The first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice session is in the books this weekend at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and after it’s all said and done, it appears that the Chevrolet teams may have a problem on their hands.
55 minutes of practice to go along with three rounds of qualifying show that they may be lacking in the speed department on the 1.5-mile track. For a group trying to avoid the most casualties in the first round of the playoffs, this isn’t a good start.
Chevy had just two wins in the first 26 races of the 2018 season. One in the season opener at Daytona and the other on a road course in Watkins Glen in August. So, for them to be this far behind in the speed department isn’t too shocking.
But, it hurts them.
Austin Dillon is among the drivers that everyone is assuming will be eliminated in the opening round. He was only 18th quickest in practice and qualifying on Friday.
Jimmie Johnson is right there with him in most predictions as the seven-time series champion hasn’t scored a top five finish since May 27. He was 21st fastest in practice and starts 17th on Sunday.
His teammate Alex Bowman didn’t show up either. He will start a respectable ninth in his No. 88 Chevrolet but was only 19th in practice.
The only other two Chevy playoff eligible drivers are Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott and they were 12th and 13th respectively in practice on Friday and 12th and seventh respectively in qualifying.
The top nine speeds in practice went to the Ford and Toyota camps. Team Penske had the top lap with Joey Logano but Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski were only 15th and 16th respectively. The trio will start second, sixth and 13th.
Stewart-Haas Racing looks like the team to beat as all four drivers were in the top nine of practice and will start. Kevin Harvick was second fastest and starts his No. 4 Ford fifth. Aric Almirola was a surprising third overall in practice and will roll off in his No. 10 Ford 16th.
Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer were fifth and ninth respectively in practice and starts eighth and 15th on Sunday.
They had the best speed on 1.5-mile tracks in 2018 in general and should be strong in Sunday’s South Point 400 (3 p.m. ET/NBCSN/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
They Toyota camp was strong too. Erik Jones, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. were 4-6-7-8 in practice on Friday. They’ll roll off first (Jones), third (Hamlin), fourth (Busch) and 10th (Truex).
In terms of who are the ones to beat, go with SHR, JGR, FRR, Penske, then everyone else.