Though early forecasts show Chamber of Commerce weather for this weekend’s Kobalt 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Martin Truex Jr. still has concerns about how the wind factor will affect the handling of his No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota Camry.
“Wind is usually a huge factor for drivers at the Las Vegas race,” said Truex. “It won’t affect the fans’ enjoyment of the race, but from our perspective we have to be ready for a sudden change of balance with the race car. Depending on what direction the wind is coming from it can change the way your car handles so drastically.
“The wind can actually make it flip 180 on your balance from one end to the other on the racetrack. It’s really difficult. Last year we had winds so strong that it literally broke the windshield out of the race car. I thought the windshield was going to come in on me. The headwind on the frontstretch was almost like a tornado. As far as the handling goes it changes so drastically and it is something we battle every time we go there.”
Since joining Furniture Row Racing in 2014, Truex has done fairly well at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas track. He has had finishes of 14, 2 and 11 for a three-race average of 9.0.
“History will show that the mile-and-a-half tracks have been good for us,” said Truex. “After our performance in Atlanta on Sunday, I feel our Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota will have a good day, barring any unexpected issues, like a clutch problem and speeding penalty which we had in Atlanta.”
Despite the clutch problem and speeding penalty, Truex’s eighth-place Atlanta result helped him gain 10 positions in the point standings – from 17th to 7th.
With Las Vegas being the first of a three-race western swing (followed by Phoenix and Fontana, Calif.), Truex is looking to set an early exclamation mark on the 2017 season.
“If we’re going to make an early move, the next three western tracks are the kind we like,” said Truex. “But right now the only focus we have is on Las Vegas and how we can maximize our performance.”
Truex’s career Cup record at Las Vegas includes, 11 starts, one top five, three top 10s, eight laps led, an average start of 17.4 and an average finish of 14.3.
The 267-lap Kobalt 400 will consist of three stages with the completion of the first stage on Lap 80 and the completion of the second stage on Lap 160.
In each of the first two stages drivers finishing in the top-10 will receive championship points (10 to 1) with the winner receiving one playoff point. The overall race winner will earn 40 championship points and five playoff points. Playoff points accumulated during the season will carry through the first three of the four playoff rounds.
The Kobalt 400 will air live March 12 on the Fox network beginning at 12:30 p.m. Las Vegas time (3:30 ET). Qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) is scheduled for Friday, March 10, starting at 4:45 p.m. Las Vegas time (7:45 ET) on FS2.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!