NASCAR heads to Las Vegas for the Pennzoil 400 and the Eckel 4 like Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, more
Pennzoil 400, Las Vegas, 3:30 p.m. Fox TV
Three weeks, three races, three long shot winners.
After Michael McDowell and Christopher Bell won their first-ever NASCAR Cup races the first two weeks of the season, William Byron won just his second career race last week.
Are the times-a-changing?
Consider that favorites Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Martin Truex and defending Cup Champion Chase Elliott have yet to take a lap on Victory Lane, while McDowell, Bell and Byron have.
“To make a big jump like we did, I wouldn’t say it’s a complete, like, unbelievable shock, but it’s pretty close to it,” McDowell, who has finished in the top 10 all three weeks, said “We have definitely outperformed where we thought we’d be, especially on the mile-and-a-half.”
It is still very early, but McDowell, Bell and Byron have all clinched spots in the playoffs.
“Obviously, if we keep this streak going and 10 races from now we’re still running in the top 10, I’ll probably feel a little bit different about it,’’ McDowell said. "I’d tell you, yeah, we’re definitely going to do this every week. But right now, we’re going to take it one week at a time.”
This week it’s Las Vegas where you might think it’s going to be another long shot kind of race. But the Eckel 4, which as always includes Scott “Tobacco Road’’ Baker, Mike “Left Turn’’ Sweeney and Barry “Dr. NASCAR’’ Davis feel a return to normalcy occurs.
And for the first time all four selectors picked the same driver to win.
Here are Sunday’s picks.
Martin Truex Jr. (6-1): The New Jersey native has had success here. In his last seven Vegas races he has two wins and five top five finishes. The oddsmaker have made him the favorite for a reason and all four of the “The 4’’ have him on top this week.
Kevin Harvick (13-2): Last season’s point leader is one of just two drivers (the surprising McDowell is the other) with three top 10 finishes this season. He’s also won twice in Vegas and has three top five finishes. He’ll start on the pole and three of “The 4’’ mentioned him.
Joey Logano (13-2): The two-time defending winner of this race will try for a third straight win, which has only happened once here when Jimmie Johnson won from 2005-07.
Longshot Play: Kurt Busch (20-1): He won the second race of the season here last year in his hometown.