Viva Las Vegas
Earnhardt Jr. looks to rebound after axle issues sidelined the No. 88 at Auto Club Speedway resulting in a 32nd-place finish (photo courtesy: Todd Warshaw, Getty Images Sport)
Kyle Busch will look to score another victory in front of his hometown fans, friends and family, as he did a year ago, when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series resumes the pursuit for a Miami Championship at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for Race 3 on Sunday (3 p.m. EST, FOX TV).
Busch was able to fulfill his goal of winning at his home track last season when he drove his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota to victory lane.
"It was the biggest so far," said Busch. "It was awesome, just the feeling of a lifetime. I told everyone that it would be just like another race, but it really meant a lot more than that when I got to victory lane.
"To have my mom there, and my brother come to Victory Lane, just made it that much more special. We didn't have the best car last year, but I feel like I drove a smart race, anyway, and did what we needed to do. We worked on it all day and kept making it better."
One memory that wasn't so good from 2009 was Busch missing the Chase which was decided at Homestead-Miami Speedway during Ford Championship Weekend. Although he came up short of making the playoff field last season he doesn't plan on repeating that this year when a Sprint Cup Series Champion will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 21 for the ninth consecutive year.
"I wanted to be in it," Busch said. "You want to be in it any year, but knowing that it was coming to Vegas, it was going to be cool to be in the Top 12 and come out for the banquet. Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out to our advantage in order to get ourselves in the Chase, but we're looking to change that around.”
For Lance McGrew, every time he goes to a new track with Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., it’s a learning experience. Las Vegas and Darlington are the only two tracks left on the schedule where McGrew has not been as crew chief for Earnhardt Jr. McGrew took over as Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief in May 2009 and made the calls during the Ford 400 Championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“Until you have been with him at least one time, then you don’t have that notebook to go to,” said McGrew. “You can’t go to your driver and say, ‘we did this last time, and you really liked this or didn’t like this.’ Sometimes you have to go through a couple of extra hurdles along the way. As our communication has got better and better, that has been easier to deal with. So I don’t think it will be that big of a deal.”
Earnhardt Jr. has a pair of second-place finishes at the track, including one in 2008. His other second-place finish came in 2003, well before the banking was reconfigured in 2007.
“The track is a lot of fun,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “They reconfigured the banking and it’s faster. I enjoy running around there. It’s a lot different than it used to be, and it’s a pretty unique track. It’s definitely a lot more fun since they reconfigured it.”
Earnhardt Jr., who finished second in the Daytona 500, had axle issues last week at Auto Club Speedway and finished 32nd. Currently, he is 16th in the standings.
All three of NASCAR’s premier racing series—the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series—again will crown Champions during Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 19-21). For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.
MotorRacingNetwork.com contributed to this report.
Montoya at Vegas
Juan Pablo Montoya will be making his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend. His best start was fourth in 2007 which was his first season in NASCAR. His best finish of 19th at Las Vegas came in 2008. Montoya has completed 813 out of 819 laps at the speedway (99.3%).
Vegas Rewind: In 2009, Montoya and the No.42 Energizer Chevrolet started 23rd and appeared to have a car that would contend for a solid finish. Montoya advanced from 23rd to ninth within the first six laps, three of which under caution. The team maintained a Top-15 running spot for the first 100 laps of 285. Bad luck struck the No.42 team when Clint Bowyer’s Chevy made slight contact with Montoya, resulting in a tire rub. Montoya eventually went a lap down to the leaders. The Target team and Montoya had an uphill battle for the remaining 185 laps and had to settle for a 31st-place finish.
Montoya will start from the 10th starting position in Sunday's race.
"This Target Chevy is incredible. I can't complain. Do I want to be first? Of course I want to be first but, hey we are there every week. That is important to see."
At California: The Target team finished 37th in last Sunday’s at Auto Club Speedway in California. Montoya started on the outside pole and led the first 29 laps of the 500-mile event. He was clocked at 181.164 mph on lap 2, logging the fastest lap of the entire race and earning the Goodyear “Gatorback Fastest Lap” award. Montoya spent 99 laps in the Top 15 before an engine failure on lap 140 ended the day prematurely.