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Kobalt Tools 400 Friday Preview: Weather And Qualifying

Unlike last weekend in Phoenix, where a threat of rain persisted throughout the weekend, this weekend's activities at Las Vegas Motor Speedway should be nice and dry.

That means, of course, that NASCAR will not have to rely on speeds from today's practice (3 p.m. Eastern, SPEED) to set the grid for Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400. Speeds will determine the qualifying order, with the fastest cars in practice being the last to take a qualifying lap.

Las Vegas native Kurt Busch is the defending pole sitter of the Kobalt Tools 400. He toured the 1.5 mile track at a record-setting 188.719 MPH. He broke the record his brother Kyle had set one year prior. Kurt could not duplicate Kyle's 2009 race-winning performance, however; he was caught in an accident with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing teammates Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray.

Four drivers are tied with two poles at Las Vegas, the current track record: Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Bobby Labonte, and Dale Jarrett.

In addition to the 35 teams locked into the race courtesy of last year's owner points, there are nine teams attempting to qualify today. One, unfortunately, will begin the cross-country trek back East a couple of days prematurely.

That team will not be Phoenix Racing, however, who's No. 09 Chevrolet is guaranteed to qualify courtesy of Bill Elliott's past-champion's provisional. The Georgia racing legend has yet to use one of his six alotted provisional starting spots in 2011, qualifying for both the Daytona 500 and the Subway Fresh Fit 500 on speed.

With Elliott's James Finch-owned machine locked in, eight teams will battle for seven positions in Sunday's starting grid: Casey Mears (No. 13 Germain Racing Toyota), Mike Skinner (No. 32 FAS Lane Racing Ford), Dave Blaney (No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet), J.J. Yeley (No. 46 Whitney Motorsports Chevrolet), Landon Cassill (No. 60 Germain Racing Toyota), Michael McDowell (No. 66 HP Racing Toyota), Joe Nemechek (No. 87 NEMCO Motorsports Toyota), and Brian Keselowski (No. 92 K Automotive Dodge).

The same eight teams attempted last week's race in Phoenix, with Keselowski failing to make the event.

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