South Point 400 Preview: Round 3 of the Chase

South Point 400 Preview: Round 3 of the Chase

This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.

The first race in the Round of 8 of the Chase is on tap this weekend. NASCAR had recently used the date at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to kick off the Chase for the Cup playoffs, but two seasons ago the race was moved to deeper in the playoffs. The stars of NASCAR will head to Sin City for the South Point 400 to continue the battle to whittle down the playoff field as we approach the championship round at Phoenix. 

This will be the second visit of 2022 to the Las Vegas oval. We'll need to take into account several factors this weekend. Firstly, we'll need to examine the current hot streaks, as the trending drivers should carry their stretches of success or struggles into Las Vegas. Secondly, we'll need to take a look at how the drivers have performed on similar ovals this season. The intermediate oval is the most widely-used track on the circuit, so we have plenty of data to look at. Lastly, we'll take an in-depth look at the race earlier this season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That data will have some relevance for this weekend, even though that event was held way back in early March. The crew chiefs' notes should be very helpful for the teams that finished well in that race as they look to repeat their success this weekend.

LVMS is one of many intermediate ovals on the circuit, so we have lots of data to fall back on at

The first race in the Round of 8 of the Chase is on tap this weekend. NASCAR had recently used the date at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to kick off the Chase for the Cup playoffs, but two seasons ago the race was moved to deeper in the playoffs. The stars of NASCAR will head to Sin City for the South Point 400 to continue the battle to whittle down the playoff field as we approach the championship round at Phoenix. 

This will be the second visit of 2022 to the Las Vegas oval. We'll need to take into account several factors this weekend. Firstly, we'll need to examine the current hot streaks, as the trending drivers should carry their stretches of success or struggles into Las Vegas. Secondly, we'll need to take a look at how the drivers have performed on similar ovals this season. The intermediate oval is the most widely-used track on the circuit, so we have plenty of data to look at. Lastly, we'll take an in-depth look at the race earlier this season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That data will have some relevance for this weekend, even though that event was held way back in early March. The crew chiefs' notes should be very helpful for the teams that finished well in that race as they look to repeat their success this weekend.

LVMS is one of many intermediate ovals on the circuit, so we have lots of data to fall back on at this point in the season. Since NASCAR's top division raced earlier this season at the Vegas oval, we'll get the opportunity to look back on the race earlier this year with a discriminating eye. Given that historical data is so valuable in developing our weekly driver list, we'll take a quick look at these track-specific statistics. The loop stats in the table below span the last 17 years of competition at this 1.5-mile oval, covering 22 races.

DriverAvg. FinishQuality Passes# of Fastest LapsLaps LedLaps in Top 15Driver Rating
Joey Logano8.98022264953,845101.7
Kevin Harvick13.28573846364,458101.6
Kyle Busch9.89382783114,395101.4
Kyle Larson9.26681912512,417100.9
Chase Elliott17.86782201782,54799.8
Martin Truex Jr.10.39833153014,25698.7
Ryan Blaney11.1589132412,41097.1
Brad Keselowski11.37762903163,29893.9
Denny Hamlin13.28851633543,50389.9
William Byron18.3536126791,58487.2
Kurt Busch20.8719801293,04582.7
Alex Bowman18.2604102221,85980.5
Austin Dillon15.446433121,93078.4
Erik Jones21.04024601,41176.3
Christopher Bell19.6237213256573.1
Tyler Reddick18.2178311258072.4
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 19.339335401,33572.3
Aric Almirola21.64322531,71366.9
Austin Cindric19.035008464.8
Chris Buescher17.7220151141661.9

Las Vegas Motor Speedway had been a track of parity for much of its history, as we've seen different racing camps and different manufacturers dominate at the Nevada oval in the past. Chevrolet, however, seems to have risen above the fray. Drivers from this manufacturer have won three of the last four Las Vegas races, briefly halting Ford and Toyota's run at the desert oval. That trend is one we need to pay attention to this weekend.

In March, the NASCAR Cup Series visited the Nevada desert and Alex Bowman rolled into victory lane for the first time in his career at the 1.5-mile tri-oval. With Bowman picking up that victory, Chevrolet remained squarely atop the heap at LVMS. However, before we cede the trophy to a Chevrolet camp this weekend we need to realize that contenders will come from several different stables for Sunday's race. Toyota and Ford have both won in the last five Las Vegas races, and Toyota drivers combined to lead a whopping 117 laps here in March, though none were lucky enough to come away with the win. Ford drivers are clearly last in the manufacturer pecking order at Vegas, with only one Top-10 finisher in March and a scant 17 laps led across all their drivers. Sunday's Playoff battle is shaping up to be a showdown between Chevrolet and Toyota, with a slim chance of a Ford intervention. Here are our picks for fantasy racing success at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for this Sunday afternoon's South Point 400. 

The Contenders – Drivers in the hunt for the win

Tyler Reddick – Reddick may be eliminated from the playoffs, but he's certainly not racing like it. Three weeks removed from his victory at Fort Worth, the RCR youngster racked up 21 laps led and a steady eighth-place finish on the Charlotte ROVAL last Sunday. Now Reddick comes to Las Vegas looking to finish this season strong. The driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet has Top 10s in two of his five career starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, with both coming in his last two starts, when he finished in sixth and seventh place. Reddick has been a very capable driver on the intermediate ovals this season, with one win, 169 laps led and three Top-10 finishes. Most of those laps led have come in his last two outings at Kansas and Texas.     

Chase Elliott – With seven different winners in the seven 1.5-mile oval events of 2022, it's difficult to pick a favorite. There's been so much parity on these cookie-cutter tracks that it will be difficult to forecast this Sunday's Las Vegas victor. Elliott has been one of those winners, with his big victory at Atlanta, 265 total laps led on these tracks and three Top 10s. The Hendrick Motorsports star was in the running for the win last time out on one of these ovals at Fort Worth a few weeks ago when something broke in his car, sending him into the outside wall. Elliott has never won at the Las Vegas oval, but he did finish runner-up in this event one year ago. With over 175 laps led at LVMS and a decent 46 percent Top-10 rate, Elliott has a slugger's chance. Advancing in the Chase for the Cup, however, will be the biggest motivator.

Ryan Blaney – Blaney had a rough time in his last Las Vegas outing, and his intermediate oval stats this season were poor in the first half of the year. However, Blaney and the No. 12 Ford team have figured a few things out since the series' last visit to Sin City. The Penske Racing star rides a three-race intermediate-oval Top-10 streak into this weekend's action, which includes Blaney's 29 laps led and fourth-place finish at Texas a couple weeks ago. He's never won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but he's been incredibly consistent. His five Top-5 and eight Top-10 finishes in 12 starts equate to strong 42 and 67 percent rates. Blaney always seems to be racing among the leaders in these Vegas events. With the 2022 championship on the line, it wouldn't be surprising at all to see this driver and team elevate their game in the South Point 400.

Joey Logano – Logano has been one of the more successful drivers at Las Vegas Motor Speedway over the last few seasons. The driver of the No. 22 Ford has a strong 8.9 average finish at the oval, and he's led nearly 500 laps there in just his last 13 starts. Logano has two career victories in the Nevada desert, and they've both come since 2019. Intermediate ovals have been a bit of a weakness for the No. 22 Penske Racing team this season, but he most recently reversed that trend with his 15 laps led and brilliant runner-up finish at Texas Motor Speedway. Logano is one of the remaining Round of 8 championship drivers and has a lot on the line in the South Point 400. This veteran driver will make his presence felt at the front of the field this Sunday afternoon. 

Solid Plays – Near locks for a Top 10 with an outside shot to win

William Byron – Byron did just enough to assure his playoff advancement at the Charlotte ROVAL last weekend. He battled to a 16th-place finish, good enough to get him through on points to the Round of 8. Byron can now refocus and set his sights high for a great Las Vegas performance. Intermediate ovals have been strong tracks for the No. 24 team in 2022. Byron has one win, 237 laps led and four Top-10 finishes (good for a 57 percent rate). His most recent outings have netted sixth- and seventh-place efforts at Kansas and Texas. As to Byron's Las Vegas history, he's overcome a slow start at this track to post Top 10s in two of his last three visits to Sin City. The most recent and important of those was his fifth-place finish in the Next-Gen car there in March of this year

Kevin Harvick – Harvick had fallen on some rough times of late, but he came out of seemingly nowhere to post a brilliant runner-up finish at the ROVAL last weekend. That effort has definitely increased Harvick's stock heading to one of his favorite intermediate ovals this week. Las Vegas Motor Speedway has held a lot of success for the driver of the No. 4 Ford. Harvick is a two-time winner at Vegas and boasts a series-leading 13 Top-10 finishes at the 1.5-mile oval. That works out to a respectable 50 percent rate for the Stewart Haas Racing star. Harvick has been an uneven performer on intermediate ovals this season, but he should ride his Charlotte ROVAL momentum and love of Vegas into a Top-10 finish Sunday in the South Point 400. 

Kyle Larson – Larson was pointed towards a possible Top-5 finish and advancement in the playoffs last week at the ROVAL, but misfortune struck the No. 5 team in the form of a broken toe link, sending him tumbling through the field to a poor finish and playoff elimination. Larson and the Hendrick team have a shot at some small redemption this week in Sin City. The reigning champion has been quite consistent this season on the cookie-cutter ovals and his 127 laps led and five Top 10s (71 percent) bear this fact out. Larson is a one-time Las Vegas winner (2021) and finished runner-up there earlier this season in the Next-Gen car. His 75 percent Top-10 rate at LVMS is a jaw-dropping statistic and shows his consistency and excellence at this track.  

Denny Hamlin – Hamlin has advanced in the Chase, but he's got some work to do if he plans to be a participant in the Championship 4 at Phoenix. He'll look to up his level of performance at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this Sunday afternoon. Intermediate ovals this season have yielded one win, three Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes for a respectable 14.7 average finish for Hamlin. LVMS is not one of his better cookie-cutter tracks, but he's come on strong there in recent performances. Hamlin won this event one year ago and he boasts 354 career laps led in Vegas. His three Top-5 finishes in his last four Vegas starts have boosted his Top-10 rate at the track to a respectable 48 percent. The Joe Gibbs Racing star will be racing among the leaders this Sunday afternoon.

Sleepers – Drivers with good history at Las Vegas & solid upside

Christopher Bell – Bell's big victory at the Charlotte ROVAL this past Sunday has put him in prime position to be racing for the championship at Phoenix in a few weeks. For his follow-up act, we have Las Vegas Motor Speedway up next and what should be another strong performance for the No. 20 Toyota team. The young driver won the pole and led 32 laps at Vegas in March on the way to finishing a respectable 10th-place in the Pennzoil 400. That was Bell's second Top 10 in his last three visits to Sin City. Intermediate ovals have been kind to the youngster this season with two poles, 97 laps led and four Top-10 finishes. With the championship well within reach, we should see a very motivated Bell and No. 20 team this weekend

Kyle Busch – Slotting Busch into the correct category this week was incredibly challenging. He's come off a recent rough patch after being eliminated from the Chase and posted a head-scratching third-place finish at the ROVAL, a track which has recently given the Joe Gibbs Racing star all kinds of problems. We have to put Busch in the sleepers list this week taking into consideration the relative risks, but we also have to acknowledge his upside for the South Point 400. Las Vegas Motor Speedway has rewarded the driver of the No. 18 Toyota with one win, 10 Top-5 and 13 Top-10 finishes (59 percent) over the years. Busch rides a strong four-race Las Vegas Top-10 streak into this weekend's action, a run that includes his Next-Gen performance in March where he rode to 49 laps led and a brilliant fourth-place finish.    

Ross Chastain – Chastain comes to Las Vegas this week still alive in the championship hunt. He had a tough outing at the Charlotte ROVAL last weekend, but he's been generally racing well of late. Chastain will look to rebound on a much friendlier intermediate oval for Sunday's South Point 400. The Trackhouse Racing veteran has been razor sharp on these tracks this season with two runner-up finishes, 315 laps led and five Top-10 finishes, good for a dazzling 7.0 average finish across the seven events. Chastain's start at LVMS earlier this season yielded 83 laps led and a strong third-place finish in the Pennzoil 400. The notes from that outing will come in quite handy this Sunday as Chastain looks to advance into the Championship 4 at Phoenix.

Erik Jones – Jones has rewarded fantasy racing players in recent weeks with sixth-, sixth- and 11th-place finishes across the last three events. The Petty GMS Motorsports veteran may not be a part of the playoffs, but he's racing like he's in the middle of the championship battle right now. The driver of the No. 43 Chevrolet has been greatly improved on intermediate ovals over the second half of this season. A fourth-place finish at Atlanta over the summer was followed by a recent sixth-place effort at Texas. Jones doesn't have an overly impressive Las Vegas history, so some fantasy players will overlook this driver and team. That would be a miscalculation. Jones has the potential to fetch his fourth career Vegas Top 10 and maybe his best career finish at the track this Sunday.   

Brad Keselowski – The three-time Las Vegas winner has been awful on intermediate ovals this season, until his start at Texas three weeks ago. Keselowski won the pole, led 31 laps and finished eighth at the Fort Worth track. He and crew chief Matt McCall seem to be finally getting a handle on this Next-Gen car. Keselowski has over 300 career laps led at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and his 12 Top-10 finishes make for a strong 67 percent Top-10 average. It's clear that the driver of the No. 6 Ford loves the progressive banking and wide sweeping corners of the track at Las Vegas. Keselowski's good momentum should continue on into the South Point 400 and the remaining events in the 2022 calendar. 

Chase Briscoe – The Stewart Haas Racing youngster has come on strong in the playoffs. Briscoe rides a three-race Top-10 streak into Las Vegas and the Round of 8 in the Chase for the Cup. The driver of the No. 14 Ford Mustang has been uneven in 1.5-mile oval starts this season but he's trended in the right direction in the second half of the season. A fourth-place finish at Charlotte in May was followed by his recent fifth-place finish at Texas. Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a track where Briscoe has just three Cup Series starts and one Top-15 finish so far. However, the young driver is a two-time Las Vegas winner in the Xfinity Series (both in 2020) so Briscoe knows this track very well. With playoff advancement on the line, he should have a strong outing in this 400-mile battle in the Nevada desert.   

Slow Down – Drivers to avoid this week 

Alex BowmanAt the time of this writing, we don't have a medical update on Bowman after his crash and concussion at Texas a few weeks ago. He missed Talladega and the Charlotte ROVAL in back-to-back weeks and was eliminated from the playoffs as a result. The Hendrick Motorsports veteran has been a top performer on intermediate ovals this season and won the race earlier this year at Las Vegas. Bowman would make a great fantasy racing play this weekend, but his cloudy medical status unfortunately makes him a risky fantasy racing selection for the South Point 400. Even if he's cleared to compete, you have to wonder if he's mentally up to this challenge or if he's 100 percent physically healthy.    

Martin Truex Jr. – The Joe Gibbs Racing star has fallen on hard times of late. Truex rides a four-race Top-10 drought into Las Vegas this Sunday and will be looking for answers in the South Point 400. On the positive side of the ledger, Truex has two career victories in Vegas, and his 12 Top 10s are good for a strong 57 percent rate, so the driver of the No. 19 Toyota has the track-specific performance to endorse a start. Unfortunately for this veteran driver, his recent performance has been pretty shaky, and his elimination from the playoffs a few weeks ago seems to have dimmed morale in this team. Truex has the potential to prove us wrong in the South Point 400, but we simply find him too risky to deploy. There are better driver selections in the pool this week.

Aric Almirola – Almirola has been a mixed performer on the intermediate ovals this season. The driver of the SHR No. 10 Ford has two Top 10s alongside four finishes outside the Top 20. His Top-10 rate stands at a disappointing 29 percent and his average finish is a lackluster 17.7 on these 1.5-mile ovals this season. Almirola also has a lean resume at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 18 career starts, boasting only four Top-10 finishes and a 21.6 average finish across that lengthy span. While Almirola has been a Top-15 driver each of the last two weeks at Talladega and the Charlotte ROVAL, we don't believe he'll be anywhere near the Top 15 Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Stenhouse has labored hard on these intermediate ovals in 2022, and despite two Top-10 finishes, he still only boasts a 22.1 average finish. That's largely due to his two DNFs and three finishes outside the Top 30. To say that Stenhouse has struggled on these cookie-cutter ovals in the Next-Gen car would be an understatement. Las Vegas Motor Speedway hasn't held a lot of success for the JTG Daugherty Racing driver either. In 14 career starts, Stenhouse has just two Top 10s, with the last of those coming in early 2020. His 14 percent Top-10 rate and career average finish of 19.3 in Sin City are concerning statistics heading into this South Point 400.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Taylor
Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A nine-time FSWA finalist, Taylor was named the Racing Writer of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017. He is also a military historian, focused specifically on World War II and the U.S. Navy's efforts in the Pacific.
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