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NASCAR drivers, fans zoomed in on new rules for Pennzoil 400

Updated March 2, 2019 - 3:18 pm

One of Brad Keselowski’s endearing qualities is when you ask what seems a simple question, you often get a complex answer. Or at least not the one you expected.

The 2012 NASCAR champion from the outskirts of Detroit was asked if he thought race fans watching Sunday’s NASCAR Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway from their living room sofas would enjoy this year’s new rules package more, or the one from last year when Kevin Harvick ran away from the field.

“I would say if there’s one thing I want it’s the cameras to zoom out,” said the driver of Roger Penske’s No. 2 Ford, winner of last week’s race at Atlanta as well as last fall’s Las Vegas playoff race. “Whether it’s this rules package or last year’s, I just don’t feel with the cameras zoomed in you can really appreciate all that’s going on.”

If Saturday’s final Cup Series practice session is any indication, it’s going to take a lens with a really wide angle to catch all the action.

“So if I was sitting on my couch, the first thing I would say is ‘Zoom the cameras out!’ ” Keselowski said.

“I think more so than any rules change, the biggest thing we can do is give a perception of how much great racing there is across the whole field. I feel a lot of times the sport suffers because of the amount of times the cameras zoom in on one or two cars.”

The narrative for Sunday’s race can be summed up in four words: High downforce, high expectations. Harvick will start from the pole with Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin alongside on the front row, which will be irrelevant when the green flag falls and drafting begins.

Kyle Busch backs off

A variation of the rules package, which uses tapered engine spacers to curb horsepower, debuted during last week’s race at Atlanta. But that was said to be less a litmus test owing to the abrasive track there. The hope is that modifications that have slowed the cars by more than 10 mph also will bunch them on the smooth LVMS oval and produce the kind of slingshot passing seen on the superspeedways at Daytona and Talladega, Alabama.

The package was tested in late January at LVMS with mixed results. Kyle Busch was most vocal among the dissenters.

“You can probably do it,” the native Las Vegan told reporters about mashing the gas pedal to the floor and waiting for the horsepower, or lack of it, to kick in.

Busch has walked back his comments to some degree.

“When I talked about the package, we were just doing single-car action and single-car runs when I was brought in the media center,” said the superstar driver, who will pursue his second Cup Series win on his home track from third on the grid. “It was wide open, by yourself.

“With the action that happens in the pack, you do have to get out of the throttle, you do have to work the air. You have to work your car. There are some tense moments when you’re side by side.

“There are going to be instances where we crash.”

But if the new package puts new fans in the stands, Busch indicated he’s willing to give it a chance.

“Whatever is successful and being able to put more eyes on television and more butts in the seats,” he said. “That’s what it’s about, to put on a show.”

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

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