Commentary

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: UAW-Dodge 400

Updated: February 29, 2008, 11:31 AM ET
By Mark Garrow | Jayski.com

Editor's Note: Mark Garrow provides driver trends for Sunday's UAW-Dodge 400 at Las Vegas Speedway.


• A.J. Allmendinger must race his way into Sunday's race based on his qualifying time. It would be his first race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS), and he better get in or he could be in real trouble in 2008.


• Andretti must race his way into the race Sunday based on his qualifying effort.
• In seven starts at LVMS, Andretti has an average finish of 28.1.


• In addition to Biffle's Cup stats at Las Vegas, he also has five Nationwide Series top-10s and one Craftsman Truck Series win.
• In four Cup starts here, Biffle has two top-10s. In six NNS starts at LVMS, Biffle has five top-10s and three top-5s.
• The "Biff" was 15th at California, but I expected a little bit better. I see him, again, this week as a guy who could finish eighth to 15th.


• Blaney has made seven Cup Series starts at the 1.5-mile speedway during his career, starting as high as 10th (2002) and finishing as high as 13th (2005). He has scored two top-20 finishes in Cup Series competition at the speedway and has qualified inside the top 11 twice.
• Blaney was one of the guys I was touting to start the year that would show big improvement over last year, especially with Joe Gibbs Racing helping Toyota ramp up its program. Blaney, however, has been a bust in the first two races and 30th-place run at California was really disturbing.


• Clint Bowyer will pilot Chassis No. 241 from the Richard Childress Racing (RCR) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) stable. This is a brand new Jack Daniel's Chevrolet Impala SS and this weekend will be the first time it will see time on the race track.
• The Jack Daniel's Racing Team tested at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Bowyer and company posted the second-fastest lap (30.293 seconds -- 178.259 mph) of the 76 cars at the test during the morning session on Jan. 28 and the ninth-best lap (29.775 seconds -- 181.360 mph) later that afternoon. The following day, Mr. Jack's Crew posted the 17th-fastest lap (29.532 seconds -- 182.852 mph) during the morning warm up and 16th-fastest time (29.337 seconds -- 184.068 mph) of the afternoon shakedown.
• Bowyer has two starts at LVMS with finishes of 36th and 15th, respectively.
• Bowyer is yet to get his first top-10 of the season and after limping home 19th at California this past Monday, I really don't know what to think about the Kansas driver. Then again, none of the RCR cars were stellar in Fontana and they seem to lack the speed of Hendrick, Gibbs, and Roush.


• Burton won the 1999 and 2000 Cup Series races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In 10 NASCAR Cup Series starts at the speedway, he has claimed three top-5 and six top-10 finishes. In addition, the South Boston, Va. native has posted one pole, three wins, five top-5 and six top-10 finishes in seven Nationwide Series starts at the track.
• The 19-time Cup Series winner currently holds an 18.4 starting average coupled with an 11.0 finishing average and has completed 2,474 of 2,554 total laps (96.9%) at the 1.5-mile track.
• Burton is the NASCAR Cup Series' third-best Quality Passer -- a statistic derived from the number of positions gained while running in the top-15 under green-flag conditions. Burton has gained an average of 45 spots over the past three events held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The South Boston, Va. native has also logged 644 of the last 801 laps (80.4 percent) running in the top 15.
• As we just talked about with Bowyer, Burton is lacking overall speed. He's been decent in the first two races otherwise he wouldn't be 12th in the points. Burton, though, seems a long way from being a top-five contender or a potential winner.


• Busch's career record at LVMS sports one top-5 finish and two top-10s in seven races. His best start to date was second in 2004 and his best finish was third in the 2005 season. Busch started 10th and finished 26th in last year's race.
• Busch has an average finish of 17.6 in seven career races on the 1.5-mile Las Vegas track.
• His average finish over the first two races this year is 7.5 and I think that is the area in which he'll finish at Vegas. It seems teammate Ryan Newman has found a little more speed, but Busch will be money in the bank as a potential top-10 driver not only at Vegas but Atlanta, Bristol, and Texas too.


• Busch has three consecutive top-10 finishes at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
• Busch's career-best finish of second came in his second Cup start in 2005 at LVMS.
• The boy is "money" right now. He's led 100 laps in the first two races in grabbing a pair of fourth-place finishes and has speed to burn. He's one of my favorites to win this weekend. He always gets up on the wheel in his hometown of Las Vegas and given he's got one of the fastest cars on the planet right now he could go triple 7s Sunday.


• Carpentier will drive chassis No. 232 this week; which was tested at Las Vegas but has never been raced. Carpentier and crew also tested at Rockingham earlier this week in preparation for Las Vegas.
• Being outside the top-35 in owner points, Carpentier will have to qualify on time.


• Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be making his ninth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this Sunday. In his eight previous starts, Earnhardt has led 145 laps and recorded one top-5 finish and two top-10s. His best finish was second place, which he achieved in the spring 2003 race.
• Earnhardt will race Chassis No. 88-488, a brand new car, during Sunday's race. The team tested another car at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but decided to build a new one for the race based on data accumulated from the test session. The test chassis will serve as the primary backup.
• I was waiting to see how Junior did at California to get a real feel for what he's got right now with Rick Hendrick. Unfortunately, getting sucked into the early wreck with teammate Casey Mears messed that all up. Still, I think Junior had an outstanding test in Vegas and he's top-10 material in the UAW-Dodge 400.


• Carl Edwards will make his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend in the UAW-Dodge 400. In his previous Cup starts at the 1.5-mile tri-oval, Edwards has one top-10 finish. Edwards captured sixth place in last year's UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400 at LVMS.
• Edwards' average start at LVMS is 18th, his average finish is 15.3. The Columbia, Mo., native has completed 100% of the laps he has attempted at the 1.5-mile track.
• The No. 99 Dish Network team will be unloading chassis No. RK-558, this a brand new car that is identical to the car Edwards raced last weekend at Fontana.
• Edwards is another guy who is "money" right now. He's on top of his game and Roush has clearly caught up to Hendrick and Gibbs when it comes to the "Car of Today". Edwards is a potential winner or at least top five this weekend in Las Vegas. Forget about what Edwards has done at Vegas in the past, he'll get his first top five there this weekend.


• Franchitti is making his first-ever NASCAR start at Las Vegas. He has raced here in the IRL. Franchitti's only Cup Series starts have been this year at Daytona and Fontana.
• He is guaranteed to make Sunday's field as his team finished in the top-35 in owners' points in 2007.


• Chassis No. 506 is the chassis the No. 38 FreeCreditReport.com team will be running this weekend for the UAW-Dodge 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This is the same chassis the team tested with earlier in the year during the preseason testing sessions at Las Vegas Motor Speedway January 28th and 29th.
• Honestly, I was shocked to see Gilliland finish 17th at California and I would be hard pressed to see him finish in the top-20 again at Vegas.


• In 10 starts at the 1.5-mile track, Gordon has one win (2001) and five top-5 finishes including a current streak of three in a row. He only has three top-10 starts and an average starting position of 14.5. Last year, he started 36th but led a race-high 111 laps en route to a second-place finish.
• Gordon will be competitive this weekend, but I haven't see the daytime speed from him to contend for the win. It was scary under the lights at California, but fell off noticeably on Monday afternoon. They could have been locked into a chassis set for night that couldn't quite cut the mustard with warmer temperature. I can see him finishing third to seventh this Sunday.


• Gordon has eight starts at Vegas with an average finish of 25.6 with one DNF. He has led eight laps here and completed 88.5 of all the possible laps.
• I feel like Robby's 18th place finish at California indicative of the area he'll finish in Las Vegas.


• Hamlin has two previous starts here with two top-10s.
• Hamlin has three NNS starts here with one top-10 and an average finish of 10th.
• Hamlin has speed to burn and had a great test at Vegas. That said, I'm staying away from him until he can get the bad "mojo" out of his system. Going beyond the two disaster races this year, in the Chase last fall Hamlin's average finish was 18.4 and was 20th or worse five of the 10 races. He could pop up and run in the top five or six at Vegas but he continues to give me an itchy feeling.


• In 17 starts in NASCAR's top-three divisions at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS), Harvick has one win, five top-5 and nine top-10 finishes. Additionally, "Happy" has led 276 laps and completed 99 percent of laps attempted.
• Harvick has not recorded a Did Not Finish (DNF) in 46 consecutive races. Harvick's last DNF was at Dover in September (2006). Additionally, he has run 85 consecutive point-paying races without crashing out of a single one. Combined, Harvick has gone 150 points races in NASCAR two top-divisions without crashing out.
• The Shell Chevy driver was eighth at California and is probably the quickest of the RCR cars right now. That does not, however, make him any better than top-10 potential. You just get the feeling the RCR boys are down a little horsepower and they're getting whipped down the straightaways.


• Hornish, driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger, will make his NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series debuts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend.
• The three-time IndyCar Series Champion earned his first podium finish in IRL competition at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a third-place result in April 2000.


• Dale Jarrett has 10 starts here with three top-10s and a top-5 with an average finish of 18.9 and two DNFs. He also has two pole positions here and has led 82 laps, completing 92.6 percent of all possible circuits.
• It's winding down for D.J. and it's not pretty. He'd be happy with a top-25, but I doubt he gets it.


• In six Cup Series starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Johnson has completed all 1,605 laps of competition. He owns three victories (most of any drivers), three top-5 and four top-10 finishes. His average starting spot is 13.7 and average finish is 6.0.
• Johnson has won at least three races a season since he posted his first victory in 2002. He is the only driver in the modern era to win at least three races in each of his first six full-time seasons.
• Going for four straight at Vegas you have to think the odds have to eventually catch up with Johnson. Fact is he could win again Sunday and is certainly top-5 potential. This team is so consistent a top-10 is a bad day.


• In his previous four starts at Las Vegas, Kahne has earned two top-5 finishes, with his best performance at the track being a second-place finish. Kahne earned the runner-up spot during his Las Vegas Sprint Cup Series debut in 2004. Kahne has finished no worse than fourth at Las Vegas during the races in which he finished. He does have two DNFs at Las Vegas.
• I'm beginning to be a believer that Kasey Kahne may be back. He's one of only four guys who opened the season with a pair of top-10 finishes. More importantly, he is clearly finding his stride again. California showed that team is definitely heading in the right direction and on the upswing. I don't think he's ready to contend for a win, but he's edging towards the top five and it seems like this yea he's ready to knock down a steady diet of top-10s.


• Matt Kenseth has led 368 laps for his career at Las Vegas in Cup competition, 110 laps better than any other driver. Kenseth's average finish at Las Vegas in the Cup Series in 7.6; second among all drivers with at least six starts at the track (Jimmie Johnson 6.0).
• Kenseth recorded back-to-back wins at Las Vegas in 2003 and 2004. His 2003 win at Vegas was his only win during Kenseth's 2003 NASCAR Cup Championship season.
• Kenseth is racing RK-473, the car he ran at Dover last year and led 192 laps. He also tested this car here earlier this year.
• Mark Matt down for a potential top-five this weekend. I don't think he's as fast as teammate Carl Edwards, but he'll be there at the end having something to say about who goes to victory lane. Kenseth got off to a quick start last year and it looks like he's doing that again.


• Kvapil has an average starting position of 19.5, and an average finish of 32.5 at Las Vegas. Kvapil has completed 482 of 537 career laps at Las Vegas (89.8 percent) and has led for nine laps with a best finish of 26th.
• He ran better than teammate David Gilliland at California, but Gilliland finished 17th and Kvapil 36th. Yates is still rebuilding and the best you can hope for out of their two cars at this point is a top-20 run.


• Labonte has 10 starts here with four top-10s, four top-5s, and an average finish of 16.6 and one DNF. Labonte has two poles here and has led 32 laps while completing 89.9 of all the possible laps.
• This team is lacking speed and it really showed up in Fontana. Bobby finished 25th and top-20 is about all he can hope for at Vegas.


• Lamar must make Sunday's race based on his performance in qualifying as his team was outside the top-35 in owners' points in 2007.


• Martin has been hot in Vegas, finishing inside the top 10 in 80 percent (eight) of his starts at the 1.5-mile track. He won the inaugural Cup event there in 1998, and has finished in the top five in 50 percent of his 10 Cup starts at LVMS. Martin finished fifth at Vegas last season and sixth there in 2006.
• Martin has led 258 laps (second most) at Las Vegas, including 72 in the last two races there.
• I'm really concerned about Mark for this weekend's race. He tested better at California than he did Vegas and told me he expected big things in Fontana, but wound up 16th. Could it be a flip? So-so Vegas test turning into better finish? Maybe. I think with the RCR-DEI engine deal Mark is getting hurt by the lack of speed down the straights. He could finish top-10 at Vegas, but wouldn't be surprised to see him top-15 instead.


• Mayfield has nine starts here with two top-5s and an average finish of 18.1 with one DNF. Mayfield has led 39 laps here and has completed 90.6 percent of the total possible laps.
• Mayfield better get it in gear or he's going to be in danger of missing the top-35 cut when we switch qualifying to 2008 points. Top-25, though, is about all he can hope for.


• In five career Cup starts at the 1.5-mile speedway, Jamie McMurray has one top-5 and two top-10 finishes. McMurray has completed all but nine laps (1,329/1,338) at LVMS, a 99.3 percent laps completed record.
• McMurray has a career starting position average of 18.0 and an average finishing position of 16.8 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
• This guy is really hard to figure out. The Roush Fenway equipment is good enough to run up front, but McMurray is by and large nowhere to be found. It looks like David Ragan has put him fifth on the totem pole at Roush.

Casey Mears

• Casey Mears will make his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday. In his five previous starts at the track, he has earned three top-10 finishes, most recently finishing ninth in 2006.
• Crew chief Alan Gustafson has chosen Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 418 for Sunday's race. This particular chassis last was used at Dover (Del.) International Speedway in Sept. 2007 where it finished fifth.
• I expect Mears to come back and make a run at a top-10 this weekend at Vegas. His first two races have been disasters but not because he wasn't fast. Mears is underrated and this weekend he'll remind people there is a fourth driver at Hendrick Motorsports.


• Menard will make his second NASCAR Sprint Cup start at the 1.5-mile superspeedway. In his previous start at the track, he turned in a memorable qualifying performance, including an air born ride through the grass on the front stretch in route to a 19th place qualifying effort. Menard finished 32nd in the race.
• Don't see much happening here this weekend. Menard is in a tough place because if Truex and Martin don't have the muscle to contend, he has no hope to even run top 15.


• Montoya is making his second Cup Series start here. He finished this race 22nd last year.
• Montoya is a tough guy to figure this week. Top 15 is about all you can expect if things go well and if not he'll be glad to take a top-20 back to the house.


• Nemechek has 10 starts here with two top-10s and an average finish of 23.3 with one DNF. Nemechek has led six laps here, completing 91.9 percent of the total possible circuits.

Ryan Newman

• Newman has four top-10s to his credit at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in seven starts. His best finish was a fourth-place run in 2002.
• Newman comes to Las Vegas ranked second in the Cup Series point standings after winning the 50th running of the Daytona 500 prior to Monday's finish at California . It is the best start for Newman since 2002 when he finished seventh at Daytona followed by a 14th-place result at Rockingham in the first two races of the season.
• Mark Newman down for another top-10 this weekend. He had a good Vegas test and this team has found a groove that goes back to the end of last season.


• Petty has eight starts here with an average finish of 25.8, having led 10 laps at LVMS and completing all but 13 possible laps.

David Ragan

• In addition to his one Sprint Cup start, Ragan also has one start in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In 2007, Ragan started 41st and finished 24th.
• The young Georgia driver was 14th last week in California and I think he can go top 15 again in Vegas. Ragan has moved ahead of McMurray in the pecking order at Roush Fenway and now he's pressuring Biffle for the third spot. No doubt in my mind, Ragan is heading in the right direction.


• Reutimann is must qualify for Sunday's race based on time as his team was outside the top-35 in owners' points in 2007.
• He is attempting to make his first Cup Series race here. He has one previous NNS start, finishing 31st here last year.
• I like David to finish 14th to 18th at Vegas. That would be a nice payoff considering where he's ranked in our fantasy games. When Waltrip's team really figures it out, Reutimann is going to surprise some people. This guy can drive.


• Riggs has four starts here with an average finish of 27.8.
• He was 21st at California and all he can hope for is another top-25 at Vegas.


• Sadler has made nine starts at the 1.5-mile track earning one top-10 finish. He's been running at the end of all but one race. Best start was second in 2005 and best finish was sixth in 2004. He has led 24 laps in four races completing 2090 of 2287 laps. Last year, Sadler started third and finished 14th leading 17 laps.
• With teammate Kasey Kahne running in the top 10 at California, I was really disappointed to see Sadler 24th on the final rundown. If he doesn't show improvement at Vegas this weekend, you'll have to start asking what's going on? Why isn't this team picking up speed like Kahne?


• Johnny Sauter has two previous starts here, finishing 24th and 39th, respectively.
• He'll probably get the Wood Brothers car into the show, but he's not a miracle worker. Could sneak a top-25 though.


• Schrader must make Sunday's race based on his performance in qualifying as his team was outside the top-35 in owners' points in 2007.
• In nine starts at LVMS, he has an average finish of 26.8 with one DNF.


• The No. 27 Bill Davis Racing team plans to utilize chassis No. 40. This was one of two Toyota Camrys the team tested last month at the 1.5-mile speedway with Jacques Villeneuve.
• Skinner has made six Cup Series starts at the 1.5-mile speedway during his career and has scored one top-10 finish in Cup Series competition. Skinner has had a great deal of success in Las Vegas behind the wheel of a NASCAR Craftsman Truck. In six starts, the veteran driver has scored three poles and one victory. Skinner has only qualified outside the top five once in Truck Series competition and has scored four top-10 finishes. He has also competed in three NASCAR Nationwide Series events at Las Vegas.


• Smith is making his first Cup start at LVMS this weekend. He has three Nationwide Series starts here with an average finish of 32nd.
• This young guy was the top finishing rookie last Monday in Fontana, but finished 31st. It's going to be that kind of struggle for him in the early part of the season.


• Sorenson has two previous Cup Series starts at LVMS with finishes of 40th and 31st, respectively.
• This guy is still a great value and early wreck in California set him back. I'm still high on Sorenson and think he's top 15 or better.


• For Stewart, Las Vegas is one of only four Sprint Cup venues where he has yet to win. The others are Fontana, Darlington and Talladega. In nine starts here, Stewart has six top-10s, four top-5s, and an average finish of 11.2, leading 179 laps here.
• Tony is a potential winner this weekend. I think he'll run better than the seventh place finish in Fontana. Stewart is going to be a top-10 machine this year.


• Truex is coming off a sixth-place finish last weekend in California and is currently 12th in the Cup Series points. Truex has two prior starts here, with finishes of 20th and 12th, respectively.
• I was pleasantly surprised by his sixth-place finish in Fontana, but don't see it happening again at Las Vegas. I see Truex really struggling to finish in the top 10. Like last week I see him potentially eighth to 13th at the checkered flag. Again, I think he's lacking horsepower to keep up with the Hendrick and Gibbs gang.


• In three starts here, Vickers has an average finish of 29.3 with one DNF.
• Put down on your scorecard another top-15 run for Brian Vickers. This team is beginning to hit its stride. Now, they are still playing it conservative so they can be top-35 at the cut and can stop having to qualify on speed. Imagine how good these guys will be when they can go to the track and concentrate on nothing but race setup.


• He will attempt to start in his 10th Las Vegas 400, 692nd career start. His best start at the 1.5-mile track is second (March 7, 1999) and best finish is third (March 2, 2003).
• During his career at the 1.5-mile oval, Waltrip has earned one top-5 and one top-10 finish. His average start is 15th and average finish is 22nd. Waltrip has completed 2,173 of 2,287 laps (95%) at the track and has led a total of 18 laps in competition.
• Entering this week's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, Waltrip is 29th in the driver and owner points standings. The NAPA AUTO PARTS team will need to qualify for the Las Vegas 400 on time since the No. 55 car was outside the top 35 in owner point standings in 2007. A total of 48 cars are entered in the Las Vegas race. Of the entrants, 13 are go-or-go-home teams. Waltrip will be competing for one of eight qualifying spots, one of which may be used as a past champion's provisional by Kurt Busch, Dale Jarrett or Bill Elliott, if needed. Waltrip looked so bad last Monday in California, he'd take a top-25 at Vegas and be really, really happy.


• After disappointing finishes at Daytona (25th) and California (29th), the DLP team will look to reverse its fortunes and hopefully finish near the front.
• Yeley has two Cup Series starts at Vegas, with finishes of 18th and 17th, respectively. He has led one lap and has finished all but one lap of total competition.
• Changing drivers and manufacturers has certainly not helped this Hall of Fame Racing Team. Yeley struggled in the 18 with Joe Gibbs, but when Kyle Busch jumped in that car, it headed to the front with same crew chief, same basic team. It makes you wonder about Yeley.

Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.

Mark Garrow

Fantasy Racing
Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.