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Las Vegas NASCAR race to see new rules, warmer weather

Updated February 24, 2019 - 4:56 pm

Everybody in NASCAR is talking about a new rules package that is expected to enhance the quality of competition at Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

LVMS is mostly talking about the weather.

An insert on the home page of the speedway’s website shows a bright yellow sun and a forecast of 70 degrees when the green flag falls.

The conditions should be ideal. The hope is that the racing will be, too.

There was little drama at last year’s LVMS spring race when Kevin Harvick drove away from the field, leading 214 of 267 laps. New rules that will reduce engine horsepower from 750 to around 550 will be in force Sunday, and may help bunch the cars and prevent the leader from breaking away.

When the new package was tested at LVMS in late January, the cars ran closer together in the draft. But the lack of horsepower made it difficult to get a run and pass the leader.

“From what I watched, I feel like it’s going to be a little bit hairy and crazy, you know?” said Martin Truex Jr., who won both the Pennzoil 400 and Cup Series championship in 2017.

“It definitely looked like the leader had a big advantage. I’m a little worried about that, but it looked like the racing throughout the pack was pretty good.”

A version of the engine package was used in Sunday’s race at Atlanta. Results were negligible. Truex nearly ran down winner Brad Keselowski at the finish, but only 17 of the 37 starters finished on the lead lap.

The cars ran with tapered engine spacers, but not the aero ducts that transfer air away from the front tires. That configuration will debut at LVMS, which offers a much smoother surface than the abrasive Atlanta track.

In addition to the Pennzoil 400 on Sunday, the Truck and Xfinity Series will run on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The race weekend gets under way Wednesday with the World of Outlaws sprint cars on the LVMS dirt track. The Outlaws also will run Thursday night, and will be joined by the K&N Pro Series West stock cars.

The NASCAR hauler parade originating at the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign and traveling down Las Vegas Boulevard to downtown also returns this year. It starts at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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