In a city where money rules, Las Vegas Motor Speedway has bought itself a new look and, perhaps, a whole new type of racing for its newly renovated suface.
"It's too bad they re-paved it and screwed it up for the next four or five years."
-- Kevin Harvick
The race track's banking has been increased in the turns from 12 to 20 degrees and from 3 to 9 degrees on the backstretch.
The feedback from testing showed that speeds are up and the racing should be as exciting as the displays put on at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"Since they've redesigned the track, it's really fast," Dave Blaney said. "And no one has really raced there since, so it should make for some good racing."
If Busch Series testing at Las Vegas last month is any indication, speeds should increase by as much as 12 mph from last year.
The speeds in race conditions could be another story. In September, the Craftsman Truck Series raced at the renovated track and the speeds increased considerably, up as much as 14 mph.
Not everybody is happy about the changes, though. Kevin Harvick, who raced at Vegas before he entered NASCAR full-time, said he loved the way the track was worn in and allowed for drivers to try different grooves.
"It's too bad they re-paved it and screwed it up for the next four or five years," he said.
The Busch drivers get first crack at the new surface on Saturday before the Nextel Cup Series races on Sunday, so a lot of focus will be on the Sam's Town 300.
David Stremme finished third last season at Vegas and did some nifty driving en route. He posted 36 Quality Passes, passing cars in the top 15 under green-flag racing conditions. That's more than any other driver posted in the last two years at Las Vegas.
"So far in the Busch Series I've always managed to have good, solid runs out there and come close a few times to winning," he said. "We had a very fast car in those recent test sessions and we're taking that car with us, so it's shaping up to be a great weekend. The track is fast and who doesn't love going to Las Vegas?"
Hamlin rooting for Edwards?
Denny Hamlin, who raced a full Busch and Cup Series schedule last year and felt the physical drain from it, has been adamant that he will not race a full Busch schedule this season. His restraint might lift, however, if he improves any in the Busch standings after the Las Vegas race. Hamlin promised crew chief David Rogers that if he was leading the standings going into Atlanta that he'd consider running a full schedule. Hamlin is second in the points race right now, trailing Carl Edwards by just 40 points.
Rupen Fofaria has covered NASCAR for ESPN.com since 2002. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.