Three takeaways from Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
1. The package mostly worked. NASCAR’s new high downforce rules modifications expected to bunch the cars and prevent runaway wins on the intermediate ovals — such as Kevin Harvick’s in last year’s spring race at LVMS — received thumbs-up from most drivers, and one significant observer on pit road. “The key thing with the package was that nobody got out front by more than three or four seconds,” said Roger Penske, car owner for first- and second-place finishers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. “To me that shows you don’t have to be the leader, (that) you can be behind and catch up.”
2. Safety first. While many drivers predicted a calamitous race given the new rules package that had the cars running closer together in the draft and side by side to execute passes, it never materialized. There were no crashes and an even bigger rarity, no yellow flags, other than the mandatory ones at the conclusion of the first and second race stages. If you were a driver’s ed instructor, you would have been impressed.
3. Attendance holds steady. An estimated crowd of 55,000 sun-baked spectators turned out for the third race of the NASCAR season, comparable to the attendance at last year’s spring race at LVMS. There’s no longer a need to bring in auxiliary backstretch bleachers to accommodate crowds of 140,000 or more that packed the track during NASCAR’s halcyon days. But judging from all the RVs and empty beer cans in the camping areas, Las Vegas remains a high-speed destination.