Viva Las Vegas. In short, what has the 2023 season taught us so far? Kyle Busch and Ross Chastain are nothing short of forces to be reckoned with (but we already knew that…right?). And, with perennial contender Chase Elliott sidelined for an indefinite period of time, the field is now that much more open. Week 3 feels a lot like an early, yet critical, race for much of the field. Will Busch repeat a dominating a performance from last week? Does Josh Berry hang around in contention filling in for the #9? Do we see a first-time winner this week? Let’s bring on week 3.
Driver to Fade:
I hate having to pick a “driver to fade” so early into the season. If this year proves anything like last, it truly isn’t over until it’s over. So, this week, let’s call it “driver to fade, at least for a few weeks.” I’ve got Ryan Preece in this spot- these last two weeks have brought an unfortunate stretch of misfortune for the #41 team. This, plus the fact that he’s never ran well at Vegas, leads me to believe it could be a tough day for the first-year SHR man. His average finish here is 25th and he’s starting 31st today. Don’t like his odds.
Mindset-wise, Bubba Wallace seems to have turned a new leaf this year. He’s shown streaks of promise this year, even amid his 2 DNFs in 2 races. Today, he starts 13th and was 6th fastest in practice on Saturday. No need to rehash what happened here in the Fall- he’s been all smiles so far this season, and we look for the #23 to stick around up front today. His averages here don’t show promise, but it wouldn’t surprise us to see a top 12 finish from the #23 crew this week.
With Chase Elliott now potentially facing a season where the playoffs may be out of sight, out of mind (though we’re not ones to speculate), there’s no doubt that Kyle Busch smells blood and is out to prove that he’s the driver to beat in 2023. Rowdy scored a win here in the Trucks (shootin’ fish in a barrel) on Friday night and finished Top 5 yesterday in the Xfinity race. Need we say more?
Bad luck for Ryan Blaney these past two weeks. But something’s gotta give, right? Starting 3rd today and 2nd fastest in practice, Blaney is more than due. Blaney has shown considerable speed and promise this year when he hasn’t gotten caught up in the mischief. With his teammate starting on the pole, it’s no secret that Penske will bring the speed this afternoon. But I believe Blaney’s hunger will pay off this afternoon. We’re taking the #12 for the win at the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube.