It seems weird that just three out of the 43 drivers that have competed in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race so far in 2018 have completed all 532 laps run. Normally, that number would be much higher. But, the carnage in Daytona led to just 10 cars finishing on the lead lap in the season opening Daytona 500. Then, Kevin Harvick’s dominance on the field in Atlanta, led to just 13 cars finishing on the lead lap there. That gets you the three who’ve completed all 100-percent of the laps for the season so far.
I would be shocked if any of the three don’t complete 100-percent of the laps in this weekend’s Pennzoil 400 (3:30 p.m. ET/FOX/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) in Las Vegas.
The first reason is the obvious, they’re among the three most consistent drivers so far this year. They’ve evaded carnage and have consistently ran up front. The Team Penske teammates of Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney have been very strong. Logano, has finishes of fourth and sixth respectively and Blaney with seventh and 12th himself.
Denny Hamlin was third and fourth respectively in his No. 11 Toyota too.
They’re currently 1-2-3 in the points standings in the order mentioned here.
Why would that change on Sunday?
Plus, they have three of the top four best average finishes out of everyone to race on the 1.5-mile Nevada track. Logano, is best with a 10.0 average finish among his nine career starts. Since joining Penske, he has finishes of fourth, 10th, second and fourth respectively in his No. 22 Ford. He led 44, 47, 74 and five laps respectively in those races too. On top of that, he’s qualified up front in those years too, starting first, second, second and sixth respectively since 2014.
Blaney, has made just three career Vegas starts with finishes of 19th, sixth and seventh respectively. Last year, he started third. Even Brad Keselowski has been strong since Penske switched from Dodge to Ford in 2013, as he led just one combined lap in four starts with Dodge. He never finished better than 26th from 2009 to 2012. But, when the Ford switch came, he’s been on a terror since. Keselowski, has won twice (2014, 2016) and has other finishes of third (2013), seventh (2015) and fifth (2017). He’s led laps in each of those races too. Like Logano, he’s started up front in them as well, with starting spots of first, second, 11th, fourth and first since 2013.
To me, this is really Penske’s race to lose.
Ford has been so strong out of the gates to start the 2018 season. Penske is a Ford team. Fords have taken all four stage wins and has 11 of the top 13 drivers in stage points thus far too. They’ve also led 422 out of the 532 possible laps. So, with another 1.5-mile track like we saw last weekend, expect the Penske’s and Fords in general to shine.
If anyone is going to give them a run for the money look no further than Hamlin. He has a 12.25 average finish in Vegas with two top six finishes over his last three starts there.
I’d look as these four as possible race winners on Sunday.