Today's 400-miler at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway provides the third-different style of racing in three weeks. From the drafting of Daytona to the finess of Phoenix, now it's about getting every ounce of raw speed you can out of your car and pushing it to its limits.
Three drivers have already pushed their car beyond its limit. Juan Pablo Montoya and Jimmie Johnson crashed on their first lap of Friday's opening practice and Saturday's final practice, respectively, while Kyle Busch wrecked in the Saturday morning session. Johnson and Busch have to go to the field because of backup cars, while Montoya would have been able to retain his spot - as the rules state you can so long as you change cars before you qualify - but they changed engines. Regan Smith's team changed a transmission and will also drop to the back of the field.
For the full starting grid led by polesitter Kasey Kahne, head over to Jayski.com.
Here are some stories to watch in today's Kobalt Tools 400.
Can Richard Childress Racing drivers deliver the boss's first Las Vegas win? Kevin Harvick starts from the third position and has been fast all weekend and is probably the favorite among his three teammates to give RC his first victory at the track. Jeff Burton is a two-time Vegas winner, but those triumphs both came while racing for Jack Roush.
Speaking of Roush, will his domination of the track continue? Besides Rick Hendrick, there has been little to no contest as to who the king of Las Vegas is. Roush-owned Fords won the first three Vegas events with Burton and Mark Martin (the inaugural winner in 1998). He claimed back to back wins with Matt Kenseth in 2003 (the only win of Kenseth's championship campaign) and '04. Carl Edwards added wins in 2008 and last season. Kenseth and Greg Biffle have been fast, while Edwards nearly crashed in qualifying and will have to race from midpack. Edwards only won this race a year ago, and just one more triumph ultiamtely would have given him enough points to hold off Tony Stewart at the end of the season rather than tying and losing on a tie-breaker.
What about Hendrick and his teams? Jimmie Johnson has a track-record four victories (including three-straight from '05-07) and Hendrick has one more with Jeff Gordon (the first win of his 2001 championship, his most recent title to date). Kasey Kahne is on the pole, trying to overcome his miserable start to the season, while Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s winless streak is at 132 races but his car has been very fast this weekend.
Can Stewart and company redeem themselves for last year's loss? Stewart had the dominant car at last year's event, but a hung air-hose wound up costing him the event. Stewart took two fresh tires on his next pit stop to regain the lost track position and recommence his domination, but was forced to take four tires at the end. Edwards and others took two tires, and without a caution flag, Stewart was unable to run him down before the checkered flag. The loss denied the eventual Sprint Cup champion what would have been his first win at Las Vegas of any kind. He has raced there in Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and IZOD IndyCar Series competition, but has yet to take a checkered flag.
Joey Logano is off to a good start and has been fast this weekend, can he break through for his first true win? Sure, Logano grabbed a win thanks to rain at Loudon in 2009, but when that is your lone win in three full-seasons, it looks like more of a fluke than a real triumph at the sport's top level. Logano has two top-tens to open the season, one of four drivers to do that, and his Toyota has been quick all weekend. This could be his best shot to score a victory.
There will be plenty of other stories to watch as the Kobalt Tools 400 progresses, and SB Nation Atlanta will have them all covered throughout today's 267-lapper.