Heat? What heat was that, asked Kyle Larson, the second-place finisher in Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“My hair wasn’t even sweaty when I got out,” said the driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy after crossing the finish line second to Brad Keselowski in the NASCAR playoff opener. “It honestly wasn’t too bad in the car. It’s nice being out here with no humidity.”
Yes, it’s a dry heat, but regardless of what Larson says, it still was one of the three takeaways from a hot day at the track:
1. Hot track, hotter racing
While 100-degree temperatures sent spectators scurrying for the new swimming pool above Turn 4 and any shady spots they could find a few laps after the green flag fell, the quality of racing on the sun-slickened track sent them scurrying back to their seats for the exciting closing laps.
Often criticized as a one-groove racetrack, Las Vegas Motor Speedway offered passing up high, down low and in the middle of the track, and also sent cars careening into the walls. The same also was true for Friday night’s Truck series race and the Xfinity series event on Saturday afternoon.
“I’m sure the 100 degrees plays a factor in that,” said Keselowski. “It’s so darn hot that cars were blowing tires and things were probably happening that probably wouldn’t be happening if it was cooler out.”
The well-coifed Larson said he noticed how the grandstands emptied out to large extent during the middle of the race. He said he could sympathize with the spectators.
“It stinks that the sun beats on them all race,” he said. “I feel like it was hotter in the sun than it was for us in the car.”
2. Playoff scramble
Usually when people in sports talk about throwing the record book out the window and fresh starts and all the other cliches, the same team or guy winds up winning.
Not on Sunday at LVMS.
Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. — stock car racing’s “Big 3” — had dominated the regular season, winning 17 of 26 races. But only Truex Jr. was a factor in the playoff opener, leading a race-high 96 laps before settling for third place.
Harvick crashed because the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company makes “piece of crap tires,” he said.
Busch mowed the infield grass, having his own tire issues, and fell a lap down before rallying as only he can, salvaging seventh place.
“You don’t want to have the bad days, but when you do, you have to turn them around and make chicken noodle soup out of something else,” said the native Las Vegan.
3. Night time is right time
With all respect due Kyle Larson’s hair, give LVMS a playoff point, or several playoff points, for wasting no time in reacting to the blistering temperatures that resulted in a lower-than-normal turnout for its first September race.
Track president Chris Powell said conversations with NASCAR and broadcast partner NBC already were under way for a start “later in the day.”
Might we see the green flag fall under a Saturday evening September sky in 2019?
Gentlemen, start your cooling fans.