The addition of progressive banking after the 2006 race has exponentially improved the side-by-side racing at the D-shaped oval, so expect to see plenty of exciting action in the desert this weekend. Now home to the end of season banquet, Las Vegas is a track that one day will probably have a second race date. So expect the show in Sin City to be a good one, as the contenders and pretenders slowly start to separate themselves on your fantasy roster.
Greg Biffle: The Biff has started 2010 in a solid manner with a third place run in the Daytona 500 and a 10th-place effort at Auto Club Speedway. He does have a winless streak that stretches back some 61 races to the spring Dover race of 2008, but this weekend he might just snap that barren run at a track at which he tends to run well. He finished 40th in his first ever start at LVMS, but since then he's finished 6th, 8th, 16th, 3rd and 7th. Biffle has made the Chase in both of the previous two seasons, and although it's still ridiculously early, the signs are positive he'll make it three for three in 2010.
By the numbers: The Biff sat on the pole in the 2006 race -- one of his six career pole position starts.
Kyle Busch: Busch hasn't really got going yet, with two 14th-place finishes in a row to start 2010. But he comes to his hometown track as defending race champ, and where better for him to show everyone that ol' Rowdy is well and up for a title fight this season? His stats at LVMS aren't too shabby, either: 6 attempts, 1 win, 3 top-5s, 4 top-10s, 2 poles, and an average finish of 11.2. You can't help but feel, however, Busch will be gunning for much better than that on Sunday afternoon.
By the numbers: In the 2009 race at LVMS, Busch started on the pole and led 51 laps on his way to the race victory.
Jeff Gordon: As with Kyle Busch, it's been a relatively quiet start to the season for the 19-year veteran, with a 26th place finish in the Daytona 500 and a 20th-place run at Auto Club Speedway. Expect normal service to be resumed this weekend as Gordon heads to a track at which he tends to run well -- he has four finishes of 6th or higher in the past five races at LVMS. With Hendrick stablemate Jimmie Johnson also on a "drive for five," it's fair to say the California native might feel just a tick more pressure to finally get it done this year. I'm betting he gets his season moving in the right direction this weekend.
By the numbers: Gordon has an average starting position of 14.8 and an average finish of 14.2 at LVMS.
Who to avoid
Jimmie Johnson: After winning three in a row at this track, the four-time champ finished 24th and 29th in the previous two races at LVMS. I probably won't mention JJ again in this section all year, so I'm getting it out the way early. Realistically, there's never a bad weekend to activate the four-time champ but if there is a chink in his armor, based on his last two attempts, LVMS might just be that place.
Jeff Burton: Sunday's race will mark Burton's 550th Cup series start, placing him 26th on the all-time list in terms of race attempts. And the good news for the wily veteran is that he's off to an excellent start, with a third place finish in Fontana on the back of an 11th place run in the Daytona 500. Form aside, Las Vegas Motor Speedway is, statistically, the future senator's best track. Burton has a career low average finish of 9.8, having run all 12 previous races at the mile-and-a-half track to go along with 2 wins, 5 top-5s, and 8 top-10s. Those are impressive numbers: "Vote Burton" this weekend in your fantasy line-ups.
By the numbers: Burton has led laps in seven of the 12 races he's attempted at LVMS.
Kevin Harvick: When Harvick finally hangs up his driving boots, it's not a stretch to say that 2009 will not be a year he remembers with any great fondness. Now in the final year of his contract -- a relationship that stretches back 10 years and 324 races, Harvick appears rejuvenated this season, and he could quite easily have won both races, finishing seventh in the 500 and second last weekend. With the way the RCR cars have started the season, don't be surprised to see Harvick finish strong for a third straight week.
By the numbers: Harvick has led 68 of the 458 total laps run (15%) so far this season.
Clint Bowyer:Making it a trio of RCR selections this week, I'm picking, arguably, one of the most underrated drivers on the Sprint Cup circuit. Make no mistake; Bowyer has the potential to win a Cup crown to go with the Nationwide Series title he won in 2008. Openly frustrated not to win the 500, Bowyer made do with a fourth place finish and followed it up with an eighth place run at ACS. Last season, Bowyer finished second at LVMS, leading 9 laps behind a dominant Kyle Busch.
By the numbers: Bowyer has an average finish of 15.5 in his 147 Sprint Cup race career.
Jeff Burton: He's hungry, and he loves LVMS. Put your money on the senator-elect to get it done in Sin City this weekend.
Next up: We head to the fastest track on the circuit, Atlanta Motor Speedway for the 102nd Cup race at the 1.5-mile oval.