NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
 
                 === This Week in Auto Racing March 7 - 10 ===
 
 By Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
 
 Las  Vegas,  NV (Sports  Network) -  NASCAR is in  Sin City  this week, as the
 Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series compete at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
 
 
 NASCAR
 
 Sprint Cup Series
 
 Kobalt Tools 400 - Las Vegas Motor Speedway - Las Vegas, Nev.
 
 With  the  continuing development of  NASCAR's new  race car, the Gen-6, track
 activities  for Sprint  Cup Series teams at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this week
 will begin sooner than normal.
 
 Teams will be testing the car at Las Vegas throughout the day on Thursday. The
 test  should provide drivers and crew chiefs with more valuable information on
 how the car will perform on intermediate racetracks, which are tracks that are
 one mile or more but less than two miles in length.
 
 Las  Vegas is the  first of 11 Sprint Cup races that are contested on 1.5-mile
 tracks  this season. Teams tested at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which is also a
 mile and a half, twice during the offseason.
 
 "Without  a doubt, the 1.5, two-mile tracks can make your entire season," said
 Steve  Letarte, who  is the  crew chief  for the  No. 88  Hendrick Motorsports
 Chevrolet,  driven by  Dale Earnhardt Jr. "As  a crew chief, you are trying to
 figure out what area you should be working in."
 
 Last  year,  Earnhardt finished  no  worse  than 10th  in  the  races that  he
 competed  in at  1.5-mile tracks. He sat  out the fall events at Charlotte and
 Kansas  due to a concussion. Earnhardt won the June race at Michigan, which is
 a two-mile oval.
 
 In addition to Thursday's test, teams will practice on Friday and Saturday, in
 preparation for Sunday's 400-mile race at Las Vegas.
 
 "With  it being an intermediate track and a place that's really fast, the aero
 part  becomes the  biggest thing that you  fight, and I think everybody in the
 garage  needs  to learn a little  bit (more) about  this new car and where the
 splitter  needs to  be  compared to  the racetrack,"  said  crew chief  Rodney
 Childers,  who  oversees the  No. 55  Michael Waltrip  Racing Toyota that Mark
 Martin put on pole last weekend at Phoenix.
 
 Since the season-opening race, the Daytona 500, was contested on a restrictor-
 plate  track,  the Gen-6  got its  first true test  in competition at Phoenix,
 which is a one-mile oval.
 
 After  extensive offseason  testing and  now  two races  completed this  year,
 drivers  and teams are finding out the Gen-6 cars -- Chevrolet SS, Ford Fusion
 and  Toyota Camry  -- are faster and  have more downforce and better grip than
 the most recent cars, which were used from 2007-12.
 
 But  drivers  have noticed some other  things about this car. Passing has been
 difficult, and there hasn't been much side-by-side racing.
 
 "I  think  (this) week in Vegas  we have a  track that has multiple lanes, and
 we'll  see  some great  side-by-side racing,"  Hendrick Motorsports driver and
 five-time  Sprint  Cup champion Jimmie Johnson  said. "The garage area and the
 teams  and  owners and the  competition side of NASCAR  have worked so hard to
 make  these  cars equal, and  we keep changing  and jumping through hoops, new
 chassis,  new bodies, new this, new that. The cars are equal, and when they're
 equal,  you're  going to have a  situation like this.  What we need now is the
 racetracks  to consider  the asphalt they're putting down and even reconfigure
 the lanes so that we have somewhere to race."
 
 Johnson,  who holds  an eight-point  lead after  winning the  Daytona 500  and
 finishing second at Phoenix, continues to have a favorable opinion of the car.
 
 "I  think  we have a great  product," he said.  "It's going to continue to get
 better.  One  of the  things that we've  all recognized over  the years is the
 faster  we go the narrower track gets the harder it is to pass. Speeds will be
 up,  especially  when we get to  the mile and a  halfs, so with all that being
 said, I think we need to leave the cars alone for a good 10, 20 years. Let the
 teams  be. There's a lot of work that can be done to help create better racing
 and keep the fans in the grandstands."
 
 Johnson  has  the most wins  at Las Vegas with  four. He won three consecutive
 races here from 2005-07. His other victory at this track came in 2010.
 
 Forty-four teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Kobalt Tools 400.
 
 
 Nationwide Series
 
 Sam's Town 300 - Las Vegas Motor Speedway - Las Vegas, Nev.
 
 After  winning last Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International
 Raceway,  Kyle Busch is hoping to carry his momentum over to his home track in
 Las Vegas.
 
 Busch,  a Sprint  Cup Series regular and Las Vegas native, snapped his 24-race
 winless  streak in  Nationwide at  Phoenix. The  victory was  his first  since
 September  2011  at Richmond International  Raceway. He extended his record of
 career wins in NASCAR's second-tier series to 52.
 
 "It was a phenomenal day for us to just get back here in victory lane and feel
 the  taste of  it again,"  Busch said  after his  Phoenix win.  "I was  almost
 nervous,  feeling like it  was my first win, even though it's win number-52 in
 the series."
 
 Busch  did  not score a  victory while driving for  his own Nationwide team in
 2012. During the offseason, he agreed to drive the No. 54 Toyota for Joe Gibbs
 Racing  in most  of the 33-scheduled races  in the series this season. Most of
 his Nationwide wins have come with JGR.
 
 Las  Vegas Motor Speedway is one track where Busch has yet to win a Nationwide
 event. He won a Sprint Cup race here in 2009.
 
 Busch  has finished  no better than 16th  in the last five Nationwide races at
 Las  Vegas. He wrecked in the last two events here. Busch's only top-10 finish
 in nine starts at this track came in 2007 when he placed second.
 
 So will this be the year he finally gets a Nationwide win in front of his home
 crowd?
 
 "As  long as  I don't wreck, I'll  be okay, because I have wrecked there every
 year,"  he said.  "I don't  need  to wreck.  I just  have  to make  it to  the
 checkered  flag. One year, I had a flat tire, and another year, I was making a
 bold  move  to the  finish line  and wrecked. I  don't need  to show my rookie
 stripes again, for the third time in a row, this year."
 
 Busch  is one  of three  Sprint  Cup competitors  entered in  this race.  Brad
 Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are the others.
 
 After  the first  two races, Sam Hornish  Jr. and Justin Allgaier are tied for
 the  points lead,  while  Brian  Scott trails  them  by  six points.  Hornish,
 Allgaier  and  Scott are the  only drivers who finished  in the top-10 at both
 Daytona International Speedway and Phoenix.
 
 Forty-three teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Sam's Town 300.
 
 03/06 19:29:21 ET

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