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Kobalt Tools 400 Notes: Jimmie Johnson Goes For Five

Some notes of (possible) interest on this weekend's race in Sin City:

  • This is the 14th NASCAR Sprint Cup race held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The track has occupied the third race weekend every year since joining the schedule in 1998. Mark Martin was the winner of the inaugural Las Vegas 400.
  • This is the fifth race on Las Vegas Motor Speedway's higher-banked configuration. From 1998-2006 the track had 12 degrees of banking. After the March 2006 race, which Jimmie Johnson won by .045 seconds over Matt Kenseth, the banking in the turns were increased to 20 degrees at their steepest point. Johnson also won the first race with the high-banked turns.
  • Johnson is a four-time winner at Las Vegas including three consecutive victories from 2005-07, both track records. He is the defending champion of the Kobalt Tools 400.
  • Jack Roush-owned cars have won six of the previous 13 races at Las Vegas, which leads all car owners. Roush drivers who have won at Las Vegas include Mark Martin (1998), Jeff Burton (1999 and 2000), Matt Kenseth (2003 and 2004), and Carl Edwards (2008). A victory by a Hendrick Motorsports machine Sunday would tie Rick Hendrick with Roush. In additon to Johnson's four wins, Hendrick also won in 2001 with Jeff Gordon.
  • Las Vegas is one of two Sprint Cup tracks on which Tony Stewart has previously competed and yet to visit victory lane and the only he has yet to win on in any division. His other Sprint Cup goose egg is at Darlington, where he won a Nationwide race in 2008.
  • Matt Kenseth's 2003 victory at Las Vegas was his lone win of his championship season, a statistic which ultimately gave birth to the Chase for the Cup playoff-format a year later.
  • The traditional race distance was extended by an extra 27 miles (18 laps) in tribute to Las Vegas-based automotive legend Carroll Shelby. Vegas native Kyle Busch won the Shelby 427. The race returned to it's normal 400-mile, 267-lap distance a year later and was simply titled "The Shelby American." Note: Clint Bowyer led at the 267-lap mark in 2009, but was passed by Busch two laps later.
  • Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, and Bobby Labonte are the only drivers to start all 13 previous races at Las Vegas. Of those four, Labonte is the only one without a Las Vegas victory. His best finish was fourth in 2003. Only two other drivers - Bill Elliott and Mike Skinner - who competed in the inaugural Las Vegas 400 in 1998 are attempting to qualify this weekend.
  • Sterling Marlin (2002) is the only previous Las Vegas winner not on this weekend's entry list.
  • The last ten winners of the Kobalt Tools 400: 2001: Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Chevrolet); 2002: Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Dodge); 2003: Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Ford); 2004: Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Ford); 2005: Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet); 2006: Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet); 2007: Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet); 2008: Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford); 2009: Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota); 2010: Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.