It’s that time of the week again, friends and neighbors. With Las Vegas Motor Speedway as their latest victims, Kevin Harvick and the #4 squad are CLEARLY the team to beat this season. After their second dominating performance in as many races, Stewart-Haas Racing’s flagship team will head to what the NASCAR public knows is undoubtedly their strongest track: Phoenix International (ISM) Raceway. Let’s take a look back at the weekend before we focus the lens on the newly (partially) renovated ISM Raceway at Phoenix.
The Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas
We need to look further back through the weekend to find Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s best racing. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ Stratosphere 200 on Friday night was far and above the best racing of the weekend and could end up being the best 1.5 mile race across all series this season. Say and think what you will about the truck series but what we saw on Friday night is what the majority of NASCAR fans yearn for. I’ll go ahead and say that whatever the hell we saw Friday night is the caliber of racing that NASCAR needs on a regular basis: 4-5 drivers racing with everything they’ve got for the win. Kyle Busch prevailed for the win like Kyle Busch does but from my 1,855 mile away perspective it appeared to be his hardest fought truck series win to date. Brett Moffitt rolled on with his momentum from Atlanta for a solid 3rd place finish while the gritty veteran Johnny Sauter brought it home 2nd for his 91st career top 5 finish and third in as many races.
Speaking of momentum, Kevin Harvick and the #4 gang only multiplied their momentum at Las Vegas. Not to get ahead of myself here, but their stranglehold on the rest of the 36-40 car cup series field is unlike anything that we’ve seen. Stage Winner MTJ and the #78 team flat out dominated the intermediate tracks last season but this is next-level dominance. You’d be hard pressed to tell me that the 78 team was challenged last season on intermediates but Harvick was literally cruising through all 900 miles of the Atlanta and Las Vegas races. I consider myself Rainmanesque when it comes to racing but I genuinely can’t even think of who finished second on Sunday. I remember Jeff Green starting on the pole for the 2001 Outback Steakhouse 300 at Kentucky but I have no clue who finished where in a race 3 days ago. The story of the weekend was Harvick, Harvick, Harvick, as it should have been. Their performance was as dominant as it was impressive and while it isn’t conducive to close racing, they definitely should be applauded for their season thus far.
What We’ll Take With Us
I’m not gonna bore you with more Harvick-Childers 2018 dominance talk, but after pictures of their manipulated rear window circulated the media, brace yourself for the ‘THEY”RE CHEATING SUSPEND THEM FOR LIFE’ talk again. The Reddit debate spawned chatter about the issue across all motorsports media outlets. My take on it is this: if there was no rule in place about the rear window’s indentation for aerodynamic gains, you absolutely cannot call that cheating, much less take disciplinary action as such. NASCAR has the power to make a rule against this at any point but until then, get ready to see some indented rear windows at every track where downforce is a premium. The Ford camp showed class-leading speed all weekend and I don’t expect to see any drop off when the circus hits the track in Phoenix.
Looking Ahead To Phoenix
To be honest this is awkward because I’ve hit on Phoenix a trillion times already. Let’s call a spade a spade though, Kevin Harvick and the SHR #4 team will be expected to dominate even more than they already have. Phoenix has been known as their forte for as long as the #4 team has been around. Since the #4 team was assembled they have won 4 races dating back to 2014 with 3 of those wins coming consecutively. Embarrassingly good.