009 and along with Martin Truex Jr.has the longest active streak in the top 10 at the circuit with five.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)
Thursday: Mostly sunny. Maximum 58. Wind 10-20 m/s.
Friday: Mostly sunny. High 60.
Saturday: Morning clouds. Sunny in the afternoon. Maximum 66. Wind 15-25 m/s.
Sunday: Partly cloudy and windy. Maximum 63. Wind 20-30 m/s.
Thursday, March 2
(All time Eastern)
- 15:30 – 21:30 – Xfinity series
Friday, March 3
- 10:00 – 20:30 – Xfinity series
- 11:30 – Truck series
- 15:30 – 20:30 – Cup series
- 16:30 – 17:05 – Truck training (FS1)
- 17:05 – 18:00 – Truck Qualification (FS1)
- 18:35 – 19:05 – Xfinity practice (FS1)
- 19:05-20:00 – Xfinity qualifier (FS1)
- 21:00 – Truck Race (134 laps, 201 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Saturday, March 4
- 11:00 – 16:00 – Cup Series
- 13:30 — Xfinity Series
- 13:35 – 14:20 – Cup training (FS2)
- 14:20 – 15:30 – Cup qualification (FS1)
- 4:30 pm Xfinity Race (200 laps, 300 miles; FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Sunday, March 4
- 12:30 pm. – Cup Series
- 3:30 pm – Cup Race (267 laps, 400 miles; Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
The early season NASCAR Cup Series continues in the West on Sunday with a 400-mile race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The first of two annual races on the 2.5 km track features a Chevrolet driver. Ross Chastain leading in the standings behind Joey Logano, Alex Bowman, Kevin Harvick And Daniel Suarez.
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Ricky Stenhouse Jr won his first season at Daytona and Kyle Busch scored last Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.
Take a look at the drivers to watch out for in Las Vegas: