Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud – Kevin Harvick Destroys the Field in Las Vegas

Who’s in the headline – The driver who was second on the board at the sports books in Vegas when the green flag flew was Kevin Harvick. After Jimmie Johnson had a loose wheel and then blew a tire it was Harvick’s race to lose and he never had a problem until his right rear tire failed during his burnouts after he took the checkered flag first. It is Harvick’s first career win in 15 starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

2015 Las Vegas CUP Kevin Harvick confetti credit NASCAR via Getty Images
Kevin Harvick continuing his strong roll (credit: NASCAR via Getty Images)


What happened – In a replay of Atlanta, Joey Logano jumped to the point at the drop of the flag and led the first 27 laps. As the race went on Jimmie Johnson took his turn at the point but succumbed to a loose wheel that led to a sequence of maladies and a long day. That opened the door for Harvick who took control of the race and, for all intents and purposes, ran away and hid for the rest of the event. Harvick led the most laps by a mile and notched his sixth consecutive top 2 finish.

Why you should care – They often say that to win a championship you have to first lose one. Harvick did that more than once before finally snaring the big trophy last season. He’s now snagged two seconds and a first to kick off the defense of his Sprint Cup title. It is early in the year and everyone knows that there are ebbs and flows to any year so it is far too early to make assumptions about how the season will wrap up. Don’t forget the vagaries of the Chase as well, but for now, Kevin Harvick is looking like the driver to beat in 2015.

What your friends are talking about

Kurt Busch will not be charged for the alleged domestic violence in Dover Delaware last season. Due to the fact that the had already committed to the NASCAR program to be reinstated from his suspension, there are no changes for the timeframe for him to get back behind the wheel. However, Vice President of Integrated Marketing Communications David Higdon acknowledged that the removal of possible criminal charges eliminates a significant hurdle between Busch and reinstatement.

Higdon also spun a web of double talk around a question about why Travis Kvapil is not being held to the same standard as Busch. He stated that NASCAR has learned a lot about handling domestic violence and, were the situation presented again they would handle Kvapil’s case differently. Basically he insinuated they blew it with Kvapil but felt like it was too late to change his ‘punishment’. It is unacceptable that the sanctioning body claims to have a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence but does not suspend a driver who in essence pleaded guilty to it.

After two weeks with people singing the “The Star-Spangled Banner” the way it was written, Rascal Flatts turned it into an American Idol audition again. On any other song people can feel free to invoke their poetic license and improvise all they want but the anthem is sacred and should not be sung any way other than how Francis Scott Key wrote it. They may be the most award-winning Country music band of the century or decade or whatever they are, but they aren’t winning any awards for that crap on Sunday.

Eldora’s website was hacked and a message that was credited to ISIS/ISIL was placed on the home page. Are you serious? Here’s hoping it is some misguided booger eater in his mom’s basement that doesn’t have a clue about world politics. If the radical Islamic group seriously is targeting the popular dirt track with their hateful propaganda they just might be barking up the wrong tree. If they legitimately did it, expect to see a fleet of bass boats headed across the Atlantic to lay an all out assault on the radicals spewing their vitriolic hate.

It is a dead horse but we’re going to keep beating it until it can’t happen anymore. Erik Jones hit another wall without a SAFER barrier on it this weekend at Las Vegas. When the barriers were first installed the company line was they put the protection in the areas where the hardest impacts could happen. Well the time has come where all impacts anywhere on a race track should be considered hardest and the walls should be fitted with the steel and foam energy reducing barriers. C’mon track owners and NASCAR, make it happen and make it happen now.

Who is mad – Six-time champion Jimmie Johnson and his crew put themselves in a bad position with a loose wheel on a pit stop early in the race. That was followed up by a blown right front tire that pancaked the right side of the No. 48 and killed their chance of making it back-to-back mile and a half wins. After some talking heads were asking Johnson about this being a championship season after last week, they will probably ask him this week what is wrong with the team.

2015 Las Vegas CUP Jeff Gordon vertical credit NASCAR via Getty Images
Jeff Gordon wondering just what is happening to his season (credit: NASCAR via Getty Images)


Jeff Gordon won his first pole position at Las Vegas after 18 years of trying. Unfortunately for Gordon he didn’t get to start at the point due to an incident with Danica Patrick as the red and black flags flew to end final practice. Patrick spun entering turn one and Gordon made contact with her car, damaging the right front. Rather than take a chance fixing it, Alan Gustafson and crew rolled out the backup which put Gordon to the back for the start of the race. When Johnson had his issue and bounced off of the wall Gordon drilled Jeb Burton in the back and caved in the nose on his car. As a result the four-time champion did not have a chance to close out his career at Las Vegas with a win.

Joey Logano got busted twice for speeding on pit lane in Las Vegas and had to battle back from that adversity. He then was poised to put a large number of cars behind the eight ball when Brad Keselowski’s team let a tire get away on pit lane and had it roll into the infield grass. NASCAR obviously had to throw a caution for the tire in a position where someone might contact it but they chose to withhold the caution until Logano had to pit. Logano could have had a major advantage over his competition if he had pinned all but six cars a lap down. Instead he rejoined the fight at the end of the lead lap and battled home to a 10th place finish.

Who is happyAJ Allmendinger puts in another great effort with his small organization and lands a sixth place finish. The run backs up a seventh place finish from last weekend. The last time JTG-Daugherty finished two consecutive races with top 10 finishes was last spring at Richmond and Talladega. They are currently fifth in points and third among teams without a win so far this season.

Martin Truex Jr. had a season to forget in 2014. Five top 10s and one top 5 with a 24th place finish in points will make anyone talk to themselves and doubt their abilities. Truex has started off 2015 in completely different fashion. His runner-up finish at Vegas gives him three strat top 10s and matches his top 5 total for the whole of last season. Truex led one lap in 2014. He’s quadrupled that amount in 2015 with one lap led in the Daytona 500 and three laps out front Sunday. Truex is knocking on the door and hoping to put Furniture Row back in the Chase this season.

When the checkered flag flew: Kevin Harvick crossed the line first to claim his 29th career Cup series victory. Harvick has 505 career starts.

29 victories puts Harvick in a tie with Kyle Busch for 23rd on the all-time wins list in the Cup series.

This is Harvick’s first career triumph at LVMS.

Harvick is the third different winner in three races this season.

Harvick is the seventh different winner in the last seven Vegas races. Carl Edwards was the last driver to repeat at LVMS with wins in 2008 and 2011.

Harvick’s finish is the sixth consecutive race where he has come home in the top 2. The last time that happened it was Jeff Gordon in 1996.

Martin Truex Jr.’s runner-up finish was his first since his win at Sonoma in 2013.

It is Truex’s eighth career number two run.

This was Truex’s first career top 5 at LVMS.

Ryan Newman’s podium run was his best career finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Newman has four career top 5 finishes in Sin City.

This is Newman’s 47th career top 3 run. That ranks him 50th on the all-time list for podium finishes.

Jeb Burton as the Rookie of the Race despite his contact with Jeff Gordon.

The margin of victory was 1.640 seconds.

Harvick took home $431,815 for the win. That brings the winners’ checks for 2015 to

The three drivers who now have an inside track to the Chase by virtue of winning a race already this season are: Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick.

The remaining 13 drivers who are eligible for the Chase based on their current point position are:

  1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  1. Martin Truex Jr.
  2. AJ Allmendinger
  3. Kasey Kahne
  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Casey Mears
  3. Matt Kenseth
  4. Greg Biffle
  5. Ryan Newman
  6. Paul Menard
  7. Clint Bowyer
  8. Aric Almirola
  9. Brad Keselowski

Takin’ it to the Bank

Cup winners this year have pocketed $2,349,169 while the last place finisher has taken home $396,545

In the Xfinity series it has been $283,662 for the winners and $65,188 for last place.

After two Truck races the winner has $137,089 and the last loser has banked $21,153.

What is in the cooler – Kevin Harvick has led 258 laps in the last two weeks. Despite that domination, the racing has been quite enjoyable. The tires didn’t give up as much in Las Vegas as they did in Atlanta but they still made a difference. As a result the racing was still great in the pack. Drivers were running from the top to the bottom and everywhere in-between. Truex put some token pressure on Harvick at the end and the leader was reporting a vibration so there was a small amount of drama. All things rolled together and the beer blender spits out four chilled glasses of Liquid Courage from Banger Brewing.

Where do you point your DVR for next week – The West Coast swing continues next Sunday as the circuit heads to the desert Southwest to race at Phoenix International Raceway. 312 laps on the one mile oval translates to 500 kilometers so they will broadcast the race as the Campingworld.com 500. It will be shown on Fox 3:30 Easten time. It will also be heard on MRN and NASCAR SiriusXM radio.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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Bill B

I’m no Logano fan but it irks me when NASCAR waits to throw the caution flag until everyone pits. Either something warrants a caution or it doesn’t. If it does then the caution should fly within a lap or two of it’s causation.

Even though it would have been better for my driver if a caution had come out in the last 30 laps, it was nice to see a long green flag run to the end of the race with no bogus debris caution to bunch everyone up and manufacture a crapshoot ending.

So why was there a competition caution yesterday????? I think we all know the answer. It’s NASCAR’s way of making sure that most name drivers stay on the lead lap for at least the first hour of a race.

I agree with the 4 can rating.


If they are shitcans then I agree with the four. A four portapotty race if I ever saw one. As to the cautions, it is probably going to far to call the races fixed but they are certainly manipulated. It is one of the major reasons for my growing lack of interest.

Bill B

It’s gotten to the point where if they don’t throw a bunch of fake debris cautions and the driver that deserves to win actually wins, I give the race higher marks. At least there were some long green flag runs and green flag pit stops. At least it felt like a race happened and not a bunch of 30 lap sprints to the next caution. It is obvious that my expectations are so low that the grades I give are relative to other races.


i was wondering the same thing about the competition caution. not like it had rained saturday night in vegas. i mean yes the track was different sunday to saturday, but come on.

i guess teams are starting to gamble with 3-4 lug nuts on a wheel? i see that as major problem waiting to happen if you go driving at the speeds they do with the wheels not fastened tightly, but he that’s my opinion.

what was with the wheels taking their own spin into the infield grassy area? honestly i don’t know why an official could not have retrieved the tire with the cars under caution instead of throwing a caution.

oh well…..i lost interest in the race early and turned back for the last 15 or so laps.

and yes, i do know that princess sparkle pony finished with a top 30 finishing spot, and mr. sparkle pony was right behind her in finishing order.


oh yeah and i forgot….sure the track looked packed. when you only sell seats in certain area and cover large areas of seats with flags and advertising banners.


I keep waiting for them to superimpose a virtual crowd. I mean you can’t throw a blanket over the whole place.


considering the $$ from the tv contracts going to the tracks, I don’t see that they have any real interest in having actual people there. Ha, a virtual crowd, now that would suit Fox and the other TV partners fine, they could make the crowd stand up and cheer all the time! BZF would like it, too, he wouldn’t have any pesky real people disagreeing with his rule.

Tim S.

Every seat would be full. And imagine the tie-ins. Everyone wearing “Thanks Jeff!” shirts on lap 24, every fan in Earnhardt gear during the Dale Jr. Performance Update…we’d better quit giving them ideas.


they NEED ideas, the ones they are coming up with themselves aren’t working.


Well FOX adds in the fake crowd noise every time Jr takes the lead, so why not take it a step further and use the virtual crowd. Then maybe they can put the rest of the SAFER barriers around their tracks with the money saved from not having to open the grandstands.

Carl D.

My wife asked me what the competition caution was for and I just had to shrug my shoulders. Who makes these decisions? I guess if that’s the only thing I have to complain about, I should just shut up. Go A.J.!


I think it rained six months ago in Vegas. Or someone spilled a beer on the track and washed away all the rubber.
Allegedly, it had something to do with a new tire, which makes me wonder what is the point of two days of practice?
All these competition cautions do is cheat everyone out of 30-35 laps of racing, since inevitably everyone cruises around knowing there is a caution and then of course, the caution period always takes many more laps than it should.

Charlie B

4? Maybe 3. Bit of a snoozefest. Racing and passing in the middle of the pack is one thing. The tv broadcasts don’t do it justice. A few seconds focusing on this car, a few seconds focusing on that car. But I’d like to see it, just for a change, at the front of the field. NASCAR still has a huge aero problem.

Pamm in MI

I saw some of the race, but knew after the snoozefest on Sat. that this one would not be a barn burning. I give it a 2 and my guy was near the front all day. Had no idea there was a competition caution because I wasn’t watching in the beginning. Can’t imagine what it was for, unless Bill B hit the nail on the head.


I am one of those who have given up this year on watching the races. I see in the newspaper who won and come here to see how it went. It has been very nice so far. From reading this, I don’t believe that I am missing much.

Thank you to Brian France for all of the free time on Sundays!


I promised myself I would stop watching this year. Didn’t watch a lap of Daytona or wherever they were last week. Then I watched the entire aero dependent, no passing, gelded motor parade complete with Waltrip narrated buffoonery. The worst part is that I’ve got no one to blame but myself. I guess it is like smoking, I’ll try to quit again next week.


LOL, well, once Gordon made his announcement at the beginning of the season, I knew that I would be watching (although other than 2 poles, there hasn’t been much for me to cheer about during the races). I’m hoping that will change soon.

So I’ll suffer thru NASCAR’s mess this year and can go “cold turkey” next year since my fav will no longer be running in the madness.

Yesterday since it was a nice day and the snow/ice was melting, I did spend some time outside chipping the ice away rather than listen to DW’s act.

So far I’m not impressed with the new “package” for racing. Seems that it has caused the cars to be even less able to pass.

Tim S.

I didn’t watch the whole thing, but checked in a few times, one of them just as Johnson lost the first tire, which seemed to throw the on-air folks into a panic attack. It seemed to be the Hendrick Show with special guests, as usual.


LOL, yes, I always think some earth shattering think has happened when horrors, Johnson has a problem! He’s got a win and it would be extremely unlikely he would be outside the top 20 when the end of the season farce begins, so he and his team don’t really need to care, but it sure does make DW and the rest all upset.


Could it be that there was no bogus caution at the end because a Mr. H car was leading? That means Brian doesn’t have to call the tower.

Why doesn’t someone ask NASCAR why, if there is a competition caution, isn’t everyone forced to change 4 tires?

Bill B

I don’t know. A caution with about 20 laps to go would have really benefitted Jeff Gordon and maybe Earnhardt and probably not hurt Harvick.


Agree, Bill. I was kind of hoping for a caution and nada, but then again, IMO, I’d still rather have the race end w/o NASCAR sticking their noses in.


That aero package needs tweaks – I don’t see much of a change in the racing from last year.

I’m not sure why all the angry people not watching NASCAR don’t take up gardening.


Mathan – us angry people know what has been ruined over the past years. with the logano win at daytona hendrick has 2 wins this year. just read the comments below Mathan and you’ll kind of understand. it’s just the almight dollar now.

and besides you have to wait for ground the thaw before you can garden. now i did clean gutters yesterday afternoon here in ga.


Well, us not quite so angry people also know what’s happened over the last few years (Ive been watching it since the 80’s) so I guess one takes what’s out of one’s control gracefully and either continues to watch the product that no one is forcing you to watch or moves on to something else. The whole hanging around to mank in the flats schtick truly is a waste and merely comes off as no differnet than whining about Facebook making chnages to the free product one is using.

Try hockey.


Don’t worry. When Gordon retires at the end of the year, there will be a whole bunch of people gardening, or finding anything else to do besides watch Nascar. Can’t wait to see what the grandstands look like next year with Gordon gone. Its not going to be pretty.


Yup. The Talledega fans will need a new Bud lite target.


You are absolutely correct there, Steve. I think it will be sort of interesting to see what happens.


babydufus = babybored
this isn’t racing
it’s more like watching a…
circus train come into town.
the hype is much more than the event.
i remember when
racing was exciting
it made my blood boil
it ignited something in my soul.
zero beers.


The drivers must love this type of racing. Plenty of room on both sides all day long to just drive around and collect that big paycheck at the end of the day. I’m glad I didn’t waste my Sunday watching Nascars new intermediate “package”. They have alot of work to do if they think it will make the racing more competitive. I find it funny that Nascar is so worried about the NFL, but they can’t even put out a better product than the golf tournaments every weekend.


By the way, thanks for bringing up the anthem. Every week it is destroyed by someone, or group of someone’s trying to make a name for themselves by making it “their own”. The song should be sung one way and one way only. An established group like Rascal Flats feeling the need to do “their way” is pretty disappointing. It gets worse and worse every week and it seems to be happening in other sports as well. The 10 minute rendition and destruction of it at the Super Bowl comes to mind as well. Thank you for bringing this up.


What new aero package? Looks like clean air is the king. Same old looking boringness to me.

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