The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs head to Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend for the running of the South Point 400. The 1.5-mile oval will utilize the 550-horsepower package, the first time this postseason it’s been used.
The first race in the Round of 12 proved to be unpredictable last year; only six of the dozen championship-eligible drivers finished in the top 10 last fall. The track’s progressive banking can lead to some wild restarts, producing multiple grooves where drivers can run three, even four-wide off turn 4 and through the tri-oval.
Fords have been dominant at Vegas as of late, winning six of the last 11 races held here. But Chevrolet came out on top in March, Kyle Larson taking the checkered flag for his first victory running the No. 5 for Hendrick Motorsports.
Larson will go for the season sweep from the pole after NASCAR chose to use the off-track qualifying system for this race. The first lap the drivers take at speed will be under the green flag Sunday night as they look to limit at-track time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The field was set through a metric calculated by the percentages below.
50% of the metric is based on finishing position from the previous race (split between driver and owner).
35% of the metric is the team’s current position in the NASCAR Cup Series owner point standings.
15% of the metric is based on the team’s fastest lap during the previous race.
The team with the lowest total starts on the pole, then the next lowest, etc. until the starting grid is complete. During the postseason, no matter what, all 12 playoff drivers remaining are guaranteed to start in spots 1-12.
Just 38 cars are entered at Las Vegas, leaving two empty spots on the grid. All 36 teams who have guaranteed spots are here along with two “open” cars: the No. 37 of JTG Daugherty Racing (Ryan Preece) and the No. 66 of MBM Motorsports (JJ Yeley).
Open cars are not guaranteed a spot and, when more than 40 cars are entered, need to qualify for a race on speed.
1. Kyle Larson (P)
2. Ryan Blaney (P)
3. William Byron (P)
4. Martin Truex Jr. (P)
5. Kevin Harvick (P)
6. Denny Hamlin (P)
7. Alex Bowman (P)
8. Brad Keselowski (P)
9. Joey Logano (P)
10. Kyle Busch (P)
11. Chase Elliott (P)
12. Christopher Bell (P)
13. Tyler Reddick
14. Matt DiBenedetto
15. Austin Dillon
16. Erik Jones
17. Aric Almirola
18. Ross Chastain
19. Chase Briscoe (R)
20. Kurt Busch
21. Bubba Wallace
22. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
23. Michael McDowell
24. Ryan Preece
25. Chris Buescher
26. Daniel Suarez
27. Corey LaJoie
28. Cole Custer
29. Ryan Newman
30. Garrett Smithley (i)
31. Josh Bilicki
32. Anthony Alfredo (R)
33. Justin Haley (i)
34. BJ McLeod (i)
35. Cody Ware (i)
36. Quin Houff
37. Joey Gase (i)
38. JJ Yeley (i)
(P) – Playoff driver
(R) – Rookie
(i) – Ineligible to collect Cup Series points
- Kyle Larson (pole) will start up front for the fourth time in the last six races. He’s seeking his first season sweep at a racetrack since Michigan in 2017 with Chip Ganassi Racing.
- Ryan Blaney (second) is the highest-qualifying Ford. He also won the last 550-horsepower race NASCAR had at Michigan back in August.
- William Byron (third) is the highest-qualifying Chevrolet.
- Kevin Harvick (fifth) is the only winless driver this season remaining in championship contention.
- Chase Briscoe (19th) is the highest-qualifying rookie.
- Kurt Busch (20th) is the defending winner of this race.
- Cody Ware (35th) returns to the No. 51 of Rick Ware Racing after a two-race break for carbon monoxide poisoning suffered at Darlington.
- Joey Gase (37th) returns to the No. 15 of Rick Ware Racing, replacing James Davison. Gase last ran at Richmond earlier this month.
- JJ Yeley (38th) moves from the No. 51 to the No. 66 of MBM Motorsports this weekend, replacing David Starr. The team is running a limited schedule this season.
NASCAR Race Breakdown
Race: South Point 400
Track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Date: Sunday, Sept. 26
TV: NBCSN, 7 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 267 laps (400 miles)
Stage 1: 80 Laps
Stage 2: 80 Laps
Final Stage: 107 Laps
Jack Wood stops by the Frontstretch Podcast to give his NASCAR perspective as a rookie running the Camping World Truck Series with GMS Racing. Then, Tom Bowles and host Davey Segal take a closer look at the Kevin Harvick – Chase Elliott incident from Bristol and how their feud may play out at Las Vegas Motor Speedway… and beyond.